Professional soccer returns to Tulsa in the spring of 2015. The Tulsa Drillers are majority owners of a to-be-named United Soccer Leagues PRO franchise that will play its home games at ONEOK Field.
Drillers General Manager Mike Melega said at an announcement today their ambition doesn't stop there.
"We feel that entering play in the USL PRO gives Tulsa the best chance to achieve our soccer ambitions of someday placing a Tulsa franchise in Major League Soccer, as Orlando City did here recently, making the jump from USL Pro to become the newest MLS expansion franchise," he said.
The USL PRO league is in the third tier of professional soccer, behind the North American Soccer League and first-tier MLS.
The league recently established a partnership with MLS to allow individual team affiliations similar to those in minor-league baseball. USL PRO teams also compete in the U.S. Open Cup, a 100-year-old tournament open to all United States Soccer Federation–affiliated teams, from amateur sides to professional clubs.
Oklahoma City–based Prodigal LLC will be the team's minority owners. The company is also behind Oklahoma City Energy FC, a USL PRO team that begins play in 2014 and will be an immediate rival for Tulsa's to-be-named team.
Visit Tulsa Senior Vice President Ray Hoyt said the team will mean ONEOK Field is used more and will attract more out-of-town visitors, which is good for Tulsans.
"Through tourism, through sports, the average Tulsa family saves about $600 a year in tax that they don't have to pay because of our visitors," he said. "So it's really important when we talk about activities like this, because it really does support our infrastructure, does support our way of life."
Drillers Assistant General Manager Jason George said a naming contest and vote on team colors could take place within the next six to eight months.