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By Luka Starmer
After four seasons in the USL Championship, professional soccer team Reno 1868 FC is shutting down operations. The decision, announced today, was made due to financial shortfalls. The team’s president said COVID-19 was a primary reason for financial losses.
“COVID devastated the business, the industry and near-term future,” said 1868 FC President Eric Edelstein on a Zoom press conference Friday, Nov. 6, 2020.
After the 2020 season was modified due to the global pandemic, no fans were able to attend games in-person. All league games were televised. A limited number of fans were allowed in Greater Nevada Field for the two final home playoff games, October 10 and 17th before 1868 FC lost to Phoenix Rising FC in the league semifinals.
Edelstein said that their financial model relied on having fans in the stadium all season, and their budgets couldn’t be solely supported by media and ad revenue the way teams in the NBA and MLB have coped during the pandemic.
He added that the final decision was made by owner Herbert Simon to disband the team based from an uncertainty in returning to normal model in 2021. Simon is an Indiana-based real estate developer who also owns the NBA team Indiana Pacers and the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.
Edelstein said they won’t speculate on whether a professional soccer team will return to Reno in the future.
The vast majority of the 1868 FC staff will continue working for the Reno Aces Triple-A Baseball Team.
A short legacy of success
In September 2015, Reno was awarded a USL franchise to begin play in the 2017 season. Through four seasons, Reno recorded a record of 62-26-28. They earned a playoff berth in all four campaigns, including having the best record in the USL during the 2020 regular season.
Head Coach Ian Russell managed the club through all four years, being awarded the designation of USL Co-Coach of the Year this year. Over those four years, the club sent 10 players to teams in Major League Soccer.
“The reasons behind our departure were not a lack of success, not a lack of support, not a lack of belief,” said Edelstein. “This is a COVID casualty.”