Dan Duggan owns and operates the Michigan Bucks, one of the more successful amateur soccer teams in the USL PDL. He also has ambitions of placing a professional USL franchise in Detroit. The target is to begin play in USL in 2016 with hopes that it might lead to Major League Soccer for the Motor City in the future.
This is not the first time that Duggan’s name has been linked to a possible USL team in Detroit. It was widely reported that he wanted to have a team in the professional league in 2015. According to accounts, those plans were delayed when important details could not be finalized by September 2014. The biggest impediment was a satisfactory venue.
“The only obstacle since 2008 has been, and still is, the lack of a soccer specific stadium to play in. The only way to succeed with professional soccer in a major market like Detroit is to play in a soccer specific stadium,” said Duggan. “Our plan always has been, and will continue to be, a model that follows the success of Portland, Seattle, and Orlando City; Take a successful USL team in a downtown stadium and build to organization to one day move to MLS. The only way that realistically happens is by building the USL stadium in downtown Detroit. That has, and continues to be, the challenge, but we are making excellent progress.”
Duggan is singularly committed to his vision of a soccer specific stadium in downtown Detroit.
“There is only one plan, build a downtown stadium complex to house the pro team and youth academy. To be prepared to one day make the move to MLS, we want it to be downtown from the beginning. We have several offers and opportunities to build a 5,000 to 10,000-seat stadium in the suburbs, but we are still focused on doing this in the heart of the city,” said Duggan.
According to Duggan, private financing has been lined up for 100% of the cost of a soccer specific stadium to be constructed in downtown Detroit. All that remains before construction begins is to secure the property, which Duggan states has been the biggest struggle. A list of locations under consideration will not be revealed while discussions are ongoing.
Early reports stated that the new stadium would hold 5,000 seats, but the plans now call for a 8,000 to 10,000-seat venue. Duggan hopes to release renderings for the stadium in the next month, once the location has been finalized.
With the recent addition of Rio Grande Valley for the 2016 season, USL currently stands at 25 teams.With additional MLS franchises looking to enter sides and investors looking to start independent expansion clubs, USL will likely exceed 30 teams next season. It appears that Duggan is well positioned to be included in the final tally.
Future of the Michigan Bucks
Duggan will not abandon the Bucks, nor will he simply “promote” them to USL if and when the league makes the award for a professional franchise in Detroit. The Bucks will continue to operate in the USL PDL, which Duggan views as paramount to the success of his potential pro team.
“Of course the Bucks will stay in the PDL. The PDL is one of the most important pieces of US soccer’s successful pyramid. The pro team needs a U-23 component as much as it needs a youth academy. If you want to really have a true developmental system in Michigan, then you have to have a quality structure of coaching, staff, and personnel that build the model from connecting all the youth clubs directly to the professional team to give each player a clear path to the pros and beyond,” said Duggan.
The Bucks, who have won two PDL championships, could potentially serve as a pipeline of talented players for a professional team in Detroit. In December 2014, Duggan told ClickOnDetroit that 55 former Bucks players had been drafted by MLS and 85 had moved on to professional soccer. This would be an asset that few other clubs in USL could claim to possess.
Competition with Detroit City FC
Midtown Detroit already has a soccer club. Detroit City FC is one of the more successful NPSL clubs, both on the pitch and in the stands. Its supporters group, the Northern Guard, is one of the more well known at any level of soccer in America.
Is there room for a new pro club in Detroit alongside DCFC? Duggan does not feel his potential professional team downtown will necessarily have to compete with DCFC for fans.
“Why would fans have to choose between the two? We don’t expect Bucks fans to abandon the Bucks when the pro team comes to town. they are completely different products and price points,” said Duggan. “Every Friday in Detroit we have hundreds of thousands of fans who attend high school football games for $5. Every Saturday there are hundreds of thousands of fans attending college football for $50. On Sundays, there are 75,000 fans who head to Ford Field to watch the Lions for $100. If you are a football fan, you want as much as you can afford and have time for. If you are a true soccer fan, 10 NPSL games a year are nothing.”
Duggan realizes that ardent supporters of a particular team will remain faithful to that team, but also knows that there are fans of the sport that have not pledged allegiance to a single team.
“If you are a die-hard fan of DCFC, and that is all you care about, then those fans may only choose to support that team. If you want to see professional soccer and some of the best players in North America and you live in Michigan, you will most likely support the pro team,” Duggan said.
He continued, “With a population of over 4 million within an hour radius of the city and over 100,000 youth participants playing the sport in the area, I doubt very highly that you will run out of fans to support as many quality soccer teams as the area can produce. The teams aren’t in competition. All high level soccer is good exposure for the game and all of the team owners in the area.”