It’s been a week filled with news and pending news, but on the soccer front a rather shocking item dropped Friday, with USL Championship side Reno 1868 FC announcing they are ceasing operations immediately.
Reno, formed in 2017 and an instant and indelible rival to Sacramento Republic FC, were a strong team on the field from the start, with Ian Russell coaching the team all four seasons and the Nevada outfit reaching the playoffs every season of their existence. Off the field, Reno 1868 seemed like a largely well-run organization that fit the Reno market perfectly.
However, a report from Jeff Rueter at The Athletic, who broke the news Friday morning shortly before the club and league confirmed it, indicated Reno were not exactly swimming in cash, with most of the staff splitting time with the Reno Aces minor league baseball team, whose stadium Reno 1868 FC played in, and one anonymous employee saying the soccer team had been “punching above their weight,” in terms of available resources.
The club claims the decision to fold came because they can’t build a soccer-specific stadium as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and they can’t continue at the baseball diamond:
Multi-use stadiums provide the most value to our communities and Greater Nevada Field will continue to encourage existing stadiums to welcome the opportunity to host other sports. Currently, however, the quality of soccer in America is quickly accelerating and as such would require upgraded facilities. Soccer in America is quickly outgrowing baseball stadiums. The Club believed a soccer stadium in northern Nevada would be necessary for soccer to expand and compete in the current landscape of second division professional soccer. This prospect for 1868 FC was difficult pre-COVID-19, but in a prolonged pandemic it became unrealistic.
I imagine some Sac Republic fans may be indifferent or actually happy about this news, but you shouldn’t be, with all due respect. Reno may have been papering over the cracks but they did a lot of things right, with a good team, producing good players, winning awards and in a market where there’s potential. This is a shock, essentially, no two ways about it.
The nature of the absolutely explosive growth of professional soccer in the United States means there are going to be teams that will come and go, and I realize in the context of the ongoing pandemic we should not be shocked that there will be consequences to the extent that some clubs will go out of business. As the saying goes, it’s a business. But this should be a chilling reminder that for all the growth we’ve seen across Sac Republic’s history of the league, there’s still a ton of room for improvement, in terms of resources and stability within the clubs.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.