The story of the USL Championship in El Paso is actually a story about economic development and quality of life. But it’s also a story about El Paso’s passion for soccer. This is a city where football and futbol are pronounced exactly the same; where sports transcend international boundaries. Soccer is “the” game of this bi-national, bi-cultural Borderplex region. And the USL Championship is now here, bringing the game at a high, professional level to El Paso — to fans who truly love their city and their soccer. The USL Championship and El Paso are a perfect fit.
In 2019, El Paso joined 34 other U.S. Cities as well as two in Canada in hosting a USL Championship team. The MountainStar Sports Group, the team’s owners, set high expectations for the team’s on-field play, as well as the quality experience that the organization brought to the community. The team exceeded those expectations reaching the Western Conference final, falling to the eventual 2019 USL Champions. Similarly, the organization created a fun, family-oriented atmosphere that captured the unique culture of El Paso. The organization was recognized for the best overall gameday operations in all of USL. The inaugural year was a step in the right direction. The Locomotive look to build on this success in year two
The journey of professional soccer to El Paso started almost twenty years ago. Beginning in 1999, through various plans, frameworks, public input, and counsel from urban designers, architects, and city planners, came what eventually led to the El Paso Downtown Plan 2015.
The Plan outlined steps that would promote a more vibrant and revitalized Downtown, and included public and private investment. Most of the private investment has been from two El Paso families: the Hunts and the Fosters, who founded MountainStar Sports Group in 2012.
The first major public development initiated by the Hunts and Fosters was the purchase of the Tucson Padres, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The team, now known as the El Paso Chihuahuas, began play in a brand-new Ballpark in Downtown El Paso in April 2014. Today, the El Paso Chihuahuas continue to set attendance records and is the #1 brand in Minor League Baseball.
In 2015, MountainStar and investors in Mexico purchased an Ascenso MX League (second-division, Mexican Federation of Futbol) soccer club and moved play to a university stadium in Ciudad Juarez. The team is known as the FC Juarez Bravos, and has enjoyed very successful seasons each year including joining the top division, Liga MX, in 2019.
Throughout these initiatives to bring high-quality, professional sports to the region, MountainStar remained focused on bringing soccer to the U.S. side of the Borderplex. As stated by Josh Hunt, CEO of MountainStar Sports Group, “We see this much in the same light as we did with the opportunity to bring Triple-A Baseball to El Paso and professional soccer to Ciudad Juarez. Our cornerstone objective was, and is, to improve the quality of life in the Borderplex and drive economic development. So, this is a natural extension of that mission, and we are proud that El Paso will be one of the newest USL markets.”
The new USL Championship team in El Paso will continue to bring people Downtown, and will add to the vibrancy and Downtown revitalization that started with a plan – nearly twenty years ago.
El Paso and the USL Championship: a perfect fit.