BIRMINGHAM, AL (June 26, 2020) – With the USL Championship’s Return to Play right around the corner, the league announced today that Birmingham Legion FC has been placed in Group G. The four-team group also includes the Charlotte Independence, North Carolina FC, and local rival Memphis 901 FC.
Legion FC will play each team in the group four times, and the four remaining matches in the 16-match season will be against other Eastern Conference opponents, which are to be determined. The full schedule with match dates, times, and locations is set to be released in the coming weeks.
For more information on the season restart, BBVA Field health and safety protocols, and ticketing, keep an eye on bhmlegion.com and our social media pages, @bhmlegion.
“It feels great [to be back],” said midfielder Anderson Asiedu. “We were close to playing our first game, so we already felt the energy of everybody since the day we got here. We realize it’s a good core group, and we want to make this happen. We’re very excited about the guys that were added to the group – everybody came in with a lot of fire…we know what we are, and we know what we want to do here.”
Birmingham fared well against its Group G opponents last year, as the club finished with a combined four wins, two draws, and one loss against CLT, MEM, and NC in 2019. Legion FC won its last four matches against the trio, by a combined score line of 6-2, including the victory over North Carolina in the first round of the playoffs.
Midfielder Anderson Asiedu during Legion FC's match vs. Memphis 901 FC on August 17, 2019
This campaign brings new stakes and fresh faces into existing rivalries with everything on the line, as half of the group will earn a spot in the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs. Also, the first matches of the season, before league play was suspended, will count towards the regular season, and each team in the group besides Legion FC has already played once, leaving BHM with a game in hand.
Charlotte kicked off its 2020 campaign with a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City II, courtesy of an 85th minute goal from forward Dane Kelly. Kelly and forward Enzo Martinez look to be the strength of this Independence side this season. With 78 career goals in 191 USL Championship appearances, Kelly is the league’s all-time leading scorer, and Martinez, a Charlotte staple, is top-30 in league history in goals himself, and top-15 in career assists. Corralling that pair will be key when facing the Independence.
Memphis came in to 2020 with a few major additions to the side, including USMNT legend and 901 FC minority owner and sporting director, Tim Howard, who came out of retirement to play this season. Matchday one got off to promising start, as Memphis went up 2-0 in 16 minutes against Indy Eleven, but the squad eventually fell 4-2. The team will look to lean on a newly signed midfield trio of Michael Reed (Nashville SC), Jose Baxter (Plymouth United) and Jean-Christophe Koffi (New York Red Bulls II) to drive the team this year.
Forward Brian Wright during Legion FC's match against North Carolina FC on July 13, 2019
North Carolina, the only other team in the group to make the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs, lost its first match of 2020 against Louisville City FC, 1-0. NCFC returns a large part of the spine of their team and will play through 2019’s leading goalscorer Robbie Kristo, new signing Hadji Barry, and last season’s assist leaders Ben Speas, Steven Miller, and Nazmi Albadawi when on the attack.
G also clearly stands for “Goalkeeper” in this Group, as Legion FC’s rock, Matt VanOekel, is not only joined by Howard, but two of the top five ‘keepers in terms of total saves made last season in all of the USL Championship, Charlotte’s Brandon Miller (2nd) and North Carolina’s Alex Tambakis (5th). Goals will have to be earned in Group G.
“Everybody that’s here this year and remaining from last year, we know the goals, we know what we want to achieve,” continued Asiedu. “That has been the mentality since the day that we got here, so we want to continue working hard every day, like we were before the break…so that we can have a better season. I would say it’s a fair chance for everybody, if you work hard and you do well, you make your time, and make something happen. We want to be that type of team; we want to go out there and make noise from where we left last year. So, we’re very excited to be back – we feel great to be back.”
Let the countdown begin, and Hammer Down!