Northeast Wisconsin soccer fans will have a new high-level team to root for this spring.
The team doesn’t have a name yet — well, it does, and it was chosen by the fans, but it’s not public.
“Internally we have a decision on a name and we are working with a designer to get our logo completed,” says General Manager Dannon Anderson, adding that the name will be announced in the coming weeks.
What the team does know is that it’ll have at least seven home games at the brand new, $14 million Capital Credit Union Park, the only FIFA-certified soccer pitch in Northeast Wisconsin.
“Every seat is an individual seat with a seat back, an arm rest, no bleachers in the stadium,” Anderson says. “The seats in the lower bowl will only go up to seven rows, so everyone can feel like that they’re fairly close to the action. There’s also a club in suite level. We’ll have six suites and then an indoor-outdoor club space, as well as a grass berm in left field for more of a backyard feel.”
The team will compete at the highest level of amateur competition, the newly-rebranded USL League Two — formerly the Premier Development League — a nationwide league of more than 70 clubs that Anderson calls “pre-professional.” The team will be a member of the Heartland Division of the Central Conference along with teams like Chicago FC United, Des Moines Menace and St. Louis Lions.
The roster will be put together in the coming months.
“We are in the process of talking to the schools and players to start building our roster,” Anderson says. “The goal for that is we want to have a good mix of local and talent from far away. We want to add some players that are connected to the community and have that local feel. But also we are going to bring in players from around the country and potentially, players internationally as well, who are going to come in and give us a high level of play and allow us to be competitive in the first year.”
Anderson says a tryout for local players will take place in the spring, but a date hasn’t been set yet.
Whoever ends up on the roster will be in good hands — the team has already hired longtime Major League Soccer star Brian Kamler.
Kamler won a US Open Cup in 1995 with Richmond Kickers before being one of the first players in the inaugural MLS season, playing for DC United in 1996. He later played for Miami Fusion, New York / New Jersey Metrostars and New England Revolution.
“He played in the league for ten years, was MLS All Star four times and was MLS Humanitarian of the Year, won a couple of championships,” Anderson says. “Brian is a great guy. We were lucky that he was in the area and available to help us coach. I’ve already learned from him based on things he knows about soccer that myself, not being an MLS player, didn’t know or didn’t understand to the same degree that he does. It’s been great, already having soccer conversations with him and talking about how we want to build the team. I’m excited to see him get players in and work with them and see what we can do this season.”
In addition to a great product on the field, Anderson says the team will focus on a great fan experience — which is the stock in trade of Big Top Sports, which owns the club. Big Top also owns the baseball teams Green Bay Booyah, Wisconsin Rapids Rafters and Madison Mallards, in addition to Forward Madison FC, the state’s newest pro club, which will compete in USL League One — all of which focus on the fan experience.
“Big Top is definitely focused on providing a good experience at all their events,” Anderson says. “Whether it is one of the baseball games, a soccer match or the concerts and other events that they do. Everything is focused on being fan-first and making sure that the people who are coming to your event are having a great time and will want to come back. You could come to a soccer match or a baseball game and you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of that sport, but what we’re doing with other activities in the stadium, different ways to entertain you, is going to be a show in itself and that’s where you’re going to get your money’s worth.”
“Green Bay and Northeast Wisconsin are ready for spectator soccer,” says Big Top Managing Director for Soccer Peter Wilt. “This will be the highest level of soccer the area’s ever seen and it will be played in an incredible venue for the sport. The brand new Capital Credit Union Park in Ashwaubenon will have great sightlines and amenities for soccer fans and it will be incredibly intimate with the fans right near the field. The growth of the sport in the last decade both as a participant and spectator sport in the Green Bay and Fox Valley areas has been phenomenal. Head Coach Brian Kamler is putting together a very talented team that will excite the fans and be a focal point that unites the area’s soccer community.”
Connecting with the established soccer community in Green Bay, Appleton and surrounding communities will be key to the team’s success, says Anderson.
“We’re looking to work with the youth soccer groups in the area and we’ve had a positive response from the groups that we’ve been in touch with to this point,” he says. “Working with the youth soccer fan-base as well as the local soccer community, people who are playing indoor during the winter, the adults who are playing in rec leagues, people who are involved in the sport. Then also down in the Appleton area obviously they have a strong youth soccer base down there, so getting into that market as well.”
Season tickets are on sale now, ranging from $75 for a full season in the standing-room-only Supporters Section to $425 for Club seats that include all you can eat food and three drinks per game.