Reading the tea leaves, it seemed pretty clear that the San Jose Earthquakes and Reno 1868 FC would not be renewing their partnership in 2021, but Reno went a step further on Monday, announcing they were ceasing operations, effective immediately.
The news came completely out of the blue, after Reno had reached the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year and with head coach Ian Russell earning co-USL Championship coach of the Year honors for 2020.
“We would like to thank everyone at Reno 1868 FC for their hard work and commitment to success over the past four seasons,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli in a team statement. “Whether it be developing future First Team players or giving our current First Team players valuable minutes on loan, Reno has greatly impacted and proudly represented the Earthquakes organization. We are currently in the process of reevaluating our player development pathway.”
For their part, Reno 1868 pointed to their inability to build a new soccer-specific stadium, in a coronavirus pandemic economy, as the main reason in shutting down.
San Jose and Reno were one of two “hybrid” affiliations in the MLS-USL partnership, with Reno’s business operations effectively run by the same entity that ran the Reno Aces minor league baseball team, and with the team playing at the baseball stadium throughout their existence. Meanwhile, San Jose purportedly had considerable control over soccer decisions at Reno, although that influence appeared to wax and wane over time. From an Earthquakes perspective, Reno gave a slew of young players an opportunity at sustained playing time, something that would have continued this season, but the coronavirus pandemic meant MLS and USL teams needed to effectively wall themselves off from each other to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak.
Jamon Moore reported after the news broke that Russell technically has a contract with the Earthquakes, but it ends this year. Will he re-up and stay at the organization, or will he move on to a new club, as he will surely be in demand?
But beyond all that, even if the Earthquakes and Reno seemed to be drifting apart naturally, this news is a total shock. And for Reno, 1868 FC seemed like a club building a very good product in a market that could embrace it, but after four seasons, they decided to pull the plug. It’s a business, as they always say, but this is certainly terrible news in the context of American soccer, as a club that seemed to be doing things well still threw in the towel has to be chilling.
Thanks for the memories, Reno 1868 FC.
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