Growth in soccer fandom helps bring professional team to Fresno

Local leaders of soccer supporter clubs came to FOX26 for a discussion about the growth and future of the sport in Fresno.

Professional soccer is coming to Fresno in 2018, in the form of a United Soccer League team. Lead investor Ray Beshoff, new General Manager Frank Yallop, and USL President Jake Edwards will hold a news conference Wednesday at Chukchansi Park, to announce the club name, crest and playing venue. The event is open to the public, and is set to begin at 11:00 a.m.

In light of this news, FOX26 Sports Anchor Nick King sat down with Fresno Fuego General Manager Jeremy Schultz, as well as five members of Fuego supports club Fire Squad Fresno, who are also all local leaders of Premier League supporters clubs, to talk about soccer fandom in Fresno. Those five are Stephen Mayu (Manchester United), Nick Duong (Central Valley Blues - Chelsea), Brandon Duenas (LFC Fresno - Liverpool), Steve Etcheverry (Fresno Irons - West Ham United), and Ed Stewart (American Outlaws, Fresno Gooners).

As Schultz explained, the change in soccer culture in Fresno - whether it's the rapid growth of Fire Squad Fresno, or the increase in local EPL supporters clubs - helped spur the decision to bring a USL team to Fresno. "We’re at a stage in Fresno that we’re getting professional soccer in 2018. That doesn’t happen unless there’s a collective effort between fans and club, and we’re at that crossroads now."

Schultz also added, "I feel like soccer is the sport that really can be embraced by this community. Soccer is built on diversity, and there isn’t a much more diverse region than what we are here in this Central Valley. I think there’s a perfect template and a perfect existing fan base here in Fresno to really catapult this thing into national exposure and something that will really put Fresno on the map for the game."

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