By Robert Held
New Britain not only has a new minor league baseball team in the Bees, but has also added a new professional soccer team called Connecticut United Football Club to the city. New Britain has not had a professional soccer team since the Connecticut Wolves left in 2002.
“This is a very, very exciting thing for New Britain. We are truly making ourselves the sports capital of Connecticut and I am very excited to welcome them to our city,” Mayor Erin Stewart said.
Connecticut United FC will be playing their home games at Veterans Stadium, which is right next door to the Bees baseball stadium, the former home of the Rock Cats.
Veterans Stadium underwent a major overhaul in the year leading up to the debut of the city’s new soccer team.
“This facility is one that we put, the city put over $3.5 million into the renovation of the stadium which included the addition of a synthetic field turf, a new press box, new bleachers and many other first-rate field improvements,” said Stewart.
The team played their first game on Saturday, April 2nd at home against the Philadelphia Fury. Unfortunately, Connecticut United FC lost by a final score of 2-0.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children and their next home game will be on April 16th.
This is the third professional sports team to play in the state along with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, and the National Lacrosse League’s New England Black Wolves. Connecticut United FC will be playing in the American Soccer League, which has ten teams total.
The ASL is a developmental league, which helps to get players signed to other Major League and international soccer teams.
Many of the players on the current roster last played for several colleges in Connecticut such as Quinnipiac University, Post University and the University of Hartford. Goalie Paul Armstrong even attended New Britain’s own Central Connecticut State University.
Having lots of homegrown talent seems to be a major part of general manager Daniel Hoskins’ plan.
“Our main focus is here, the city of New Britain and our hometown boys and our local talent,” said Hoskins.
Hoskins states that he did have his eye on some players from outside the state, but his ultimate goal was to fill the roster with lots of Connecticut natives.
Despite playing in a developmental league that hopes to further players careers, Hoskins will not be any easier on his team.
“This is going to be a year round thing where, even in the offseason, we’ll be training. They’ll be doing what you’d be doing at the highest level,” said Hoskins.
Residents of New Britain and other nearby towns seem excited for the new professional soccer team, which is good news for a state that has had trouble keeping teams around. It will also give children something to do in the summer, in a city where government officials have been looking for fun and safe activities for minors to attend outside of school.
“Having a professional soccer team in New Britain that is a family friendly and creates an affordable environment is going to be exciting for everyone,” said Carla Mangiafico, a Berlin resident.