For the first time in two decades, professional outdoor soccer is coming to Milwaukee.
According to an announcement earlier this week, Milwaukee Pro Soccer is set to join the United Soccer League Championship in 2025, the second-highest tier of professional soccer in the U.S.
"This has been in the works for several years," said Justin Papadakis, the chief operating officer and chief real estate officer at USL. "And we knew that we had to do it in Milwaukee."
Milwaukee "knows its sports," Papadakis said. But the city hasn't housed a professional outdoor soccer team since 2002, when the Milwaukee Rampage disbanded.
"So it's really exciting for our fans to get to see some of the best players from around the world and best clubs from around the world right in their hometown of Milwaukee," Papadakis said.
The team will play in a new 8,000-seat stadium in Iron District MKE, an 11-acre sports and entertainment development that will be built along the south edge of downtown. Marquette University's soccer and lacrosse teams will also play in the new venue.
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"That will be a place where all of Milwaukee can come week in, week out and not only see fantastic professional soccer, but it will also be a great venue for the student athletes at Marquette, along with so many other concerts and other live entertainment," Papadakis said.
Alongside the stadium, the district will also house an indoor concert venue, apartments and a hotel.
"We hope that 20 years from now, when people talk about the Iron District and our pro soccer team, they talk about the positive impact we've had on the community as much as they talk about us hopefully having a winning record," said Conor Caloia, the CEO of Milwaukee Pro Soccer.
The organization has launched a "Name the Team" campaign, which is asking community members to submit ideas for the new club's name.
"We view this as much more than a soccer club," Caloia said. "We hope to build a community around the club and success for this project is really based more on having a positive impact in the community than it is anything else."