Connecticut lands MLS Next Pro expansion team


New stadium for next MLS expansion team in Connecticut Image: Connecticut United FC

In a groundbreaking moment for the soccer fans of Connecticut (US), the Major League Soccer (MLS) NEXT Pro has awarded the Connecticut Sports Group (CTSG) the fifth independent MLS NEXT Pro expansion team – the Connecticut United Football Club (CT United FC).

‘CT UNITED FC’ stated that the CT United FC is set to join the MLS NEXT Pro which includes 27 MLS-owned clubs and four recently announced independent clubs. The team plans to play in a new waterfront soccer stadium in Connecticut’s largest City, Bridgeport.

The MLS Next Pro is a men’s professional soccer league in the United States and Canada that is affiliated with the Major League Soccer (MLS). It launched in 2022 with 21 teams and now comprises 27 reserve sides of MLS clubs and four independent clubs.

Launched in 2022 by the Major League Soccer, the MLS NEXT Pro is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada that completes the pro player pathway from MLS NEXT to the MLS first teams.

The MLS NEXT Pro continues to grow the game through innovation and diversity, bringing professional soccer to new communities and creating opportunities both on and off the field. The MLS NEXT Pro will celebrate its third season in 2024 with 29 teams, 27 MLS-affiliated and two independent, the Carolina Core FC and the Chattanooga FC. The additional MLS-affiliated and independent clubs will join in the years ahead, including the Cleveland Soccer Group, the Jacksonville Armada FC and the Connecticut United FC. The majority of MLS NEXT Pro’s matches are broadcast on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV as part of the groundbreaking partnership between the American multinational technology company Apple and MLS.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams – 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada – since the 2023 season. The league is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan.

Stamford (US)-based the Connecticut Sports Group’s (CTSG) vision is to create unforgettable experiences that inspire communities. It will own and operate professional sports franchises and state-of-the-art venues, utilizing cutting-edge technology and data to deliver superior service. Through its innovative approach and unwavering commitment to excellence, it aims to revolutionize the sports and entertainment industry and bring diverse communities together.

Founded in 2024, the Connecticut United Football Club is an independent professional men’s soccer club that will begin play in MLS NEXT Pro in 2025. The CT United FC will call a new state-of-the-art stadium in Bridgeport its home. Owned by the Connecticut Sports Group, the Connecticut United Football Club is the fifth independent professional men’s soccer club in MLS NEXT Pro and is targeting a 2025 launch. The Connecticut United FC embodies the indomitable spirit of our State, carrying forward Connecticut’s rich tradition of sports excellence.

Asserted André Swanston, Founding Partner of CTSG, “As the Connecticut United FC embarks on its MLS NEXT Pro journey, I want to extend deep gratitude to the incredible fans, the community leaders and the Government officials who have embraced our vision. I am confident that, united, Connecticut can compete against anyone. We are committed to building the infrastructure – from a free youth academy to a state-of-the-art stadium – needed to propel Connecticut to the highest levels of soccer.”

Connecticut holds the distinction of being the largest media market in the United States without a sports team in MLS, National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) or National Hockey League (NHL). Geographically positioned at the convergence of the NYC triState (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) and New England, Connecticut has firmly established itself as a vibrant hub for soccer. Connecticut is consistently among the leading markets for soccer TV viewership, with one of the highest engagement levels of any market in America without an MLS team. Connecticut fans, who already spend $1.1 billion a year on sports tickets, merchandise and subscriptions (13 percent more per fan than the average American), will soon have a team of their own.

Commented Charles Altchek, President of MLS NEXT Pro, “André has a proven track record of building transformational companies and valuing community development. His leadership, entrepreneurship and determination will be key to the success of the club, and we are thrilled to partner with André, his wife Michelle and the CTSG team. Today’s (January 9th) induction of CT United FC marks a historic milestone as André takes the helm as one of our youngest club owners, breaking barriers as one of only a few Black Principal Owners in US sports history.”

‘CT UNITED FC’ further stated that the City of Bridgeport’s (Connecticut, US) Planning and Zoning Commission granted the Connecticut Sports Group unanimous approval to develop a waterfront soccer stadium and mixed-use destination. This transformative project encompasses a mix of residences, retail and dining space, community greens, a river walk, and a hotel. The revitalization of this dormant property represents a significant investment in economic development for Bridgeport and the entire State.

According to the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut, this development is expected to generate $4 billion in economic impact over the next 25 years, and nearly $1 billion in additional State and local tax revenue. The average annual employment will increase by over 1,000 full-time jobs over this period.

Maintained Joseph Ganim, Mayor of Bridgeport, “Bridgeport is in the midst of a renaissance, rebranding from an industrial City to now the capital of arts and entertainment of Connecticut. I am proud to announce that the MLS NEXT Pro will join that landscape in providing entertainment opportunities for the Bridgeport residents and the region at large. I also applaud the major investments that Swanston has made in Bridgeport and his vision to bring professional soccer to our City.”

Remarked Representative Jim Himes, “The arrival of an MLS NEXT Pro expansion team to Connecticut will be a tremendous opportunity to foster talent, invigorate the economy and showcase our State on the national stage. Local sports have a unique ability to bring together a community, and I look forward to cheering on CT United FC as they represent the great State of Connecticut!”

Noted Ned Lamont, Governor of Connecticut, “Bringing an MLS NEXT Pro expansion team to the State of Connecticut is a tremendous opportunity to ignite the spirit of our communities, foster local talent and showcase our State on the national stage. This exciting endeavor will invigorate our economy, inspire our youth and unite our diverse soccer loving population.”

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