FRESNO, Calif. - Die-hard soccer fans here in the Valley are being rewarded with a brand new team. Pro soccer is making its way to Fresno. On Thursday the United Soccer League confirmed the news.
"The USL is thrilled to be in the final stages of launching a new club in Fresno as part of the league's broader expansion efforts in the West," said league officials.
Fresno Fuego General Manager Jeremy Schultz says the expansion move just shows how popular soccer is in the Valley. You won't go to a Fuego game without seeing the team's official supporters club Fire Squad Fresno.
"We're having a lot of fun," said group leader Andrew Ueland.
Ueland says he's ready to cheer on Fresno's future pro soccer team.
"With our supporters, I think definitely more is better," said Ueland.
The USL confirmed Fresno will get its own expansion team in 2018. Ueland owns a Clovis sports bar and hopes he can capitalize.
"I just hope it creates a buzz and I can encourage it as much as I can," said Ueland.
Schultz says his roster can be a pipeline of talent for the new franchise.
"Hopefully, they're looking at our guys and we create a system where our local players can stay at home and represent this city at a professional level," said Schultz.
But where would this expansion team play? Fresno State officials say investors have been in talks with the school to potentially have games played at Bulldog Stadium. Another option is the soccer and lacrosse field which is just six years old with additional seating added in 2014. Or how about sharing Chukchansi Park with the Fuego and Grizzlies? Schultz says talks with investors behind the bid have been positive.
"They want to compliment the work that's been done and really enhance soccer overall for the whole community, for everybody," said Schultz.
Still too early for team colors and a nickname, fans like Ueland just hope they are heard.
"I really hope that they listen to us and see what we've built," said Ueland.
The Vice President of the USL says there should be more details in the coming weeks and a formal announcement is planned for early summer. The Fresno club will be the 32nd in the USL.