Spokane’s New Sport: USL Spokane’s 99-day race to kick-off

A man stands at a podium in front of a group of students
Spokane Velocity Coach Leigh Veidman speaks at GU

December 22, 2023
Kevin McGann ('25)
The Spokane Velocity, the men’s soccer team for the USL Spokane organization, had their first press conference and media availability for their new coach Leigh Veidman on Friday, Dec. 8 on Gonzaga’s campus. Veidman answered questions surrounding the stadium, his soccer background, the role the club will play in the community, and the identity of the team that he hopes to create. The Velocity will be competing in the United Soccer League’s League 1 (USL 1), which qualifies as a third division men’s professional league by the standards set by U.S. Soccer, the official governing body of the sport in the states.

At the time of the press conference, it was 99 days until the kickoff of the Velocity’s league debut at ONE Spokane Stadium on March 16, 2024. Additionally, it was the eve of the Velocity’s open tryouts in the stadium. These tryouts welcomed 90 participants of varying experience levels seeking a call back for a team trial in January. In the time in between, the staff of the organization will build out the remainder of their 25-man roster, fill out the their coaching and training staff and prepare themselves for the start of their pre-season.

Veidman outlined “three tiers” of players that they will look to bring in. Throughout these tiers he emphasized that the organization will be looking to bring in players with an inclination to work hard and a desire to play to the best of their abilities. The first tier consists of existing players at the USL championship and League 1 levels, who will likely be in starring roles on the team. This tier may also consist of collegiate players around the Major League Soccer SuperDraft that either do not get drafted, or do not get signed to a contract upon being drafted. The second tier will also consist of existing players, but will primarily be players that show high potential that look to establish themselves at the USL level. As the remainder of the players brought in will enter at the third tier, which will consist of players from the open tryouts and local community. These players will look to develop their abilities in order to grow into the second and first tiers. When asked about player development, Veidman remarked that it will be a priority for the organization as they look to create a destination or goal for youth players in Spokane to aspire for.

The USL leagues have a particular focus on youth development, with their USL 2 league playing a pivotal role in the journeys of many of the players now entered into the MLS SuperDraft. Additionally, the league has encouraged the development of facilities for their teams throughout the country, as well as academy systems to provide high-level youth soccer opportunities. Viedman recognized the existing soccer ecosystem and programs in the region, which the Spokane Velocity (and presumably women’s club Spokane Zephyr) will look to support and help develop. Organizations such as the Spokane Rapids, Spokane Sounders, Spokane Youth Soccer  Association, FC Spokane, and more will look to the Velocity to provide their players with unique opportunities and experiences, which Viedman alluded to when asked about player recruitment.

I had the opportunity to ask whether Viedman intends to construct his team with a player-first approach to recruitment, or if he looks to bring players in to fit a certain style of play. He answered by remarking that he first wants to be sure that he is bringing good people to the community, then focus on certain player characteristics and traits that can help the team to forge a strong identity both on and off the field. Viedman remarked that some of the main goals of the organization are “to be a community unifier” and to have people come to the games and feel like the team on the field represents them and their values. He pointed to his hometown club and boyhood club of Liverpool F.C. as an example of a community identity matching the identity of a sporting organization. Liverpool F.C. head coach Jurgen Klopp has been credited with saying that he wants to develop an identity that is recognizable and “is that clear that everyone would say ‘Oh that’s Liverpool.’” This identity that Klopp has created at Liverpool is one that plays with a high intensity, an attacking focus, and a strong identity. While Viedman explicitly stated, “I am not saying that I want to play like Liverpool, I do not want to be Jurgen Klopp,” it does seem like there is a certain level of inspiration that will be drawn from the English Premier League side. Viedman claimed that he wants his players to play an attacking style, and when they lose possession they will look to win it back quickly.

Viedman has also drawn parallels between the city of Spokane and his boyhood home of Liverpool on the “Spokane Soccer Show.” He said on the new local podcast that the reason that the move felt right for him was “there’s a sporting connection, the people are blue collar, and you’ve got an organization that wants to build a foundation on good people and high-performing people.” Also on the podcast was Dr. Gareth Smith, who works with the Spokane Velocity as a consultant. Smith emphasized that what excites him about USL Spokane is that it will be a “legacy project” for the city, meaning that the goal for the organization is to create a sustainable professional soccer club with the intent to bring value to the community for years to come.

The USL’s newest team’s dedication to the local Spokane community already displayed itself by working in conjunction with Gonzaga University to host their first press conference and introduce their first head coach. It was a privilege to have the opportunity as a student to attend this media event and learn more about what our new neighbors are up to. I personally look forward to the vast opportunities that the connection between the Spokane Velocity and Spokane Zephyr will provide for me and my classmates, especially those interested in the sports industry.

About Kevin McGann
Kevin McGann is a third-year student from Shreveport, Louisiana, pursuing a dual major in business administration and accounting, with minors in public relations and religious studies, and a concentration in law and public policy. He works as the play-by-play commentator for Gonzaga Soccer broadcasts on ESPN+, and serves on the Dean’s Student Advisory Board for the School of Business Administration. McGann also serves as the vice president of the Gonzaga Club Sailing Team and the president of Gonzaga’s Jogo Bonito Athletic Club, which is focused on developing an inclusive soccer community on Gonzaga’s campus. Kevin is a lifelong soccer player and enthusiast who played soccer at IMG Academy, where he graduated in 2021. A nationally ranked triathlete, McGann looks to be the best version of himself and pursue all of his interests both athletically and academically.
Learn about Gonzaga's connection to Spokane's newest professional sport