In 2016 there will be some changes to the USL Western Conference. The Austin Aztex are taking a year-long hiatus from the league amidst stadium issues from last season, and four new teams will be making their way to the West. First is Saint Louis FC, the only non-expansion team of the lot, who finished with 33 points in 9th place in the Eastern Conference last season. There are three new teams as well: Rio Grande Valley Toros, San Antonio FC and Swope Park Rangers.
The question to the ICS team this week is simple: Which team new to the USL West are you most interested to see play in 2016?
Kyle Kepner (@KyleJKepner)
I'm looking forward to seeing the Republic play Saint Louis. With a year under its belt, a large devoted base, and a lackluster MLS affiliate, STLFC more closely resembles Sacramento than any other club in the west.
On the field, optimism is returning slowly to Bonney Field after a disappointing playoff exit and the subsequent departure of key figures, but Saint Louis had a very different experience in year one, and seemingly has nowhere to go but up. That makes them very dangerous.
Yes. These match-ups will be very interesting indeed.
Evan Eyster (@IronPonyChef)
For my choice, I have to go with the team that I believe is the most skilled of the four in Swope Park. If what I have seen in the preseason continues, they will be a contender for the USL West title.
SPR has steadily created an offensive powerhouse with a frontline of Dane Kelly (all time USL leading scorer and leading scorer for the 2015 Charleston Battery) and Kris Tyrpak (tied for leading scorer on Austin Aztex last season). When your two strikers combined for 20 goals the previous season, you have the potential for a potent offense.
As the Republic appear to be shaping up to be a defensively reliant team again this season, the battle of two different playstyles should make for a fun match.
George Shiel (@GeorgeMShiel)
I have been intrigued since the rumors of a USL team playing in San Antonio surfaced last year. San Antonio and Sacramento are very similar cities when it comes to metro size and media market. All the talk about San Antonio and Sacramento as the next likely teams to move up to MLS makes this matchup even more intriguing.
Though San Antonio is new to the USL this year, I do expect them to be a well run organization and be able to put a competitive team on the field. I feel that San Antonio and Sacramento will have a long competitive history when all things are said and done. Whether that be in USL or MLS, I don't really care, as long as both franchises are viable in whatever league they play in.
Josh Beeman (@josh_beeman)
The team I'm most excited about seeing the Republic play is RGV FC Toros. Although I suppose that interest comes less from the potential contest on the field and more from just a general curiosity with RGV themselves.
I've talked a lot on the podcast about how intrigued I am at the unique hybrid affiliation that they have going on with the Dynamo. As the first USL club of its kind, I will be very interested in seeing how RGV stacks up with Sacramento both on the field and off. Will the team that the Dynamo put together be able to go toe to toe with the Republic? Will the Toros front office be able to get people to fill the stands? We'll see this summer when the two teams play each other.
Now that you have listened to us, what team are you most interested in seeing in Sacramento? Let us know in the comments.