USL professional soccer coming to NWA

( Courtesy, USL)

Professional soccer is coming to Northwest Arkansas.

The United Soccer League (USL) on Wednesday announced that a new group called USL Arkansas plans to bring pro men’s and women’s clubs to the region to play at a new stadium in Rogers.

The new 5,000+ seat stadium will be built near the corner of Lazy L Street and Bellview Road, near the Pinnacle Hills Promenade.

USL Arkansas is co-founded by Chris Martinovic, an executive with Arcadia Consumer Healthcare Inc. who played soccer in college at Seton Hall and professionally with an early version of the USL, and Warren Smith, a professional sports executive who recently co-founded the San Diego Loyal Soccer Club in 2019 with Landon Donovan.

“As a former player, I am delighted to bring professional soccer to Northwest Arkansas, a region that so richly deserves it,” Martinovic said in a press release issued this week. “I have seen firsthand the power of soccer in bringing communities together, and I am excited about the positive impact this club will have on our region.”

( Courtesy, ODELL Associats, Inc.)

The USL was founded in 2010, and according to its website, has grown to become the largest professional soccer organization in North America. The USL runs several leagues, including the USL Championship, a U.S. Soccer Federation Division II sanctioned league that currently features 24 teams that play a 34-game regular season from March-October each year. Teams such as the Louisville City SC, New Mexico United, Sacramento Republic, and Indy Eleven regularly draw more than 10,000 fans at their games, officials said.

“USL Arkansas represents a new chapter in the USL story,” said USL Deputy CEO and Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis. “Northwest Arkansas is a rapidly growing region with a vibrant community, making it the perfect location for this expansion. We have successfully partnered with Warren in numerous markets and his experience coupled with Chris’ passion for his community are the perfect ingredients to create something special for this emerging region. We can’t wait to see the positive impact this club and their teams will have on the local community and beyond.”

The USL plans to launch its USL Super League, a professional women’s league currently seeking Division I sanctioning by U.S. Soccer, in August of 2024. That league will play a fall-to-summer schedule.

( Courtesy, USL)

If all goes well, both the new men’s and women’s USL Arkansas teams will begin play in the 2026 season, prior to the 2026 FIFA World Cup set to take place in the U.S. that same year.

“I have been visiting my family here for 33 years and have watched how this community punches above its weight class creating a dynamic place to live, work, and to play,” Smith said. “We look forward to the beautiful game adding to that while working with local authorities, community leaders, and most importantly, the fans, to create a soccer club that reflects the unique spirit of this community and that makes us all proud.”

The official team name, colors, and branding will be developed in the coming months, and USL Arkansas plans to solicit local feedback to help with the process.

( Courtesy, ODELL Associats, Inc.)

“While we are building a club, our aim is to build a symbol of unity for Northwest Arkansas,” Martinovic said. “That’s only possible by listening and will be instrumental in shaping the identity of our team.”

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