Tampa Bay Sports Day

USL: Tampa Bay Rowdies to Host Bethlehem in 2018 USL Home Opener

The Tampa Bay Rowdies will welcome Bethlehem Steel FC to Al Lang Stadium in their 2018 home opener on Saturday, March 24, as announced by the USL today.

At this time, the only way to secure tickets to the 2018 home opener is to purchase season tickets by calling (727) 222-2000 or by clicking here. Single-game tickets will be made available at a later date.

The USL regular season will feature 34 matches (up from 32 last season) played between St. Patrick’s Day weekend and the weekend of October 12-14 with the USL Playoffs to follow.

The Rowdies played Bethlehem twice last September, with both matches ending in draws. The Steel FC qualified for the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, losing to eventual champions Louisville City FC in the first round.

While the full schedule will be released soon, the Rowdies have also learned their opponent for opening weekend. Tampa Bay will travel to take on North Carolina FC on opening day, Saturday, March 17.

ROWDIES NOTES: Tampa Bay Rowdies signed center back Ivan Magalhães on Friday, pending federation and league approval.   Magalhães comes to Tampa Bay after spending the previous two seasons with the Rio Grande Valley Toros. Despite having only just turned 24, Magalhães has already made 58 USL appearances in two years as a professional…..Tampa Bay also signed defender David Najem and goalie Matias Reynares . Najem, 25, comes to Tampa Bay after playing the past two seasons with the New York Red Bulls II. In his two years there, Najem was one of the most reliable defenders at the club, making 52 appearances and playing more than 4,000 minutes for one of the most successful clubs in the league. He helped the Red Bulls II reach the USL Eastern Conference Final in 2017 and to a USL Championship in 2016. Reynares, 19, spent three separate loan spells in Tampa Bay last season while a member of North Carolina FC. The Argentine goalkeeper sat on the Rowdies’ bench for six matches last season.

USL NOTEBOOK: The league announced the conference alignment and home openers for the 2018 USL regular season. The league will feature 33 teams across two conferences in the upcoming season, with the clubs set to embark on a 31-week regular-season schedule that will open with a 14-game slate of contests the weekend of March 16-18.

Louisville City FC, 2017 USL Cup Champion, will open the season on home turf as it welcomes expansion side Nashville SC on March 17 in one of the opening weekend’s must-see contests. Two other expansion clubs will also face off that same night as Fresno FC faces Las Vegas Lights FC at Chukchansi Park in the inaugural regular-season contest for both clubs.

One of the Western Conference’s major rivalries will also be at the fore on the opening weekend of the regular season, with the Black Gold Derby between OKC Energy FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC set to resume at OKC’s Taft Stadium on Saturday night. Also in the Western Conference, two of the league’s marquee clubs will square off, as Sacramento Republic FC plays host to San Antonio FC at Papa Murphy’s Park, while Orange County SC will welcome Phoenix Rising FC to Champions Soccer Stadium for another intriguing clash to open the regular season.

In the Eastern Conference a pair of familiar foes will meet at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park as North Carolina FC makes its USL debut against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and for a third successive year the Charleston Battery will host FC Cincinnati at MUSC Health Stadium on the opening Saturday of the season.

The regular season will open on Friday, March 16 when Rio Grande Valley FC plays host to Saint Louis FC at H-E-B Park, and Seattle Sounders FC 2 marks its debut in Tacoma, Washington, by hosting Cascadia rivals the Portland Timbers 2.

Other notable home openers include the first meeting between Nevada rivals Las Vegas Lights FC and Reno 1868 FC, which will be hosted at Las Vegas’ Cashman Field on Saturday, March 24, the same night that Nashville SC will host its inaugural home opener against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. One week later, defending USL Regular Season Champion Real Monarchs SLC will open its new state-of-the-art home at Zions Bank Stadium when the Portland Timbers 2 visit on Saturday, March 31.

Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati will be part of two home openers that are sure to be memorable occasions, with the side visiting USL newcomer Indy Eleven for Indy’s inaugural home opener in the league on Saturday, March 31 before playing host to River Cities Cup rival Louisville City FC for its home opener at Nippert Stadium on Saturday, April 7.

2018 USL Conference Alignment
Eastern Conference
ATL UTD 2
Bethlehem Steel FC
Charleston Battery
Charlotte Independence
FC Cincinnati
Indy Eleven
Louisville City FC
Nashville SC
New York Red Bulls II
North Carolina FC
Ottawa Fury FC
Penn FC
Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Richmond Kickers
Tampa Bay Rowdies
Toronto FC II

Western Conference
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Fresno FC
LA Galaxy II
Las Vegas Lights FC
OKC Energy FC
Orange County SC
Phoenix Rising FC
Portland Timbers 2
Real Monarchs SLC
Reno 1868 FC
Rio Grande Valley FC
Sacramento Republic FC
Saint Louis FC
San Antonio FC
Seattle Sounders FC 2
Swope Park Rangers
Tulsa Roughnecks FC