By Zachary Baru
The Pioneers will host a first-round U.S. Open Cup match in Ludlow on March 24 at 7 p.m., a game that will be broadcast nationally and around the globe on ESPN+, ESPN's streaming service. Soccer fans worldwide will be able to watch the game on the ESPN App on both smartphones and smart TV's, as well as on ESPNPlus.com. This is a great opportunity for the long-time club and 2019 Northeast Division champions to get national media exposure, not to mention bringing national television coverage to Western Massachusetts.
The Pioneers have played in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) since their inception in 1997, but the league name has changed multiple times over the years. In 2019, the USL changed the Pioneers' league to USL League 2 (USL2), in what seems to be a better name and organizational structure for the USL.
|The 3,000-seat Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow, Massachusetts,|
home of the Western Mass. Pioneers and the
New England Mutiny.
The club also finished tied for first in points throughout all of USL2, a league that has 85 teams in 11 divisions throughout every region of the United States. USL2 provides a feeder-system to USL1, which provides development to USL Championship, just one league below Major League Soccer in the "U.S. Soccer pyramid". The restructuring of the USL allowed for a more clear system of league levels affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation.
Having the Pioneers in a competitive league like USL2 and in a national tournament like the U.S. Open Cup provides area soccer fans with a tremendous opportunity to see a high level of soccer locally, the ability to bring national television coverage to Ludlow, but also the chance to see players develop before they reach the higher levels in the nation's system of soccer leagues.
Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at email@example.com.