|Stadium||Empire United Soccer Complex|
|Owner||David and Wendy Dworkin|
The Rochester Rhinos are an American professional soccer team based in Rochester, New York, United States. Founded in 1996, as the Rochester Raging Rhinos, the team most recently played in the 2017 USL season in the second tier of the United States soccer league system, and is currently on hiatus. They changed their name to Rochester Rhinos to start the 2008 season. The club is the only non-MLS team to have won the U.S. Open Cup since the league's formation.
Rochester Raging Rhinos was founded in 1996 and played in the now-defunct original A-League until it merged with the USISL for the 1997 season, creating the new A-League. After reaching the championship game in 1996 they won their first league championship in 1998.
In 1999 the club made it to the final of the U.S. Open Cup, where they defeated MLS club Colorado Rapids 2–0, becoming the first team from outside MLS to win the national cup since MLS's inception. This win was followed by two further A-League titles in 2000 and 2001.
A year after the A-League's renaming to the USL First Division in 2005, the Rhinos moved into the newly completed PAETEC Park, a 13,768-seat soccer-specific stadium now known as Marina Auto Stadium, and again made the championship game. the Rhinos were considered a candidate to be an expansion team at the MLS level when PAETEC Park was in the planning stages.
The team was declared insolvent in 2008 after defaulting on their stadium agreement, and PAETEC Park was seized by the city of Rochester. After a brief search for a new owner and investor who could improve the team's financial outlook, in March 2008 the club was taken over by Utica businessman Rob Clark. Clark changed the team's name to the "Rochester Rhinos," and assured that the financial situation of the team was stable and it would be able to play the next year. After two seasons under Clark the club joined the new NASL for its 2010 season. The United States Soccer Federation refused the NASL's application for sanctioning, and instead operated its own temporary second-division league for 2010. The Rhinos were part of that temporary USSF Division 2 Professional League. The Rhinos switched leagues again before the 2011 season to the then third-division USL Pro league, who considered themselves equally competitive with the second-division NASL.
The 2011 season ended with the Rhinos first in their division followed by a playoff season that lasted 2 games. The Rhinos saw off the Pittsburgh Riverhounds 4–0 in first round of the playoffs and then lost 2–1 at home to the Harrisburg City Islanders to finish the season. At the end of the season, head coach Bob Lilley was replaced by Jesse Myers, most recently an assistant coach of the Richmond Kickers.
In January 2013, the Rhinos became the official USL Pro affiliate of the New England Revolution. Following a 1–6–1 start to the 2013 season, on May 19 Myers was dismissed and Pat Ercoli named Head Coach. They missed the playoffs for the first time ever, finishing with a 6–10–10 record.
The league revoked the Clark family's ownership of the club in January 2016, citing the revocation of the lease on Rochester Rhinos Stadium by the City of Rochester. The league took over operations of the club until it could be sold to a new ownership group. David and Wendy Dworkin, minority owners of the Sacramento Kings basketball club, were identified as the Rhinos' new owners later in the month. The Dworkins were officially announced as the new owners on March 10, 2016.
Hiatus and move to USL League One (2017–present)
On November 30, 2017, the Rhinos announced that they would go on hiatus. After almost a year of silence the team announced that it planned to move to the new third division league USL League One and return to the field in 2020. Moreover, the team announced that it had reached a deal with the City to vacate Marina Auto Stadium and stated it would be searching a site to build a new stadium. Towards the end of the first USL League One season, the Rhinos' President Pat Ercoli announced on Uncle Sam's Soccer Podcast that due to delays and pacing of the development of the Rhinos' new stadium that the team would likely sit out the 2020 season and relaunch in 2021.
On June 15, 2021, Jamie Vardy was announced as co-owner of the franchise and intends to field a team for the 2022 season. Lee Tucker, who was the project leader at Vardy’s successful V9 Academy - which gave opportunities to non-league players seeking to break into the professional game, will be appointed Sporting Director.
As part of the club’s rebirth, the Rhinos will undergo a rebrand and return to action in 2022. Vardy, will continue playing for Leicester City and has no intention of hanging up his boots.
There will also be an partnership with the Empire United Soccer Academy which will operate in tandem with the Rhinos and MLS Next will provide a pathway to the first-team for elite local players, was agreed to in August 2020 and is viewed as a hugely positive step. Vardy also has plans to bring his successful V9 academy stateside.
- Fauver Stadium at the University of Rochester; Rochester, New York (1996)
- Frontier Field; Rochester, New York (1996–2005)
- Marina Auto Stadium; Rochester, New York (2006–2017)
- Empire United Soccer Complex; Henrietta, New York (beginning 2022)
The Oak Street Brigade is the supporters groups for the Rhinos. Occupying section 101 at Capelli Sport Stadium, the Brigade stands and sings for 90 minutes every game and usually 30 minutes before and after. Best known for their "1 ton bass drum" and a flurry of streamers and smoke bombs following every Rhinos goal. Their biggest rivals are the Montreal Ultras and Pittsburgh. The name Oak Street Brigade refers to the address of Capelli Sport Stadium.
Notable former players
- See also All-time Rochester Rhinos roster
Rochester Rhinos Hall of Fame
- 2011: Lenin Steenkamp
- 2012: Craig Demmin, Doug Miller, Pat Onstad
- 2013: 1999 U.S. Open Cup Team
- 2014: Yari Allnutt, Scott Vallow
- 2015: Darren Tilley, Mali Walton
- 19 – Doug Miller
- Pat Ercoli (1996–2004)
- Laurie Calloway (2005–2007)
- Darren Tilley (2008–2009)
- Bob Lilley (2010–2011)
- Jesse Myers (2012–2013)
- Pat Ercoli (interim, 2013)
- Bob Lilley (2014–2017)
- United Soccer League
- Winners : 2015
- USL Regular Season
- Winners: 2015
- Eastern Conference
- Winners (Playoffs): 2015
- Winners (Regular season): 2015
- USSF Division 2 Professional League
- Regular Season Champions (1): 2010
- Champions, USL Conference (1): 2010
- USL A-League
- Winners (3): 1998, 2000, 2001
- Northeast Division Champions (3): 1998, 1999, 2002
- U.S. Open Cup
- Winners (1): 1999
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Rhinos. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Rochester Rhinos seasons.
|Season||League||Position||Playoffs||USOC||Continental / Other||Average attendance||Top goalscorer(s)|
|2013||3||USL Pro||26||6||10||10||25||39||–14||28||1.08||N/A||11th||DNQ||R3||DNQ||5,876||Tam McManus||7|
|2014||USL Pro||28||10||10||8||29||25||+4||38||1.46||6th||QF||R5||5,972||J.C. Banks||9|
|2015||USL||28||17||1||10||40||15||+25||61||2.18||1st||1st||W||R4||5,599||Steevan Dos Santos||9|
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