New England Soccer Today

Report: NASL Eyeing Expansion in Hartford?

Photo credit: Hartford Football Whalers

Photo credit: Hartford Football Whalers

Is the NASL targeting Hartford as a potential expansion city?

According to a report from The Courant (Hartford) on Monday, the second-tier soccer league is in talks with a Hartford-based ownership group about the possibility of fielding a team in the Nutmeg State.

“I personally believe Hartford would be a highly successful market,” NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson told The Courant. “It has a long track record of drawing great crowds for soccer matches, whether it’s U.S. soccer or some of the exhibitions that have been held over the years. There’s great participation and a great following for the national teams, and there’s a great following for professional teams. So we’re pretty confident that a team there in that area, put together correctly, managed correctly, would be very successful.”

Hartford has regularly hosted both U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams over the years at Rentschler Field. In 2013, the city was one of the 13 sites for the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.

However, Rentschler Field, which seats 40,000, is considered too big to serve as home for a NASL side. Dillon Stadium, which is located in Hartford’s Colt Park, could be an option, though extensive renovations would need to be made to the 80-year-old facility.

Nevertheless, Peterson believes that the city would be receptive to hosting professional soccer.

“I think it’s a fantastic sports market,” Peterson said. “I think there are a lot of sports fans in the Hartford area. I like it from a business perspective because the companies that are there are very supportive of the community and teams with the community, the media companies that are there … you end up with a statewide deal.”

The 11-team NASL  currently does not have franchise in New England. The last time the Nutmeg State served as host to top-flight soccer was back in 1976, when the Connecticut Bicentennials competed in the original NASL.

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