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Pro Soccer Coming to Madison Next Year

Big Top Sports and USL officials announce a new franchise coming to Madison. Photo by Edgar Sanchez.

Pro soccer is coming to Madison.

A varied line of fans filed their way into Breese Stevens Field Thursday to hear all about Madison’s new professional USL Division III soccer franchise, to be owned by Big Top Events, which also owns the Madison Mallards and operates Breese Stevens.

“We looked for strong business leaders, a strong soccer culture and the right venue,” all of which the league believes Madison has, said USL Division III Senior Vice President Steven Short.

Also on hand at the announcement was former Chicago Fire president Peter Wilt, who has already launched five professional soccer teams in the US, and who has been hired to oversee the Madison club.

Big Top Events owner Steve Schmidt and president Vern Stenman emphasized that this will be the community’s team. Stenman said he foresees “Wrigleyville style neighborhood development” taking place around Breese Stevens Field, referring to the vibrant business community surrounding Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

“This is a community facility and we really want to let the community do what they want with it,” said Big Top Events Chief Operating Officer Conor Caloia.

The owners also said they plan to let the fans decide on both the color and name of the team, though how that process will take place is yet to be announced. The team will also announce any MLS affiliations and talent acquisition processes in the future.

Madison’s strong soccer fan culture is one of the reasons the city was awarded a USL franchise. Photo by Edgar Sanchez.

Part way through the announcement, it was mentioned how fans at soccer games can be passionately unpredictable, including the occasional smoke bomb … which led to a timed release of red and blue smoke coupled with 20 or so screaming supporters charging the area next to the panel. Though the moment was staged, it never lacked authenticity.

In typical Wisconsin fashion, the owners made a point to touch on the planned hospitality section of the stadium alongside Breese Stevens Field’s first fully functional kitchen. In a statement met with roaring applause, one of the panelist mentioned how “Most European stadiums have railings in their standing sections because fans get so crazy, we decided to do the same but in Wisconsin style, it will be a bar railing.” As for the east side of the park, fans can expect 1,000 spaces added in standing sections. After these renovations take place, the stadium’s capacity will increase from 2,800 to 5,000.

Wilt capped off the discussion with a promising message reiterating the themes of growth and community: “Together we will seek a name and colors for this club, together we will make this club known and respected throughout the land, together we will live Wisconsin’s motto ‘forward’.”