OKC Energy FC announced today that respected local businessman Tim McLaughlin has joined the management team as an equal partner with Bob Funk Jr.
The partnership represents a major step towards uniting the Oklahoma City soccer community and strengthens Prodigal’s commitment to bring top level professional soccer to Oklahoma City including a potential Major League Soccer team in the years ahead.
“We’re pleased to have Tim join OKC Energy FC as an equal partner,” said Prodigal owner Bob Funk Jr. “His passion for the continued success of Oklahoma City and its citizens is unmatched. By uniting our efforts, it brings us another step closer to our shared vision of bringing a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to Oklahoma City in the future.”
McLaughlin’s dedication to Oklahoma City, particularly the students of the Oklahoma City Public Schools, is underscored through the success of the Fields & Futures program founded by him and his wife Liz in early 2012. The program provides much needed funds to build and maintain athletic fields throughout the Oklahoma City Public Schools district. The program contributes to the positive development and retention of coaches as well as inspires student-athletes. Overhauling 44 athletic fields within the Oklahoma City Public Schools district and establishing an endowment for upkeep is the long term goal of the organization.
“I’m looking forward with great enthusiasm to working with Bob Funk Jr. and OKC Energy FC to unite the soccer community in Oklahoma City,” said McLaughlin. “The professionalism of Bob Jr. and his staff along with the strength of the league and their partnership with MLS and Sporting KC attracted me to partner with them. I am excited about what we can do together for soccer and Oklahoma City.”
Beginning in early April 2014, OKC Energy FC begins practicing on the campus of Oklahoma City University. OKC Energy FC will compete during the 2014 season at Pribil Stadium on the campus of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School. The following Spring, OKC Energy FC will begin play at the re-modeled and historic Taft Stadium, currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation. As part of the lease with Taft Stadium, $2 of every soccer ticket sold will benefit Fields & Futures.
“We greatly appreciate the very generous donation from Tim McLaughlin as part of the Fields & Futures program for rebuilding the vintage Taft Stadium into a modern facility for Oklahoma City Public Schools events and pro soccer,” said interim OKC Public Schools Superintendent Dave Lopez. “The joint efforts of Bob Funk Jr. and Mr. McLaughlin to bring professional soccer to our community also deserves applause."
“Soccer’s popularity continues to soar, not only nationally but also in our community,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. “This is a great time to bring professional soccer to Oklahoma City and lay the foundation for a possible Major League Soccer team in a few years. Oklahoma City has always been at its best with people pulling on the same rope. We appreciate the shared vision of Bob Jr. and Tim to introduce professional soccer to our community and commend them for working together to make it happen.”
OKC Energy FC’s move to Taft allows for Prodigal to operate a franchise in USL’s Premier Development League (PDL). The PDL is the top amateur league in the United States and a professional development league for the United Soccer League. The league consists of 64 teams, playing in four conferences and nine regional divisions. The PDL season runs from May through July. The yet-to-be-named team will play its home games at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School.
“Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School has developed a close relationship with OKC Energy FC,” said Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School athletic director Gary Savely. “We will continue to support the team and work together in whatever role that meets the needs of the team and the community.”
OKC Energy FC opens its home slate of game April 26 at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School. Season tickets are available by calling (405) 235-KICK or visiting EnergyFC.com.
Energy FC is led by former Sporting Kansas City goaltender and 2013 MLS Cup champion, Jimmy Nielsen. Nielsen was a two-time MLS All Star, the 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, and goalkeeper for the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open championship club.
USL PRO is the strongest, best operated and most experienced North American men’s professional soccer league outside of Major League Soccer (MLS). Focused on franchise stability and longevity, USL PRO features 15 teams for the 2014 season, including expansion teams in Oklahoma City and Sacramento. Presently 10 USL PRO teams have direct affiliations with Major League Soccer clubs.
The league not only serves as a springboard to the MLS for players, but also for franchises. Five of the last six clubs to enter MLS have moved up from the USL’s top professional division. Among the most successful clubs, the Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Montreal Impact and Orlando City SC all operated franchises in the USL’s top professional division before making the transition to MLS.