Rochester Rhinos to move to USL D-3, return by 2020

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Another domino has fallen in the construction of USL D-3, albeit unlikely for the inaugural 2019 season.

The Rochester Rhinos are going to drop down from USL to the league’s D-III iteration by the 2020 season, and have been approved by the league as a member.

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On hiatus this season under new owners David and Wendy Dworkin, the Rhinos are one of the standard bearers for soccer in the U.S.

USL D-III has announced six teams for 2019: Chattanooga Pro Soccer, Toronto FC II, South Georgia Tormenta FC, FC Tucson, Greenville Triumph SC, and Madison Pro Soccer.

Rochester will leave its downtown soccer-specific stadium, leaving by the end of the year, and are committed to building a new facility in the suburbs. From RhinosSoccer.com:

The Dworkins continued, “Along with our decision to vacate the stadium, we have also determined that fielding the Rhinos in our current Division II league is not sustainable locally at this time. While we are disappointed that the Rhinos will no longer be playing in Division II; we remain committed to keeping professional soccer in our community and building upon its rich history in this region. To that end, the USL has approved our inclusion in USL Division III, subject to a suitable stadium plan, along with community and business support.

The Rhinos opened what is now called Marina Auto Stadium in 2006, six years after winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. They remain the last non-MLS team to win the tournament.

Rochester also won the USL A-League in 1998, 2000, and 2001, as well as league titles in 2010 and 2015.

The club averaged more than 10,000 fans per game between 1996 and 2007, but have not averaged more than 6,000 since 2012. Their last two seasons saw average attendances of 3,655 and 2,031.

There’s been plenty of talk that the decline in attendance was down to their pretty great stadium being built in a rough part of town. Rochester has still produced good talent from its youth ranks and plenty of league titles, so perhaps a shiny new multi-sport complex can help the Rhinos restore themselves to glory. We’ll cheers to that.