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September 8, 2023

Portland pro soccer team aims to kick off in 2025 at revamped Fitzpatrick Stadium

Stadium aerial rendering Rendering / Courtesy of USL to Portland Planned upgrades to Portland's Fitzpatrick Stadium include increasing accessibility and functionality, adding locker rooms, renovating the press box and improving other general aesthetic needs. Shown here is an early rendering.

Portland has scored an expansion team in the USL League One professional men’s soccer circuit, and plans to kick off the squad's first season in 2025 at a 92-year-old stadium after leasing it and making upgrades for an estimated $1.5 million.

The announcement Thursday comes years after former Falmouth soccer star Gabe Hoffman-Johnson teamed up with Portland developers Jonathan and Catherine Culley of Redfern Properties LLC and Tom Caron, a Lewiston native and NESN baseball sports broadcaster, to launch the effort and form USL to Portland.

“Since I started this pursuit to bring pro soccer to my home state, my goal has always been to build community and use it as a conduit for social good,” said Hoffman-Johnson, a former Falmouth High School soccer star who  captained the men’s soccer team at Dartmouth College and played professionally in the Championship League of the USL, or United Soccer League.

“Portland is an incredible city and this club will directly contribute to uniting the ever-growing mosaic of who Portland is, and who it’s going to be,” he added.

Portraits of Gabe Hoffman-Johnson and Johnson Culley
File photos
Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, left, and Jonathan Culley of USL to Portland.

The future team, whose name will be decided with input from community members in a series of town hall-style meetings, will play at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium. The 6,000-seat open-air venue, off Interstate 295, is already home turf for several Portland Public School athletic teams.

The pro soccer team plans to become a non-exclusive rental tenant of the stadium, without interrupting current student and public use. The team said it intends to privately fund upgrades to the facility, including the addition of locker rooms, renovating the press box and improving general aesthetics, before the first season in 2025.

“This news will put Maine on the global map for soccer,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. “Soon, Maine will host teams from across the country and shine a national spotlight on our state, benefitting our local economy by attracting new visitors, residents and businesses.”

Gov. Janet Mills also weighed in, saying she looks forward to attending games.

“The addition of a professional soccer club is a testament to our state and cements Portland as northern New England’s premier sports destination,” she said.

While Fitzpatrick hosts home games, the team will travel nationwide, with all matches broadcast through the league’s national media partner, currently ESPN.

Based in Tampa, Fla., the United Soccer League launched USL League One in spring 2019. Portland is one of three expansion teams, along with California’s Santa Barbara Sky FC and Washington state’s Spokane Velocity FC.

The USL says it targets U.S. communities ranging in population from 150,000 to 1 million, and markets that represent more than 75 million people without access to a local professional soccer club. Criteria for expansion destinations include having strong local ownership, a soccer-specific stadium in which to play and viable market size and support.

"We’ve built clubs in many cities, and we can see Portland’s potential to become one of the strongest,” said USL Deputy CEO Justin Papadakis.

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