New professional soccer team coming to Cleveland, part of MLS NEXT Pro league

CLEVELAND — On Monday, the day the World Cup kicked off, the Cleveland Soccer Group announced that a new professional soccer league is headed to Cleveland.

The group announced it is launching a new MLS NEXT Pro squad, set to debut in 2025. The team’s name, colors, and crest will be revealed at a later date.

Cleveland Soccer Group (CSG) has identified a number of potential sites for a soccer stadium and training facility in Cleveland, according to a news release from MLS NEXT Pro.

MLS NEXT Pro is the equivalent of Major League Baseball’s Triple-A program. The league completed its inaugural season last month, and the Cleveland Soccer Group will be the third independent club to join it, alongside founder member Rochester New York FC and second member Carolina Core FC, which will be joining in 2024.

“We’re thrilled to have Cleveland as the newest expansion club in MLS NEXT Pro,” said Charles Altchek, President of MLS NEXT Pro, in the news release. “Cleveland Soccer Group cofounders Michael Murphy and Nolan Gallagher’s plan to build a club focused on winning championships while serving the community and entertaining their fans perfectly aligns with our vision. The addition of another strong independent club continues the momentum coming off our historic inaugural season as we look ahead to 2023 and beyond. The pride and passion Clevelanders have for their city speaks for itself and we look forward to the fans embracing the sport of soccer in the leadup to the World Cup being played in North America in 2026.”

Cleveland native and former MLS All-Star Justin Morrow said this is a big deal for Northeast Ohio.

“When I was a kid, I played all over the state, but knew one day if I wanted to advance my career I had to leave,” he said. “Now they know they can stay home and play in front of their friends and family and that’s what will get them right there.”

Morrow is on CSG’s Advisory Board and was named MLS’ 2021 Humanitarian of the Year after founding Black Players for Change, an independent organization of over 170 players, coaches, and MLS staff working to bridge the racial equality gap, according to the MLS NEXT Pro news release.

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