Andy Smith was the President and General Manager for the Atlanta Silverbacks during their time in the North American Soccer League. He will now lead all soccer operations as the general manager of Reno 1868 FC, a new United Soccer League club that will be affiliated with Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes.
In a press release, Smith said:
“I’m excited to join Reno 1868 FC as the club continues preparations for its inaugural season. The organization has made great strides since the franchise was awarded to Reno last September, and we are well-positioned to move forward for a successful 2017 campaign.”
With his move to the USL, Dirty South Soccer asked Smith about the future outlook of the league and where it fits in the American soccer landscape. He said:
“I think the USL has done a great job in the past few years positioning itself directly under MLS, which has created tremendous growth with MLS2 franchises as well as other markets wanting to be involved as an affiliate team or with aspirations of becoming a future MLS franchise.
The USL will definitely become a 2nd Division league and based on how quickly it is growing, could get to a point where it could split into a 2nd and 3rd Division and create Promotion and Relegation between the two. That would be very cool and something fans would love.”
One niche that we explored earlier this week is the role of USL teams in player development. We asked Smith about the importance of the league in developing players in the U.S. and his club’s relationship with MLS.
“I think the USL will be extremely important in the further development of players in the US. Especially with teams like Reno and MLS2 franchises who are fully integrated with an MLS franchise.
One of the goals is to find younger players who are not quite ready for MLS and are a raw product that need time in a professional atmosphere to grow and get ready for the jump. Not all players will fit that mold, but it’s certainly an important piece to the puzzle.”
During his time in Atlanta, Smith saw a great deal of changes in the Atlanta soccer landscape as Atlanta United came into fruition. We asked him about what he sees the future of Atlanta soccer looking like and how it has changed since he came to the city. He said:
“The future in Atlanta is MLS. It’s great to see fans supporting soccer at such a high level there now and Atlanta United is doing an incredible job. When I came to Atlanta in 2012, it was not in a great place, but I’d like to think we had a small part in helping to build the soccer community through the Silverbacks and the great events and sell outs we hosted the past few years.
I’m proud of helping to be a part of that growth, but what Atlanta United is doing now is just on another level. They have real money supporting their efforts and the investment level is massive and Atlanta deserves that.”
With his move to Reno, we asked Smith what some of his favorite memories were of his time here.
“Soccer Bowl was such a high and a low, but I look back on that with very fond memories. Working with Eric Wynalda, Brian Haynes and Gary Smith was an honor and I really enjoyed the time spent with each of them for different reasons. All the players we signed that had never been given an opportunity and to see them still around the different leagues is very cool. Our run in the Open Cup was an awesome experience and something that sticks out as well.
But my favorite memories took place in the front office and working with a staff that worked extremely hard…we had such an incredible time together both in and out of work. I’ll miss the time with that group of people more than anything. It was a very unique set up, we had a great run.”