Saturday’s friendly in Memphis, Tennessee will feel like a homecoming for Colorado Rapids goalkeeper and USMNT legend Tim Howard. Why? Despite growing up in New Jersey, Memphis has become Howard’s adopted hometown.
Since 2003, Germantown (a suburb of Memphis) has served as Howard's offseason haven where he and his now ex-wife Laura would retreat to during his time playing for Manchester United and Everton. His familial ties to the town grew deeper once his two children, Jacob and Alivia, were born there.
"Memphis was where my wife, at the time, was from," Howard said. "We just settled here. It was nice and easy, quiet. It's been home now for the last 15 years in my offseason."
So, when it was announced in January that Memphis would be the home of an expansion club in the United Soccer League’s 2019 season it took little time for that news to spread before Howard wanted to get involved.
“I told these guys, ‘use me in any way, shape or form, put me on conference calls, ask questions', and we've done that,” Howard told USLSoccer.com.
Since the announcement on January 8, 2018, Howard has played a critical role within the organization by bringing his wealth of experience to the new franchise, even to the extent of providing recommendations on technical staff members. It was recently announced that Tim Mulqueen, one of Howard’s first mentors, would be the first head coach of USL Memphis. Both natives of New Jersey, Mulqueen and Howard’s paths crossed in 1999 while Howard was attending a Rutgers soccer camp. Mulqueen, a graduate assistant at the time, took a liking to the young Howard and invited him to train for free at his skills clinics in New Jersey. Now, 19 years later, Howard has returned the favor.
“In our coaching search, which was far and wide, we thought that Tim Mulqueen was somebody that embodies the spirit of Memphis,” Howard said. “It’s a gritty city. It’s blue collar. People roll their sleeves up and fight for Memphis. He is someone who knows the game… he’ll make Memphis a force in the USL.”
In addition to his contributions in the coaching search, Howard also played a key role in setting up the friendly match between the Rapids and USL side Tulsa Roughnecks FC, hosted by USL Memphis. During the game, USL Memphis will unveil their new logo and brand identity.
The friendly will mark the first professional outdoor soccer game in Memphis since 1980 and will be held in downtown Memphis at AutoZone Park, the future home of USL Memphis games.
“I’m incredibly excited to play a soccer match in my adopted hometown of Memphis, Tennessee,” Howard said. “We’re looking forward to a terrific reception and a raucous environment for all involved.”