USL Super League team CEO sets eye on scaling youth-to-pro pathway in women’s sports


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The United Soccer League Super League (USLS) is set to launch its 2024-25 inaugural season in August, with teams represented in eight cities across the United States. 

Those teams will have a home base in Brooklyn, Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lexington, Kentucky, Spokane, Washington, Tampa, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

Fort Lauderdale’s newest professional sports franchise, Fort Lauderdale United FC, looks to blaze a trail for team success by filling the stands and implementing strategies to grow their fan base. As United FC’s co-founder and CEO Deon Graham prepares for his team’s debut, he understands that success is not only tied to building a sustainable franchise, but showcasing a tangible “youth to pro” model in women’s sports. 

“Our goal is to give that 11-year-old girl the opportunity to see a path for herself in pro sports,” Graham told Fox News Digital. If she can watch a USL game and visualize a foreseeable future for herself in 10 years, getting paid well to play a sport that she loves, then we’ve done our job.

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Fort Lauderdale United FC

South Florida’s new top-tier women’s professional soccer team unveiled their name and crest – Fort Lauderdale United FC in February.  (Fort Lauderdale United FC/USL Super League)

Graham and the USLS share similar goals in the advancement of the “youth to pro” model. The Forbes Entrepreneurial CMO honoree also understands that support from the South Florida community is pivotal in creating “the best possible women’s professional team.” 

“The goal is to develop relationships with all youth clubs in the community to help identify elite talent in the South Florida area,” says Graham. “This provides a clear pathway for young elite athletes to succeed at a professional level. The youth club’s participation, in addition to a roster of players who have connectivity to the community, is going to make this plan successful.”

Graham and the team’s founder and chairman, Tommy Smith, have collaborated closely with Davie Mayor Judy Paul and Fort Lauderdale’s mayor, Dean J. Trantalis, to galvanize South Floridians around the team.

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Co-Founder and CEO Deon Graham

Fort Lauderdale United FC CEO and co-founder Deon Graham (Fort Lauderdale United FC)

The USL initially announced the formation of the Super League in 2021. According to the league’s website, they plan to operate during a fall-to-summer calendar to align with the global game and prioritize player welfare and performance.

The USLS was recently sanctioned as a Division One professional soccer league by the U.S. Soccer Federation in February.

USLS teams

The USL Super League’s 2024/25 inaugural season will kick off in August with clubs in eight markets across the United States. (USLS Super League)

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“Congratulations to the USL Super League on receiving its sanctioning as a Division One professional women’s soccer league,” said U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone following the announcement. “The USL Super League is looking to grow the women’s game and to expand the opportunities for women to compete at the highest professional level.”



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