Jeramey Jannene

New Pro Soccer Team Delays Start To 2026

But major progress recently made on getting downtown stadium constructed.

By - Nov 29th, 2023 12:53 pm
Iron District stadium rendering. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

Iron District stadium rendering. Rendering by Kahler Slater.

A proposed men’s professional soccer team is still moving forward in Milwaukee, but it’s expected to start playing a year later than initially announced.

The unnamed Milwaukee Pro Soccer team will now begin competing in the United Soccer League (USL) Championship League, the second highest level of outdoor soccer in the country, in 2026.

“As the highest level of pro soccer in the state of Wisconsin, we know we only have one opening day, and we want to make sure we get that product, that fan experience, and our facilities right,” said Conor Caloia, Milwaukee Pro Soccer chief operating officer, in a statement. “The stadium and experience we will bring will be worth the wait. We’re excited for a successful kickoff season in 2026.”

The team, owned by Kacmarcik Enterprises, was first announced in 2022 with an expected first game in 2025. Kacmarcik, led by businessman Jim Kacmarcik, also owns Forward Madison FC. The Madison team plays in USL League One, one level below the Championship League, in a city-owned stadium.

The effort to build an 8,000-seat stadium for the Milwaukee team in the Iron District development received a major boost on Nov. 2. Governor Tony Evers used his unilateral authority to allocate $9.3 million from a federal grant to the more than $40 million building, proposed for a vacant lot along W. Michigan Street at approximately N. 8th Street. The Wisconsin State Legislature had previously stripped Evers’ proposal to use state bonding to support the project from the state capital budget.

The development team, according to a February proposal, would provide $35.7 million to advance the stadium. It is part of a larger $220 million mixed-use complex. Urban Milwaukee, in June 2022, was the first to report that the stadium would need a public subsidy. The larger development project includes a hotel, two apartment buildings and other commercial development. The first apartment building, Michigan Street Commons, is under construction.

Marquette University‘s men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams would also play in the stadium, which is planned to have artificial turf.

Milwaukee Pro Soccer is working with advertising and communications firm Cramer-Krasselt on a name and brand identity. A public naming contest was held to solicit possible names.

A representative of Kacmarcik said the team is not contemplating a scenario at this time where the team would begin play before the stadium is complete. “Goal is to play at [the Iron District stadium],” said the spokesperson.

The USL Championship League has 23 teams, including nearby teams in Indianapolis, Detroit, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Memphis. Six teams, including Milwaukee, have been publicly announced by the league as planned expansions. A team in Des Moines is expected to join the league next year.

The team’s ownership group will eventually need to pay an entrance fee to the league. Forbes previously reported that the one-time fee had climbed from $1 million in 2015 to $12 million in 2020. Entry fees for Major League Soccer, the top level of pro soccer, which also includes bigger stadiums, cost more than $200 million.

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