Metro Detroit teams link up with new developmental United Women's Soccer League Two

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News

Add another layer to the towering cake of women’s soccer, which continues to see unprecedented growth amid the success of the four-time World Cup U.S. national team.

United Women’s Soccer is adding a development circuit League Two this summer, which includes a Midwest Division where Detroit Sun Reserves, Brighton’s Michigan Legends FC, Livonia City FC, Rochester’s North Oakland SC and Macomb County’s Rebels FC will compete.

The Detroit Sun Reserves will play out of the Corner Ballpark along with the first team.

UWS, like all U.S. pro and amateur soccer leagues, are in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic but its League Two is looking to kick off sometime in June.

Most of the clubs compete in the Michigan Premier Soccer League. UWS League Two is a boost in terms of competition and national prestige. The new league is designed primarily for those between 20 to 23 years old but UWS 2 is open to older and more experienced players as well, executive director Stephanie Cleaves said.

Motivations for joining the new circuit vary.

Michigan Legends has been competing in UWS' top tier for several years but feels UWS League Two is a better fit.

The Legends draw from Brighton, Hartland and Pinckney area and initially launched its UWS endeavor as a way to showcase that area’s top talent.

But as the Legends continued to compete in the fiercely rugged top-tier UWS, the team was increasingly filling its roster with out-of-area collegiate players.

“Dropping down to the Second Division now, it's less travel, it's less money, and again, now we're able to actually produce a team that is truly all alumni from our club,” said Kevin Oakley, Legends FC director of girls coaching. “And so for us, it's a perfect fit.”

As the name implies, Detroit Sun will use its League Two outfit as a reserve side. Both teams will play at The Corner Ballpark in Corktown. The Sun will also continue to field a team in the MPSL.

Reserve teams are common in professional soccer circles.

“We have always carried a reserve team,” said Sun first-team coach Aaron Roy, who will also oversee the reserve side. “Players are always battling to keep spots on the first team while others fight to earn promotions within the program ranks.

“The creation of the UWS2 was a big step for women’s soccer and an awesome opportunity to grow our program even more.”

UWS League Two is also a step up for Livonia City FC, which had taken a similar move forward on the men’s side to the new Midwest Premier League this season. The regional circuit joined the National Premier Soccer League in canceling its 2020 season last week due to the pandemic.

Livonia City FC women’s team feels comfortable with the jump, club president Craig Beebe said.

“We're pretty familiar with all the competition and we played them and we talked to all the other teams in the area and even those outside of Michigan, we talked to some of them too,” Beebe said. “So it just seems to be like the trend for a lot of the teams to into the UWS.”

Twitter: @larryo1961