TAMPA, Fla. – The anticipated launch of the nation’s top professional third-division soccer league, USL Division III, took a major step forward today as the new league welcomed South Georgia Tormenta FC as a founding member for 2019. The high-performing club will compete in its third Premier Development League season in 2018 before moving to the professional level.
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of hard work from our organization to develop and launch a successful third division built on the principles and foundation that made the USL one of the most prominent second divisions in the world. We are thrilled to welcome South Georgia Tormenta FC into the USL Division III as a founding member and expect the club to continue its success from the PDL,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “This is just the beginning of an exciting period of growth for USL Division III as we expect to unveil more new markets in the coming months and continue to lead the growth of professional soccer in the United States.”
Tormenta FC has established itself as one of the premier amateur teams across the United States since its founding in 2015, earning the PDL’s New Franchise of the Year award in 2016 and finishing as a runner-up for the PDL’s Franchise of the Year award in 2017.
The club has filed plans to construct and released renderings of a new state-of-the-art 5,000-seat soccer-specific stadium in Statesboro, which will provide an exciting and authentic professional soccer experience for fans and players. The venue would also have the ability to host other sporting and entertainment events, and upon completion, the facility intends to be the home for the Georgia Southern University men’s and women’s soccer programs.
“This is an exciting time for South Georgia soccer fans, as we prepare to join USL Division III and bring professional soccer to our region in 2019,” said Tormenta FC Owner and President Darin Van Tassell. “Elevating the club to the proven model of the USL professional ranks allows us to increase the impact our organization can have in the local community, region and country.”
Darin and Netra Van Tassell will serve as Majority Owners of the professional team. Darin Van Tassell – who received his Ph.D. in International Studies from the University of South Carolina and was awarded his B.A. in Political Science from Georgia Southern in 1989 – is the President of BVT Enterprises, Inc. He was named 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce and previously served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is a three-time former Olympian, who served as a Head Coach in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, as a Technical Commissioner for the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and as the Competition Director for the IBAF in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Netra R. Van Tassell – who received her M.A. in Exceptional Children from the University of South Carolina in 1994 and her B.A. in Early Education from Georgia Southern University in 1990 – serves as the Vice President of BVT Enterprises, Inc. She also serves as the Chief Operations Officer of all activities at The Clubhouse, where she manages more than 75 employees and has been responsible for daily operations since 2010.
“Tormenta FC is a first-class organization, and Darin and Netra Van Tassell have been at the forefront of the club’s success since its founding in 2015,” continued Papadakis. “We are excited to bring the thrill of professional soccer to South Georgia, as Tormenta FC continues to be a catalyst for growth in the community. The club’s remarkable new facility in Statesboro will not only be one of the best in the region but also be a standard-bearer for the entire third-division landscape in North America.”
In addition, Jeff Spencer, Craig Simonson, Jeremy Aven, Stephanie Brighton, Kristen Goodman, Alan and Kristin Kagen and Phil and Mary Ann Michel will serve as Minority Owners for the franchise.
USL Division III will provide passionate soccer supporters in new markets with a proven professional experience. The league remains focused on positioning teams for long-term success by creating regional rivalries that reduce travel costs, encourage supporter travel and deliver on-field excitement. The regional model has been a hallmark of success for the USL, and led to thriving soccer communities throughout the country.
Darin H. Van Tassell has served as the Owner and President of South Georgia Tormenta FC since the club’s founding in 2015. He is the President of BVT Enterprises, Inc., and Co-Founder of The Clubhouse in Statesboro, Georgia. In 2016, Tormenta FC was named New Franchise of the Year and awarded two Golden Scarf Awards for excellence in operations. In 2017, Van Tassell was named a finalist for Executive of the Year by the PDL, while Tormenta FC was a runner-up for Franchise of the Year.
Netra R. Van Tassell is Vice-President of BVT Enterprises, Inc., and serves as the Chief Operations Officer of all activities at The Clubhouse, which she co-founded alongside Darin Van Tassell. She manages over 75 employees and is the responsible for the daily operations since 2010 at The Clubhouse. She received her M.A. in Exceptional Children from the University of South Carolina in 1994 and her B.A. in Early Education from Georgia Southern University in 1990. She was a kindergarten teacher from 1990 – 2001 and was a former professor in the College of Education and Department of Children and Family Development at Georgia Southern University from 2001-2010.
