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Milwaukee pro soccer to kick off in 2026, a year later than planned

Milwaukee’s new pro soccer team will take the field in the spring of 2026, a year later than initially planned, club officials confirmed Tuesday.

The Milwaukee Business Journal first reported the news late Tuesday.

Milwaukee Pro Soccer announced earlier this year that it had been awarded a franchise to compete in USL Championship, the second tier of professional soccer in the United States, with a new 8,000- seat stadium at the anchor of a real estate development in the city’s Iron District. In addition to the new pro men’s team, the stadium will be home for Marquette University men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse.

The Wisconsin legislature cut a $9.3 million commitment for the stadium from Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal, calling the project into question. Evers subsequently committed funding from remaining federal American Rescue Plan dollars.

Club officials said stadium construction would begin next spring, but didn’t say whether the funding process caused the delay.

“As a major professional soccer club, 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,” Conor Caloia, Milwaukee Pro Soccer’s Chief Operating Officer, said in a text message to Blueprint365. “The stadium and experience we’re going to bring will be worth the wait.”

Caloia also noted that 2026 will be a seminal time in American soccer: the US will host the World Cup, along with Mexico and Canada, for the first time in more than 30 years.

A majority stake in the Milwaukee team is owned by Big Top Sports, which also owns the Madison Mallards baseball team and Forward Madison Football Club, which just completed its fifth season in USL League One, the third tier of American professional soccer.

Big Top Sports also announced last spring that it would launch a women’s team to compete in the USL Superleague as early as 2025. Caloia said in a text message that the company is developing a plan to fund improvements at Breese Stevens Field, which it will present to the City of Madison by May 1, 2024. Big Top Sports operates the the city-owned stadium, which is home to Forward Madison. The company announced in Aprilthat the new Super League would seek the sanction of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) as a tier-one league, meaning the league would stand equivalent to the eleven-year-old National Women’s Soccer League. Competing in a top-tier league requires teams to offer a higher standard of facility and minimum capacity requirements. Club officials said the first order of business would be additional and improved locker rooms, followed by new and better turf and increased seating capacity.