The widely expected announcement that the Tampa Bay Rowdies would enter a development team in NPSL was made official today with the formation of Tampa Bay Rowdies 2. The team will compete in the league’s Sunshine Conference alongside cross state rival, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers U-23.
NPSL Chairman Barone commented on the expansion of NASL clubs involvement with the NPSL in his announcement of the new club stating "It’s wonderful to see another NASL team get involved in our league." Discussing the Rowdies in particular, he stated that the "Rowdies brand means so much to America soccer we are so excited for our fans and supporters."
For those not familiar with the Rowdies’ history, it claims the mantle of being the first professional sports club in the Tampa Bay area, originally established in 1975. The team won the NASL Soccer Bowl in that first season of existence. They repeated as NASL Champions in 2012 in front of a sold out crowd at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rowdies remain one of the most recognizable brands in US soccer.
Tampa Bay Rowdies owner and CEO Bill Edwards described the move as "Rowdies 2 will bring an iconic brand to the NPSL and we assure our fans that we will sign top talent to compete for a championship… Rowdies 2 will be one of the top clubs both on and off the field, bringing exposure, talent and experience to the league." He added "[t]he NPSL is an established league that gives the Rowdies an opportunity to develop players and compete against strong opponents." Mr. Edwards’ commitment to fielding competitive teams with lofty ambitions has been a hallmark of his involvement with the club. Given this approach, watch for the Rowdies to field strong NPSL teams.
The Rowdies 2 will compete in the NPSL’s Sunshine Conference against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers U-23, Jacksonville United FC, Kraze United (Orlando), Miami Fusion FC, Miami United, Storm FC, and Weston FC.
Rowdies 2 will announce a head coach in the near future along with details regarding a home venue and tickets. You can follow developments with the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2 at @Rowdies2 – the side's Twitter account that started with the tweet "Today is our birthday." Brilliant.