Professional soccer is coming to Connecticut year-round. The formal announcement was made this morning, including that Paul Wright will be the head coach of the team, Hartford City FC.
In June, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters learned that Professional Sports Management Group will be bringing professional soccer to the state and team, Hartford City FC, will play both indoors and outdoors.
Hartford City FC has signed a deal to play in the Major Arena Soccer League, which will play indoors at the XL Center, starting in November.
“We’re going to make this thing exciting,” James Duckett, the owner of the team, said and vowed to have local community events and getting residents and children involved.
The team will play year-round, Anderson and the management team said.
“I’m excited about the team and I’m also excited about bringing the outdoor team that we will add,” he said.
The larger goal is to bring a high-level professional team to the capital city.
The ownership group is vying for an expansion franchise in the North American Soccer League, which is one step below Major League Soccer. The NASL's marquee franchise is the New York Cosmos and has teams in markets including Miami, Minneapolis and Tampa.
Mitch Anderson, the president and general manager of Hartford City FC, said the team will have 10 home games, and two more in the playoffs.
About a dozen indoor soccer games will be coming to Hartford to complement professional and college hockey, as well as UConn basketball games in downtown Hartford.
Wright, who is from England, has a USSF “A” license and was on the 1999 Western Mass. Pioneers champion team and also played for Philadelphia Kicks.
“This is an exciting time for Connecticut. It’s an exciting time for professional soccer here at Hartford City FC. We’re really hoping that the city will come out and support us. I think it’s time for a professional team to be in Connecticut. I think it’s a great opportunity. There is so much great college soccer in this area,” he said.
The team also announced that Tommy Williams, from the English Premiere League, will be involved with Hartford City FC. He played for the Queens Park Rangers, as well as several other clubs.
Connecticut's team would begin play in 2017 in a brand new 15,000-seat soccer outdoor venue in the South End of the city.
There is a request for proposal to demolish Dillon Stadium in the Coltsville section of the city, with plans to build a state-of-the-art soccer stadium for a high-level pro team starting likely in 2017.
Duckett has said he believes Hartford is the ideal place for pro soccer, but said the team has an opportunity to give back to the city, as well.
“I want the people of Hartford to understand the vision that’s behind this. I’m not a soccer guy. I’m a football guy,” Duckett said.
The goal is to keep children occupied in a region where they are not able to be outside for part of the year, and create avenue for children.
“Every kid is not going to become a professional athlete, but what you do, you instill discipline. You instill the competitive nature. You instill the ability for a kid to feel that sense of achievement, and then you keep them occupied,” Duckett said. “That would eliminate them getting lost in the streets, them getting lost to drugs,” he said.
Duckett and Anderson said they'ire planning to fund the construction with private money. The group has plans to host several international matches every year, as well, with an eye toward bringing in teams that will resonate with the various ethnic communities in and around Hartford.