I was recently asked if there could be any chance an NASL or USL club would work in Little Rock. Just from being around people, the interest isn't there yet. I don't think planting a professional team in Arkansas would necessarily have the same affect that Oklahoma experienced with the Thunder. Basketball, I know, but there's some thought that because there's no professional team in Arkansas that they'd flock to the first one that was established but middle school-aged soccer leagues struggle to stay afloat. It's not a money issue but problems with kids getting to sign up. Arkansas is still fighting the baseball season so several schools don't have soccer at all and I think that affects the youth leagues as well. Kids know their school doesn't have soccer so they don't bother playing it. It's kind of funny with the whole academy vs. high school argument and how quickly people are to throw HS out the window. But Arkansas needs high schools to simply offer the sport.
Arkansas also struggles with identity issues in the south and probably in the opposite way you're thinking. States aren't so quick to support teams from other states, even if they're the closest ones nearby. They want something of their own to call. So for a soccer team of the south, which has had some calls for, I'm weary of. The Thunder, Grizzlies, Cardinals do have some support but you can tell their allegiance is very loose. Arkansas isn't going to support the Atlanta team, ten hours away, and I doubt Mississippi or Alabama are either.
Traveling is another huge issue. For example, it's three hours from Fayetteville (northwest Arkansas) to LR. Two hours from Texarkana (southwest) and another two from Memphis (east). That may not sound like a ton but Arkansans don't travel as near as much as the rest of the US does. They're very locally-minded and like their routine. There's nothing wrong with it! It's just opposite from the coastal states. About once a year will every football fan make a trip to Fayetteville to see the Hogs (easily the most favorite team in Arkansas) play but that's it. The rest of the season they'll watch on television.
NASL and USL teams that succeed have done so, in large part, because the city is committed to the team. They rely on local support. Fayetteville would be a better market than Little Rock because neither city is going to get enough outside support. Fayetteville has the University of Arkansas, hosts the high school state final every year (last time I checked), and has some good club teams in the area. The U of A women's team has had some good turnouts here and there. They hit 1000+ last year, not their first time but one of few. The school also doesn't have a men's team because of Title IX so that'd be another plus for a startup. And they might be able to cultivate a rivalry with OKC/Tulsa, depending on league placement.
I will say Arkansans are very committed to the Razorbacks. Outrageously so. I can't count the times I've heard radio shows talk pre-season Razorback football with hopes of reaching the national championship. So fanhood isn't a question and the World Cup fascinated a lot of people down here. So the ability to support a team is here but it'll always be second to American football. The journey to get Arkansas into soccer would be like Sam and Frodo going to Mordor: long and laborious, but possible and with less orcs. Ideally, they would start with a PDL/NPSL team and work their way up. They need to show they can have the turnout first and then they can be rewarded. Even if they don't get the promotion, they can still get a good turnout. The Tulsa Athletics are a good example of a team in the NPSL (lower than NASL and USL) and they get 1000s+ to come out. They have a great atmosphere and fun stadium.
It's a great idea for every state to have a team and it really does bum me out when they show the US states map of all the soccer teams and Arkansas is completely empty. But hope doesn't put/keep a team in a city.
If you have anymore thoughts on Arkansas and soccer comment below.