Birmingham Legion FC
|Birmingham Legion FC|
|Home field||Protective Stadium|
|General manager||Jay Heaps|
Birmingham Legion FC is a professional soccer team which represents Birmingham in the United Soccer League's USL Championship division beginning with the 2019 season. Its home matches are played at Protective Stadium, adjoining the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center.
The franchise, co-owned by Jeff Logan, James Outland and Lee Styslinger III, was announced at a public event on August 8, 2017. Jay Heaps was announced in January 2018 as president and general manager of the team. Birmingham Hammers co-founder Morgan Copes is vice-president. Later that month, the team announced that Doug Hicks had been hired as vice president. Birmingham Legions FC's offices are located at Pullman Flats at 2226 1st Avenue South, having relocated from 2213 1st Avenue South.
The name and logo for the team, developed with Big Communications, were announced in January 2018. The name "Legion" makes reference to the "army" of soccer fans that helped establish the team as well as to soccer history at Legion Field. The other elements of the logo highlight Birmingham's industrial history. In addition to referencing the former Hammers team, the hammer and anvil are a visual reference to Vulcan. Three hypocycloids (four-pointed stars) approximate the American Iron & Steel Institute's "Steelmark", famously used in the logo of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Home and away games were broadcast locally on WABM "My68".
Oak Mountain High School graduate and Real Monarchs' star forward Chandler Hoffman signed on as the team's first player in July 2018. In August the team announced that Tom Soehn would be the first head coach of Birmingham Legion FC. For the first three seasons, Legion FC played their home matches at the 5,000-seat BBVA Field on UAB's campus.
Birmingham Legion finished their inaugural season with a 12-15-7 record and advanced to the quarter-finals of the league's conference championship.
That February the Legion lost a 2-3 friendly against the MLS Atlanta United FC at BBVA Field. Video of the crowd singing spread through social media and ignited an outpouring of interest from England's Birmingham City FC fan base. The moment generated thousands of new online followers, several exchanges of gear, and a wave of trolling insults against the Memphis 901 FC, which were identified as Legion's chief rival.
In 2023 Birmingham Legion FC expanded with a Birmingham Legion WFC women's team competing in the USL W League. The team was developed in partnership with the Birmingham United Soccer Association youth league.
NBA legend Dominique Wilkins was also announced as a part-owner of the team in 2023.
In August 2018 Red Diamond signed a 3-year deal to sponsor the team as "jersey partner". Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United took over jersey sponsorship in a five-year agreement to feature the Coca-Cola and BodyArmor brands beginning in 2022.
Other major team sponsors have included Buffalo Rock, Post Consumer Brands, and Nike.
Birmingham Legion finished their inaugural season as the 10th-ranked team in the USL's Eastern Conference, with a total of 43 points despite a 12-15-7 record and a goal deficit of 16. In the league's conference championship, the Legion made it as far as the quarter-finals before being eliminated by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on October 26.
Birmingham opened their 2020 season, shortened by the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, on July 15 with a 3-0 home victory over Memphis 901 FC, which was aired nationally on ESPN2. They went on to post a 7-5-4 record over 16 matches, with a total of 28 points and a goal deficit of 10. The club qualified for the conference quarterfinals for the second year, losing to the Tampa Bay Rowdies 4-2 on October 10.
Legion FC went 18-8-6 for the season, with a 10-4-2 record at home. The team qualified for a first-ever home playoff game scheduled for Sunday, November 7 against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. That game was forfeited by the Pittsburgh team due to multiple COVID-19 infections, sending Birmingham to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Legion FC moved to the 45,000-seat Protective Stadium for their fourth season. Average attendance for the first eight games was 5,405, compared to 4,389 per game in 2021.
In their 5th season, Birmingham Legion FC
On May 24 the club hosted its first match against a Major League Soccer opponent, facing Charlotte FC in the 5th round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
- "USL Officially Awards Franchise to Birmingham." (August 8, 2017) USLsoccer.com
- Patchen, Tyler (January 17, 2018) "Birmingham's soccer team name and logo unveiled." Birmingham Business Journal
- Edgemon, Erin (May 8, 2018) "Birmingham Legion FC adds 4 local owners." The Birmingham News
- Inabinett, Mark (July 30, 2018) "Chandler Hoffman coming home as Birmingham Legion FC's first player." The Birmingham News
- Murray, Nichola (August 5, 2018) "The USL Q&A: Doug Hicks, Birmingham Legion FC" USLsoccer.com
- Patchen, Tyler (December 17, 2018) "Legion FC unveils new jersey and home-opener opponent." Birmingham Business Journal
- Estes, Cary (March 6, 2019) "How Birmingham landed its own professional soccer team." The Birmingham News
- Wray, Cheryl (October 23, 2019) "Legion FC visits North Carolina in first-round USL playoff game tonight." The Birmingham News
- Patchen, Tyler (November 8, 2019) "With first year complete, Legion FC looks to the future." Birmingham Business Journal
- Humphries, Clayton (December 6, 2019) "Legion FC Announces Initial Offseason Roster Moves." Birmingham Legion FC press release
- Goodman, Joseph (February 11, 2020) "Birmingham Legion FC creates buzz (and jokes) in England with chant." The Birmingham News
- Goodman, Joseph (July 16, 2020) "Statement game for Birmingham Legion FC in season opener." The Birmingham News
- Goodman, Joseph (September 25, 2020) "Birmingham growing reputation in pro soccer." The Birmingham News
- Goodman, Joseph (November 5, 2021) "‘Overrated’ Birmingham Legion FC ready for first home playoff game." The Birmingham News
- Mann, Joshua (December 7, 2021) "Legion FC to move to Protective Stadium in 2022." Birmingham Business Journal
- Pike, Harrison (September 6, 2022) "Here's how the Birmingham Legion FC ranks for attendance at Protective Stadium." Birmingham Business Journal
- Rebman, Stephanie (June 20, 2023) "Birmingham Legion lands NBA career standout investor." Birmingham Business Journal
- Birmingham Legion FC website