Madison’s Big Top Sports awarded women’s pro soccer franchise

Breese Stevens Field

Big Top Sports, the owners of Forward Madison FC professional men’s soccer team and the Madision Mallards collegiate baseball team, have been awarded the rights to launch a professional women’s soccer team in the newly-formed USL Super League.

The league announced today that it will begin play in 2024 with 10-12 teams, eight of which it announced today: Charlotte, NC; Dallas, TX; Lexington, KY; Phoenix, AZ; Spokane, WA; Tampa Bay, FL; Tucson, AZ; and Washington, DC.

Teams in Madison, Chattanooga, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville will join in subsequent seasons pending stadium improvements.

Big Top Sports manages the city-owned Breese Stevens Field on East Washington Avenue, which seats about 5,000 people for soccer matches. Big Top officials will join Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway for a press conference at noon Tuesday to announce more specifics.

“Today marks a major milestone for the United Soccer League as we take another step in building an integrated women’s soccer network unlike any other,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. “Our aim is to make the USL Super League globally recognized and admired for its financial stability, operational excellence, community building and high-level competition. We are establishing and growing our national footprint while ensuring that all our teams are owners or primary tenants of a soccer stadium. We are aligning our calendar and roster rules with the global game. 

“With these objectives in mind, we will continue to demonstrate our commitment to equitable treatment of our men’s and women’s pathways, ultimately featuring clubs competing in all divisions and bringing soccer closer to home in markets across the entire country,” Papadakis said. “The USL Super League will sit at the top of our women’s pyramid with strong ownership groups, modern stadiums, and passionate fans that will deliver immediate viability and long-term sustainability.” 

Forward Madison FC competes in USL League One, the third tier of American professional soccer. USL said in a press release today that USL Super League will form as a first-tier league, equivalent with the National Women’s Soccer League, which currently has 12 teams in its 11th season.

USL Super League will play from fall through spring, which could mean a boon for near-east-side restaurants and bars beyond the summer months.

The team will represent the highest level of professional soccer in Wisconsin, and the highest level of women’s sports in the state. Forward Madison owners also announced last year that they will launch a professional men’s team in the USL Championship, the second division of American soccer, in Milwaukee in 2025 as the anchor to the new Iron District real estate development.