BY KIMBERLY PIERCEALL / STAFF WRITER
The Orange County Blues Football Club, a second-tier Major League Soccer team that was called Los Angeles Blues until recently, is moving to Irvine.
The team of 26 professional soccer players will begin practicing at the Orange County Great Park starting Monday and playing matches at UC Irvine's Anteater Stadium when the season starts in April, said Sophie Russell, director of operations for the team.
"We're very excited to be there, and they're excited to have us," she said. The team and UC Irvine are in the midst of finalizing contract details, but she said OC Blues would get to use the stadium for a minimum of three years.
A UC Irvine representative confirmed Thursday that the school is still negotiating with the team.
The team reserved space at the Great Park for 12 practices for $2,400 ($100 an hour rate), according to a city spokesman.
Santa Monica-based civil engineer Ali Mansouri, executive director of ZDX Industries, started the team in 2010.
Until this year, the LA Blues competed at Cal State Fullerton.
The name and new Orange County location were announced Wednesday night at an event held at the Wyndham Hotel in Irvine.
Russell said a team calling itself the LA Blues was a hard sell in Orange County.
"Realistically for us, we really are an Orange County team," she said. Destination Irvine, a marketing arm of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, has agreed to a sponsorship deal with the team, she said.
The team's first home game is April 5 against the Oklahoma City Energy. There are 14 teams in the USL PRO league.
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