It’s been nearly two years since Sporting Kansas City were rumored to be bringing a Fourth Division team to Garden City, Kansas. Reports out of Kansas from the Garden City Telegram are that the STAR bond needed to help fund this project has expired.
Let’s backup just a bit. What is the fourth division of US Soccer and why would Sporting KC want to stick a team there?
Well the fourth division is the USL Premier Development League (or USL PDL). Technically the PDL shares the unofficial fourth tier of the US Soccer pyramid with the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). The PDL is affiliated with the USL (where the Swope Park Rangers play) and the NPSL is affiliated with the NASL. The USL and NASL are currently embroiled in a battle for the Division Two designation that they are oddly sharing it for 2017.
As for why SKC would want to put a team in that league, it’s in the title. It’s all about development. At the time of the original announcement, Sporting KC didn’t even have a USL team (though SPR rectified that with an amazing debut season).
Why Garden City? Peter Vermes has us covered on that:
“If you look around the world and you look over the history of soccer, the best players came off the streets. That's kind of going away in our society, just because of many things that we could talk about. But to still have the opportunities for those kids who go out and have pickup games – or you may want to, but you don't have the space or the environment, and now they do. These things are all part of the master plan that we're thinking about.”
What does that have to do with Garden City? I’ll go back to Steve Brisendine for his original quote:
“Heavy immigration from Mexico and Central America to Southwest Kansas was driven by the meatpacking operations that began in the 1960s, expanded significantly in the early 1980s and still provide much of the region's employment. Garden City had a Hispanic majority in the 2000 census, but that percentage dropped to 48.6 in 2010. The nearby towns of Liberal (58.7 percent) and Dodge City (57.5 percent) still showed significant Hispanic majorities as of the most recent census, and all three areas have become soccer hotbeds, with high school and community college programs putting down strong roots where American football once held near-unchallenged sway.”
If you read about the STAR bond, it doesn’t really indicate this is a dead deal. To get confirmation of that, we had to reach out to the team. When asked about the expiration of the STAR bond and what it meant for the PDL team, Rob Thomson, the Executive VP of Communications and Digital responded:
“While [the STAR bond expiration] realization is met with disappointment, Sporting KC and the City knew that moving to the investigatory stage of the STAR Bond process may not yield a viable project. If at some point in time another project comes along and the STAR Bond tool seems the appropriate one to use, we will certainly consider it. This year a major focus is placed on finalizing the NTCDC (National Training and Coaching Development Center).”
This definitely has to be considered a bump in the road for Sporting’s youth development but the emergence of the Swope Park Rangers and it’s ability to bridge the gap between the SKC Academy and the senior team softens the blow.