The Governor’s Cup is always the talk of the town during Thanksgiving weekend in the bluegrass as UK takes on U of L in football. This year’s game saw the Wildcats taking their fourth straight win over the Cardinals in the annual matchup. 

But Lexington was also consumed with another kind of football over the long holiday weekend when the U.S. fought England to a nail-biting draw on Black Friday in FIFA World Cup play. Local bars filled up with watch parties. 

In 2021, the United Soccer League (USL) awarded the city of Lexington a League One expansion franchise. The Lexington Sporting Club is majority-owned by Tower Hill Sports and is slated to kick off its inaugural season in 2023.

Plans for an initial stadium home downtown, and later between Newtown Pike and Russell Cave Road, were revised.

LSC announced in the Spring that youth soccer programs currently associated with Lexington F.C. and Commonwealth Soccer Club would join and become Lexington S. C. Youth Soccer Club. Coaching assignments were released for Lexington Sporting Youth Soccer Club in the fall. 

LSC sporting director Sam Stockley said at the time, “The youth program is the foundation of our club…There is so much excitement around the city and we are humbled by all the support shown by our community. Our goal is to win championships with our professional teams with up to 70 percent home-grown players, and every coach in our club has a part to play in that. We also understand that not all players will reach the professional team, which is why our program reflects the same level of coaching commitment through all four phases of the player pathway model. We are fully committed to providing a pathway for all players.”

Construction on Lexington Sporting Club’s recreational soccer fields has begun near the I-75 Athens-Boonesborough exit.

In October, LSC announced that Stockley had been selected as the first ever head coach for its inaugural United Soccer League (USL) League One season.

Stockley has served as Sporting Director since the Club’s inception, and says, “I’m extremely humbled by this opportunity, and very fortunate I’ve been able to be here at the start of this football club,” Stockley said. “To now have this opportunity to be able to be the head coach really allows the culture we have created to stay true to the alignment of what the vision was from the very start.”

In one calendar year, LSC has built a youth program featuring 1,400 players and nearly 100 coaches, which includes competition in elite leagues such as the Girls Academy and USL Academy. Each player trains under the same curriculum, regardless of age, allowing player movement throughout the Club and the opportunity for homegrown professionals.

This “academy” approach is utilized by the most successful soccer clubs around the world and will change the access and opportunities granted to athletes in the area. With Stockley serving as head coach of the senior team, the LSC model will have unified leadership from the top down.

Vince Gabbert, President of LSC says. “Sam has already devoted countless hours building our program from top to bottom and has truly brought a holistic approach to Lexington where each player has a chance for success. [Sam] has been here to welcome new families in our youngest age groups; he’s helped players of former clubs adapt to their new home; and he’s introduced a pre-professional platform for male and female footballers that we haven’t had in this area before. The dedication he has exhibited toward the success of the club at every level makes him the perfect fit to oversee our first ever senior team.”

A native of Tiverton, England, Stockley enjoyed a professional playing career for nearly 20 years. Following his time on the pitch, Stockley gained experience as a coach and technical director throughout various levels in the United States and England. Stockley will remain the Sporting Director for Lexington.

Lexington will kick off its inaugural USL League One campaign next spring.

This article appears on page 8 of the December issue of Hamburg Journal. To subscribe, click here.