Next Round Of USL Expansion Includes Conn. With Hartford Athletic
The USL will expand next year, and there are "plans to put a team" in Hartford, according to a front-page piece by Shawn McFarland of the HARTFORD COURANT. The new franchise will "play under the name Hartford Athletic, a title which has a dual-purpose meaning." Hartford Sports Group President & CEO Bruce Mandell said, "We want an authentic and unique soccer team name. Athletic is used around the world by soccer clubs, including Atletico Madrid. But no pro soccer team in the United States has used that name. We're now the first." The team "plans to play at a renovated Dillon Stadium," which has $10M in state funds "earmarked for improvements." Hartford Sports Group has also said that it "plans to invest millions of dollars in the stadium." Mandell said that there have already been 1,000 "commitments from season-ticket holders." Dillon Stadium can "seat about 6,000 for soccer." The team will "use a blue and green colorway, reminiscent of" the Hartford Whalers and more recently the Double-A Eastern League Hartford Yard Goats. USL President Jake Edwards said that Hartford was an "ideal location for expansion." Edwards said, "We wanted to expand our league nationally, but focus on a regional rivalry model. We wanted to get strategic markets that are within proximity to other markets so you can build those rivalry games" (HARTFORD COURANT, 7/12).
WORLD CUP EFFECT? The USL "welcomed the second-highest weekly attendance in its modern era" last week. Nearly 117,000 fans attended games, "surpassing the 111,730 fans that witnessed the prior week." Having "welcomed more than 110,000 fans in three of the past four weeks," the USL is "set to surpass 1.5 million total attendance over the coming week." That keeps the league "on course to set another single-season record for total attendance that is likely to approach three million fans, an unprecedented figure" (USLSOCCER.com, 7/9).