Jul 12, 2023 - Sports

Pro soccer teams and a new 5,000-seat stadium are coming to Northwest Arkansas

A rendering of the stadium planned for Rogers. Rendering: Odell Associates/courtesy USL Arkansas

"Ted Lasso" fans rejoice — professional soccer is coming to Northwest Arkansas!

Driving the news: USL Arkansas, led by founders Chris Martinovic of Rogers and Warren Smith of San Diego, announced Wednesday they plan to build a 5,000-seat stadium and bring professional men’s and women’s soccer to Rogers.

Why it matters: The teams will be the state's first professional soccer club.

  • With an estimated 3.5 billion fans, soccer is the world's most popular sport.

The addition of a soccer-centric stadium will turn an international eye onto the NWA metro, Raymond Burns, president and CEO of the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, told Axios.

The intrigue: Though USL Arkansas claims to be the area's first professional team, the minor league Northwest Arkansas Naturals that debuted in 2008 are technically a pro baseball team.

The big picture: The soccer teams will be part of the United Soccer League (USL) of Tampa, Florida, which is sanctioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

USL Arkansas plans to begin play in the USL Championship — the men's league — before the FIFA World Cup kicks off in the U.S. in June 2026.

  • Plans are for the USL Super League team — in the women's league — to begin play in fall 2026.
A location rendering of the stadium planned for Rogers. Rendering: Odell Associates/courtesy USL Arkansas

Details: Plans are to build the stadium on a vacant lot at the intersection of S. Bellview Road and Lazy L Street in Rogers, near Pinnacle Hills.

  • USL Arkansas has an agreement to buy the land currently owned by Hunt Ventures once it's been rezoned, Tom Allen, president of Cushman & Wakefield/Sage Partners told Axios.
  • Initially built to seat 5,000, the stadium will have a modular design that allows reconfiguration to accommodate larger crowds, Martinovic said.
  • Though the stadium's primary purpose is to host soccer games, it will double as an alternative venue for the community.

Context: Smith is a founder of the Sacramento Republic and San Diego Loyal teams.

  • Martinovic moved to NWA in 2007 as a vendor to Walmart.

The bottom line: Martinovic declined to say how much he and Warren will invest, but USL's COO Justin Papadakis recently said the expansion fee for USL Championship clubs is $20 million.

What's next: USL Arkansas is looking to develop a group of local owner-investors, Martinovic told Axios.

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