Jeff Spencer serves as the General Manager for the Callawassie Golf Club in Okatie, South Carolina, Craig Simonson is a Certified Public Accountant living in Bluffton, South Carolina, Jeremy Aven lives in Savannah and is the founder and Director of Coaching for Tormenta FC Youth Academy, Stephanie Brighton has a background in sales and lives in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and Kristen Goodman is an attorney at Hall, Arbery, Gilligan, Roberts, Shanlever LLP in Atlanta, Georgia, while living in Savannah. Alan and Kristin Kagen are Co-Founders of the Savannah-Hilton Head Youth Soccer Alliance and currently reside in Frisco, Texas. Phil Michel is a retired analyst from the U.S. government and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington, while Mary Ann Michel is a graduate of Savannah High and Emory University, currently working as an analyst for the federal government; they both reside in Gambrills, Maryland, and plan to retire in Statesboro.
Late in June, South Georgia Tormenta FC officially released tentative plans for a new, soccer-specific stadium to be build on what is currently the driving range at Hackers. Along with the released plans and artist’s renderings came the announcement that the club is looking at a move up to the professional ranks when the United Soccer League begins its ‘D3’ league in 2019.
Tormenta has shown at every corner that the willingness and motivation is present to quickly build the team into a winner at high levels. Now, the club is reaching out to its supporters to show that the enthusiasm and commitment to improvement is something that everyone can get behind.
The club is currently seeking out a goal of 10,000 ‘votes’ on its website to show a community-wide interest and backing for the future of both Tormenta and increased soccer presence in Statesboro.
“The mission of this is to work on the macro side of stadium funding,” team president Darin Van Tassell said. “We want to hear from fans on whether this is a project they will support. Instead of just a petition, we’re looking for people to cast a vote with money behind it.”
Fans can log on to the team website and follow a link that will ask them to cast a $10 ‘vote’. People may vote as many times as they’d like and there is currently no deadline for votes and contributions to be cast.
Many different causes have taken the approach of asking for small amounts of money here and there, but Tormenta FC is working on a different and unique angle with its sales pitch. While the overall hope is that the campaign will show the support necessary to move ahead with new stadium plans, the money contributed via voting isn’t going directly into a stadium fund.
Instead, the money will go to the Ibis Foundation - the philanthropic organization linked to Tormenta that seeks to provide opportunities to teach and grow the game of soccer in and around Tormenta’s sphere of influence.
“Voting or donating to this cause will show what opportunities there are to do more with the game in our area,” Ibis Foundation head David Ball Sr. said. “This is what allows us to put on camps and help youth teams organize and begin playing.”
With plans to privately fund any potential stadium, Tormenta sees votes for their cause as a sort of grassroots growth initiative that shows the potential fan base and how it might work to support a larger club endeavor.
“We’ve done some traditional things,” Van Tassell said. “You get information from exploratory studies and feasability studies. But this shows us a new side of where we can build our franchise. With this voting, we will get feedback on an individual basis about their support for Tormenta.”
Another unique quirk in the process is that the money given for each ‘vote’ is much more of an investment than a donation.
In addition to the money going towards already-existing programs and projects instead of accounting for a small bit of conrete or steel in a future stadium, each vote can also be used as an advance payment towards the support of the 2018 version of Tormenta.
Any fans who are already season ticket holders - or who plan to be next season - can attach their name to their vote. All money given through the voting process will be applied toward the cost of that person’s 2018 season ticket purchases. In effect, each $10 ‘vote’ works twice as hard for the vote-giver as the money works toward the goals of the Ibis Foundation while also serving as a down payment for Tormenta tickets.
“We’re working hard as a front office to do some of the big things in terms of building a stadium,” Van Tassell said. “It’s not about building everything with money from these votes. The votes just go to show the community support we have for our team and for our sport.”
The voting outreach was first announced publicly during Tormenta’s final regular season game in July. That single public request from the team has already produced solid support from the current fan base and season ticket holders. Tormenta hopes that an offseason filled with franchise updates and continued aspirations for bigger and better things in the near future will keep the votes rolling in.
To cast a vote, and for more information on the voting initiative, prospective donors can visit tormentafc.com