Louisville City FC on Saturday will play New York Red Bulls II for the fifth time, and hopes to secure the first victory. | Courtesy of Louisville City FC.
Louisville City FC on Sunday will play New York Red Bulls II for the fifth time, and hopes to secure the first victory. | Courtesy of Louisville City FC.

When Louisville’s professional soccer club steps on the field at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., on Sunday, it will vie for the Eastern Conference Championship — but also for the rights to host the United Soccer League’s biggest game of the year: The USL Championship.

If Louisville City FC beats the New York Red Bulls II on Sunday (kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.), LouCity would get to host the USL Championship at Slugger Field on Oct. 23. LouCity would play the winner of the Western Conference Final between Swope Park Rangers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.

“We’ve confirmed we would host if we advance,” spokesman Jonathan Lintner told IL via email.

Hosting the final would bolster the club’s finances, as about two-thirds of its revenue comes from ticket sales. An average of about 6,000 fans attended the first two home playoff games this season. The club drew a record 10,062 fans against FC Cincinnati on June 25.

The second-year club has declined to talk about whether it has reached profitability, though a former chairman has said this summer that it was projected to lose about $1.5 million this year.

Hosting the final in Louisville also would lift the club’s (and the city’s) prestige: The USL Championship match will be shown live on ESPNU.

Louisville City FC logoThe club is working on plans to build its own stadium. It plans to play at Slugger, home of the Louisville Bats, three more seasons, through 2019.

A new stadium would pump up the club’s revenue, primarily because of greater advertising opportunities, but it also might become a prerequisite to being allowed to remain in the league. The USL said last year that a “critical part of our strategic growth plan is to have all USL clubs as owners or primary tenants of soccer-specific stadiums by 2020.” The USL would not tell IL whether a team that does not have a soccer-specific stadium — or at least one under construction — by the end of the decade would lose its USL franchise.

The city of Louisville this year paid for a $75,000 feasibility study. Consultants said a 10,000-seat soccer stadium in Louisville could cost $30 million to $50 million. While generally supportive of the club, Mayor Greg Fischer said that “a significant portion” of the stadium funding would have to come from the private sector.

Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.