The success of the Oklahoma City Thunder is one reason to think professional sports can work in OKC. History shows it, too.
With the Thunder’s widespread popularity and the niche market popularity of professional hockey’s Blazers and Barons, Brad Lund said it only makes sense the same will be true for the city’s newest professional sport: soccer.
OKC has been awarded a franchise in the Premier Development League (PDL), North America’s largest pro-soccer organization. The team’s season opens Saturday.
“My crystal ball says that Oklahoma City’s next major-league sports franchise will be in MLS (Major League Soccer),” said Lund, head of Sold Out Strategies, the managing partner for the OKC-based team. The future may be the MLS, but for now, Oklahoma City is in the 65-team PDL. The team, which will go by Oklahoma City Football Club (OKC FC) for the time being, is set for seven home games, all on the Oklahoma City University campus.
Fourteen regular-season games are scheduled for the team, which will be in the Southern Conference’s Mid South Division.
“It will be a great testing ground for soccer in our community,” said Lund, formerly general manager of the Blazers. “The response we’ve gotten from people on the streets and on the phone has been extremely high.”
The team is owned by Oklahoma residents Sean Jones, Donna Clark and Tim McLaughlin. Along with Lund, DeBray Ayala is the managing partner.
“Oklahoma City has historically supported its minor- and major-league teams like no other city in the country,” said Ayala. “PDL will be the highest level of team soccer OKC has showcased in more than 15 years.”
Lund said he believes OKC FC is the first step to the city getting an MLS franchise because the PDL has a high success rate of placing players at the next level: 68 percent.
“There is, in fact, a very large market for it,” said OKC FC head coach Jimmy Hampton, former player for the Tulsa Roughnecks of the now-defunct North American Soccer League.
“OKC FC will be represented with local talents, as well as players from four to five different countries providing an exciting, creative style of play.”
OKC FC has a June 30 exhibition game at Putnam City Stadium, 5300 N.W. 50th, against the under-20 team of Club America, one of Mexico’s most popular and successful team.
During this first season, OKC FC will not be affiliated with any MLS team. That’s a possibility, however, for the future.
“It’s quite the challenge,” Lund said. “Thus far, the community has bent over backwards.”