The United Soccer League today announced that Hartford, Connecticut, will be the next market to join the league for the 2019 season. Hartford Sports Group will own and operate the new club, which will be named Hartford Athletic.
Hartford joins teams in thriving soccer markets across North America as the sixth expansion franchise to become part of the USL for the ninth season of the league’s modern era. Located in the heart of the Northeast United States, Hartford adds to an already-strong presence across the region within the league.
"Hartford makes the sixth addition to the USL for 2019 and strengthens the league’s presence in the Northeast with a thriving city that boasts a rich soccer history," said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. "The league continues to reach new heights through record attendance and additional expansion into exciting new markets. Hartford will join Austin, Memphis, El Paso, New Mexico and Birmingham as new clubs in 2019. We are thrilled to welcome Bruce, Scott and Joe to our ownership group and are excited for their vision of professional soccer in Hartford as they debut in their new home Dillon Stadium."
Hartford Athletic will play its home games at Dillon Stadium in Hartford, which will be restored with funding provided by the State of Connecticut, through the Capital Region Development Authority, and in partnership with the City of Hartford.
"After years of planning and hard work, we are excited to officially announce that professional soccer is coming to Hartford and Dillon Stadium will be brought back to life," said Bruce Mandell, Chairman & CEO of Hartford Sports Group. "We’re proud of where we’re from and can’t wait to build a Club that will energize our community and bring people together. As an organization, we’re dedicated to winning on and off the field, and we have all the ingredients for success that we’ve seen in so many other soccer cities. Let’s dream big together and use the world’s game to continue the momentum in Hartford."
The USL is one of the most exciting professional soccer leagues in North America, with nearly 40 teams set to take the field in 2019 across the United States and Canada reaching a population of more than 84 million people. The league includes top players from around the world who regularly compete in international competition. The league has also seen tremendous growth in attendance since its launch in 2011, and its matches are available nationwide on the innovative ESPN+ platform, with select matches broadcast across linear ESPN channels.
"Dillon Stadium is a historic and beloved community asset, and I’m thrilled that we have the chance to bring Dillon back to life for our community – and as the home of professional soccer and Hartford Athletic. The United Soccer League is a fast-growing, exciting league, and I am looking forward to seeing Hartford Athletic take the field in our Capital City," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. "Along with the incredibly successful restoration of the Colt Armory complex for both commercial and residential use, the Hooker Brewery tasting room, the coming upgrades to Colt Park, and of course the designation of the Colstville National Historic Park, a revitalized Dillon Stadium brings us one step closer to the reinvention of this historic neighborhood. I want to thank the Hartford Sports Group for their commitment to and passion for this project, and I also want to thank the Governor, the legislature, our Hartford delegation, and the Capital Region Development Authority for their investment in Dillon. Without their strong partnership and support, we could not make this happen."
"Hartford is home to some of the greatest sports fans in the nation, and the announcement that there will be a new, professional team based in the Capital City is wonderful news," Governor Dannel P. Malloy said. "I am proud that the state’s $10 million investment will help transform the aging Dillon Stadium into the thriving home to this new franchise – and its passionate fan base. This, combined with robust economic development and revitalization efforts to an area of the city that had too long been neglected, represents real progress not just for Coltsville, but for the entire Hartford region."
"It is clear to me that providing opportunities to our community and the youth of Hartford is paramount for Hartford Sports Group," said Sam Gray, President & CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hartford. "We are excited to see this relationship continue to grow as we work together to support the many kids who walk through the doors of a Boys and Girls Club each and every day."
The decision to name the team Hartford Athletic was based on ideas submitted by the fans. "Hartford Athletic is a Club by the fans, for the fans, so we listened to what was important to you. The team name and colors reflect pride in Hartford and a commitment to the community and youth," said Mandell. Hartford Athletic unveiled the team name in a video created by Nonymous Productions based locally in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The video can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/USLSoccer. Nonymous also provided services for the live streaming of the announcement, which can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/USLSoccer.
Along with the announcement of the team name, season ticket deposits are now on sale for just $25. Over 1,000 season ticket commitments were made in advance of the announcement. By placing a deposit, fans will reserve their place in line to become a Founding Member (limited based on availability). Member benefits will include: best seating price and location; official Founding Member scarf; name displayed in stadium; invitations to VIP events, and insider news and access. Those interested can visit here or call 888.662.4284.
For more information and updates on building the team and restoring Dillon Stadium follow Hartford Athletic on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
ABOUT Hartford Sports Group: Led by Hartford area businessmen Bruce Mandell, Scott Schooley and Joe Calafiore, Hartford Sports Group is bringing professional soccer to Hartford and restoring Dillon Stadium. Hartford Sports Group strives to grow the game we love, in the city we love. We are creating a dynamic, built-to-win organization dedicated to providing opportunities for our team and community on and off the field. We aim to make our city, state, and region proud, and, in doing so, make Hartford the best place to live, work, and play.
About USL: The USL is one of the most successful professional soccer leagues in the world, reaching a population of more than 84 million and fueling the growth of the game across North America. Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, the USL provides unparalleled club support with a growing team of more than 50 professionals across 17 departments, ranging from operations to marketing, communications and sponsorship.
The USL has a national media partnership with ESPN, wherein all league matches are broadcast on ESPN+, ESPN3 and across linear channels. The league also operates USL Productions, which includes a state-of-the-art facility that produces and distributes more than 500 league matches and more than 1,000 hours of original content to national partners, local affiliates and international markets throughout the 2018 season.