STOCKTON, Calif. — After more than a decade, soccer fans in the city of Stockton can celebrate again as pre-professional soccer will be returning to the city. The United Soccer League (USL) has selected Stockton for its next USL-W league franchise, only the second on the West Coast.
The United Soccer League, one sanctioning level below Major League Soccer, launched a women's league this year with 44 teams in the Midwest, South and on the East Coast.
The expansion to Stockton, announced by the USL and the President and CEO of SC Stockton Lee Neves, follows a league expansion to Spokane, Oregon in December.
"USL was definitely interested in coming out to California, it's one thing they wanted to do ASAP," Neves said. "They were very, very interested in Stockton just because of the makeup of our city."
After hearing about USL's interest in Stockton, Neves says he reached out to and began working with the league to determine the feasibility of a pre-professional women's soccer team in the city.
The team, called SC Stockton for now, will begin playing in spring of 2023. An announcement regarding the team's official name, head coach, jersey and logo will happen in the summer, Neves says.
"The support so far has been great," Neves said. "We will be having events throughout the year building up, to obviously keep the excitement out there but we will also be giving back to the community."
In addition to hosting events and opening up their field for days of play for the community, Neves says he hopes his team will help find and showcase hidden talent in Stockton.
"We will hold open tryouts that are not going to cost a penny," Neves said. "We're really going to reach out and have started the outreach with local high schools and youth clubs for those players that are super, super uber talented, but don't have that avenue to take the next step up."
The team will join the Stockton Ports, Heat and Kings as the city's fourth pre-professional sports team. At this point, team officials say they expect to play out of San Joaquin Delta College's soccer stadium starting in spring of 2023.
The last time soccer was played on the professional level in Stockton was when Stockton's California Cougars joined the Professional Arena Soccer League in 2004 for a six-season stint before being dissolved in 2011.
City leaders say they are excited about the announcement and expect a large contingent of soccer fans already living in Stockton, to support the team.
"We're ecstatic, I think it's been a long time coming for our community. We have a strong soccer fan base in the central valley and specifically in Stockton with lots of youth soccer players," said Wes Rhea, CEO of Visit Stockton. "Conversations about bringing major league soccer back to Stockton have happened for a long time, ever since the Cougars left."
With over 380 days to go until Neves and Stockton soccer fans alike can once again begin to plan days sitting in front of the field, team officials hope to continue raising support and keep the excitement going.
"Things have been going great so far. I've gotten a lot of support not only from the community in Stockton — the response has been great from when we first announced- but also from USL," Neves said. "We presented our vision of what we wanted our Stockton USL-W team to be, and they really liked it and they were like, 'This is a team we need to have in our league.'"
Fans can join an email list to receive team updates and news or follow the team's season countdown at scstockton.com.
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