New USL Championship League soccer team is headed to Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A grass roots group of soccer lovers are celebrating tonight. Eight years after they sought a higher-level pro soccer team for Milwaukee, it's on the way.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson is calling this a great day for Milwaukee, which will be home to a team in the second-highest level of soccer in the U.S. The announcement was made right here, where their new stadium will be built.
Raising scarves and popping champagne corks on an empty lot at the corner of Michigan and Tenth.
"It started with five guys at a meeting at Oscar's burger joint on 18th and Mineral or whatever," said Fred Gillich, original member of the Milwaukee Barons.
In 2014, Fred Gillich set out to bring higher level pro soccer to his hometown.
"And so it grew from five and we're like 33-hundred strong on Facebook. We've got a solid mailing list that are gonna turn into season ticket holders," said Gillich.
The same ownership that started the USL League, one soccer team -- "Forward Madison" -- is now doing one better for Milwaukee - with a USL Championship League team. The highest level in the U.S. is MLS, but USL teams can compete against them.
"And it's different than a minor league because Milwaukee's USL team will play the Chicago Fire in the MLS for example," said Justin Papadakis, Chief Operating Officer of the USL Championship League.
"And I promise you that we will do our very, very best to deliver a product on this field that the city is proud of," said Jim Kasmarek with Kacmarcik Enterprises.
The announcement is a big one for Milwaukee, which expects economic growth from it. This flyover rendering shows where the new team will have a new stadium in the Iron District.
"The heart of the Iron District will be a soccer specific stadium up to about 8-thousand seats. So that'll be kind of the focus of the development. Around it will be hotel, housing, other retail elements," said Conor Caloia, Chief Operating Officer of Kacmarcik Enterprises.
"Where the bars, restaurants, hotels, everyone's gonna benefit from having this amazing entertainment district," said Papadakis.
It’s a full professional league. Players start as young as 16, but most are between 20 and 30 years old. The stadium is expected to open in 2025 and they're asking the public to choose the name, logo and colors of the team.
The USL Championship League right now has roughly 25 teams. It's expected to add about 10 more in the coming years.