USL PRO to field Oklahoma City team in 2014

By Paul Kennedy

USL PRO awarded an expansion franchise to Prodigal LLC, led by CEO Bob Funk Jr., to operate a team in Oklahoma City, beginning in 2014.

The announcement, made at a news conference in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, came four days after a rival soccer group headed by Brad Lund, Sold Out Strategies, and four individuals filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in response to a “cease and desist” letter issued by United Soccer Leagues.

The rival group of which Sold Out Strategies is the managing partner operates the new PDL club, Oklahoma City FC, and is part of a group seeking to join the NASL in 2015. Sold Out Strategies was recently awarded a two-year lease plus a renewal option to Taft Stadium by the Oklahoma City Public Schools board.

At issue in Sold Out Strategies LLC et al v. United Soccer League LLC will be the enforceability of the covenant-not-to-compete clause in the franchise agreement Oklahoma City FC partners, including Sold Out Strategies, have with United Soccer Leagues.

The new USL PRO club will be the league's 15th and latest in its effort to expand west of the Mississippi.

When it began play in 2011, USL PRO only operated in Los Angeles. It added a team in Phoenix in 2013 and will add a team in Sacramento in 2014.

Funk currently operates the Oklahoma City Barons hockey team.

“Oklahoma City is a market that passionately supports its professional sports teams and is quickly establishing itself as a soccer hotbed,” USL President Tim Holt said in a statement. "Bob Funk Jr. and Prodigal LLC are leaders on both fronts in Oklahoma City and we have no doubt that they will produce a successful franchise for many years to come."

Lund also has a background in pro hockey as the former chief executive officer with Express Sports, which owned the Oklahoma City Blazers.

A group headed by Tim McLaughlin will make a franchise presentation to the NASL’s board of governors July 25 in Dallas.

Lund's Sold Out Strategies and the individuals suing USL state in their lawsuit that they have "backed away" from their pursuit of an NASL franchise until they can get a judicial determination on the issue of the covenant-not-to-compete clause in the franchise agreement.

MEDIA HIRE. Brian Straus has been hired as a sportswriter at Sports Illustrated. The move comes three months after he was one of 12 writers and editors let go by the Sporting News. It was unrelated to an article Straus wrote shortly before then on U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, examining players' concerns about his methods and tactics on the eve of the USA-Costa Rica match.
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