Design & Development

Connecticut United set to join MLS Next Pro, new stadium planned

Featured image credit: Connecticut United

Connecticut United is set to be the newest independent team to join Major League Soccer’s Next Pro competition, with plans to play in a new waterfront stadium in Bridgeport for the 2025 season.

The stadium is planned to be part of a family-friendly entertainment and sports destination in the city, which is Connecticut’s most populous.

The City of Bridgeport’s Planning and Zoning Commission granted Connecticut Sports Group (CTSG), which established the club, unanimous approval to develop a waterfront stadium and mixed-use destination.

The project encompasses a mix of residences, retail and dining space, community greens, a river walk, and a hotel.

“As CT United FC embarks on its MLS Next Pro journey, I want to extend deep gratitude to the incredible fans, community leaders and government officials who have embraced our vision,” said CSTG founding partner André Swanston.

“I am confident that, united, Connecticut can compete against anyone. We are committed to building the infrastructure – from a free youth academy to a state-of-the-art stadium – needed to propel Connecticut to the highest levels of soccer.”

Launched in 2022 by MLS, Next Pro is a professional men’s league in the United States and Canada that aims to complete the pro player pathway. Granted third-tier status by U.S. Soccer in the domestic pyramid, Next Pro entered its second season in 2023 with 27 teams, all affiliated with MLS clubs.

The team’s launch into Next Pro is still dependent on funding for the stadium. Swanston, a multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur, plans to build the stadium on a patch of land along the Pequonnock River which is currently home to the vacant Shoreline Star Greyhound Park.

He states that the proposed venue would initially have between 7,500 and 10,000 seats, with the option of expanding in the future if Bridgeport lands an MLS or National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team.

Swanston claims to have invested millions of his own dollars into the project and received commitments from private investors. However, it is thought that the stadium will be difficult to complete without state support.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim and Governor Ned Lamont both welcomed news of the new team in statements issued yesterday, although neither commented on whether public money would be forthcoming for a stadium. 

“There absolutely needs to be some component of this that the state steps up to be able to help,” Swanston said, according to CT Insider.

Commenting on the addition of the new club, MLS Next Pro president, Charles Altchek, said in a statement: “André has a proven track record of building transformational companies and valuing community development.

“His leadership, entrepreneurship, and determination will be key to the success of the club, and we are thrilled to partner with André, his wife Michelle, and the CTSG team. Today’s announcement marks a historic milestone as André takes the helm as one of our youngest club owners and breaks barriers as one of only a few Black principal owners in U.S. sports history.”