The United Soccer League (USL) has added an expansion team to League One, Santa Barbara Sky FC, which will begin play in 2024.
The club’s founding investor is former Liverpool FC CEO Peter Moore, who has held various executive positions in sports and gaming with Reebok, Sega of America, Microsoft (Xbox) and EA Sports.
“Santa Barbara is a massive soccer community,” said Moore, founder of Santa Barbara Sky FC and the Santa Barbara Professional Soccer Foundation, in an interview with Sportico. “We felt that the time was right with the World Cup coming to North America in 2026. You look at where soccer is today, from when I first arrived here in the mid-70s to coach as a kid out of college, and it’s amazing.”
The USL League One has 11 teams and plans to expand to 25-30 over the next five years. The league recently signed a 10-year strategic partnership with sport experiences firm Legends to bolster the league’s national sponsorship sales and fan engagement and help teams with ticketing, naming rights and digital operations.
“We are so excited to welcome Santa Barbara Sky FC into the USL,” said USL chief operating officer Justin Papadakis. “Peter Moore is a proven leader in global soccer and sports business..”
The club also announced the formation of its philanthropic foundation, La Fundación del Cielo, which will support disadvantaged groups in the Santa Barbara community.
Details about the Santa Barbara Sky FC professional women’s team, which will begin play in 2024, will be announced in the coming months. The USL kicks off its women’s Super League in August of 2023 with an inaugural fall-to-spring season that aligns with international women’s soccer. The Super League will makes its debut with 10 to 12 teams and plans to expand.
“We are excited and proud to launch both professional men’s and women’s teams in 2024,”’ said Sheralyn Baltes, SVP of technology. “With 40,000 women playing college soccer, the talent pool greatly exceeds the current number of professional opportunities for women players. We’re going to help narrow that gap while fueling aspirations of girls and boys in Santa Barbara and beyond.”
Santa Barbara Sky FC will play its home matches at La Playa Stadium on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.