TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 19, 2019) – The United Soccer League (USL) announced today that South Bend Lions FC will become the newest club to join USL League Two for the 2020 season. The team will bring elite pre-professional soccer to South Bend, Indiana for the first time, competing in the Great Lakes Division.
“We’re thrilled to work with the Lions to bring League Two to South Bend,” said Joel Nash, Vice President of USL League Two. “Fans in the city can enjoy high-level soccer as they raise the colors of a club they can call their own, and local players will benefit tremendously from additional development opportunities and the formation of a pathway to the professional ranks in their area.”
The Lions were founded as a collaborative effort between local soccer enthusiasts, led by Thiago Pinto, and experienced professionals. Pinto will serve as the club’s Technical Director, working with the club’s owner and principal investor Ritchie Jeune as well as soccer marketing and communications consultant Chris Rivett. Jeune also owns Kettering Town, one of the most successful teams in English semi-professional soccer.
“We have been grateful for the passionate backing of the soccer community and the dedicated support of the city officials since we arrived in May to begin assessing the way forward,” said Jeune. “It’s our objective to establish a club playing at the highest level that the community can support, and we welcome everyone to be a part of our adventure.”
“We evaluated a lot of markets to arrive at the decision to focus on South Bend, and the overwhelming factor in making the decision was the response of the community,” said Rivett. “It was very clear that there is a passion for soccer that will allow this new team to thrive. Local fans have been receptive to ideas, passionate in their support, and generous in their time. We are all excited to be working together to drive something special forward.”
In joining League Two, South Bend Lions will offer a proven pathway to professional soccer for its players, both those at the elite collegiate level and the top academy-age players from the region. On top of the valuable experience of playing in the nation’s most competitive pre-professional environment, League Two also provides growth opportunities for its coaches, executives and communities.
“South Bend has a proud sports tradition, from the South Bend Blue Sox to today’s championship-winning South Bend Cubs,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “We look forward to welcoming and cheering on the South Bend Lions Football Club as they add to our history of sporting excellence.”
Learn more by following @southbendlions on social media, or visit the club’s website southbendlions.com for the latest updates.
About USL League Two
A part of United Soccer Leagues, LLC, which also operates the USL Championship, USL League One, Super Y League and the new USL Academy, USL League Two is the top pre-professional soccer league in North America, offering a summer platform for aspiring professionals across the United States and Canada. League Two is the defined and proven pathway for players to progress to the ranks of professional soccer, while its clubs become fixtures in the communities where they operate. More than 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections since 2010 have League Two experience, including 66 alumni chosen in 2018 and 61 in 2019. Werder Bremen’s Josh Sargent, Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin, and Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan are among the many U.S. National Team players to have competed in USL League Two before making their professional debuts.