Academy of Richmond County's Cline Beam (10) puts pressure on Northside-Columbus' Andrew Medley during a game at ARC. Beam will play for the FireBall United, which begin play tonight.
Photo by Chris Thelen
The Augusta FireBall United Soccer Club, the county's first professional sports franchise, will begin play at Patriots Park at 5 p.m. today against the Carolina Dynamo.
The FireBall are a United Soccer League Premier Developmental League team consisting of mostly collegiate players from universities around the South. The team, which will play in the Eastern Conference's Mid-Atlantic Division, will play all six of its home games at Patriots Park.
Augusta won its inaugural game May 20, 1-0, over the New Orleans Shell Shockers, but the owner and president, Alec Papadakis, said the team is eager to play at home.
"We are ready to show the people of the area our brand of soccer," said Papadakis, who said he didn't want to comment on what the expected attendance might be for the home opener. "We will have to prove ourselves to the community and let them decide if this is a product they want to support."
Papadakis has committed to a five-year deal to keep the franchise in Columbia County and at Patriots Park. He also wants to bring a Super-Y League (youth league) team and W-League (the highest women's league in the country) teams to the area next year.
The FireBall live and train in Atlanta and will commute to Grovetown for games, but in seasons to come the players will reside in the Augusta area, Papadakis said.
The Augusta Fire Ball United logo.
Papadakis, a former player with the North American Soccer League's Atlanta Chiefs, said he originally wanted to place the team in Atlanta, but the city already has the USL First Division Atlanta Silverbacks. The owner looked at Savannah and Macon but decided on Augusta after being persuaded by Brad Usry, the owner of Fat Man's Forest and now the FireBall's general manager.
"He is a great representative of Augusta," Papadakis said.
The team will feature two local stars. Former Academy of Richmond County and current Clemson University player Havird Usry and recent ARC graduate Cline Beam will play.
The FireBall will play a provisional season this year because of a late start and won't be eligible for postseason play in the 54-team league that features teams from the United States and Canada.
"We expect to contend for a national title in the coming years," Papadakis said.
FireBall Home Schedule
June 5 - Carolina Dynamo
June 9 - Ajax Orlando Prospects
June 17 - West Virginia Chaos
June 18 - West Virginia Chaos
July 13 - Raleigh CASL Elite
TBD - New Orleans Shell Shockers
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