Carson Caulfield, Staff Writer
The Birmingham Legion will play in the franchise’s first-ever game this Saturday, March 9 against the Bethlehem Steel. The team was created in 2017, but this season will be its first as a professional club.
The Legion are one of 36 teams in the United Soccer League, one of the three professional soccer leagues in the United States. The city of Birmingham will finally have a professional soccer team to appeal to a city with a growing appreciation for the sport. Chicago-native Tom Soehn, who has a long and successful history with American professional soccer, will serve as the team’s head coach.
Soehn, 52, played for both the Dallas Burn and his hometown team, the Chicago Fire. He won two U.S. Open Cups with Chicago and one with the Dallas Burn. As for his coaching career, he was an assistant for Chicago and a head coach for D.C. United. As the head coach for D.C., Soehn won two U.S. Cups. After his time with D.C. United, he was the director of soccer operations for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Most recently, he was an assistant coach and interim head coach for the New England Revolution, followed by serving as a scout for the Columbus Crew.
Out of all of these coaching positions and accomplishments held by Soehn, perhaps the most interesting should be his time with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Soehn was named the Vancouver Whitecaps director of soccer operations in 2010. According to his biography on the Legion’s website, he developed and managed the club’s inaugural roster, player scouting, and identification and recruitment system as the club prepared to enter the MLS in 2011. Basically speaking, Soehn prepared the franchise to play in a tougher, more talented league, which is what he has been recently trying to accomplish with the Legion. Only this time, he is doing it as a head coach. It will be interesting to see if Soehn can guide the legion to a strong start in the USL.
Some of the players to look out for this Saturday include two former MLS players, midfielder Eric Avila and forward Chandler Hoffman. Avila, 31, played a total of eight seasons in the MLS with four different clubs across the country. He will most likely control center pitch once he becomes accustomed to Soehn’s system. Hoffman, 28, is a Birmingham native and found his way back home after four years in the MLS and three years in the USL. Expect a dangerous scoring presence from Hoffman this season.
The Birmingham Legion will play their first game Saturday night at 6 p.m. CST on BBVA Compass Field.