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The largest professional soccer organization in North America, the United Soccer League, may be coming to the Queen City. Real estate developer John McClutchy has entered into a conditional agreement with the USL to bring a USL Championship club to Buffalo.
Awarding of the franchise is contingent upon the construction of a soccer-specific stadium in Buffalo, and completion of economic feasibility studies. McClutchy is working together with his long-term, local business partner, Dennis M. Penman of Penman Development Partners, to identify and acquire a site to accommodate the stadium development.
“The City of Good Neighbors speaks for itself. Buffalo is a tight-knit community and an exceptionally passionate and prideful sports town,” USL COO Justin Papadakis said. “Like our league, Buffalo is growing, and the prospect of contributing to that growth with a USL Championship club is exciting. We know that there’s a lot of work to be done before a franchise can become reality, but the opportunity to unite Buffalo and energize its soccer community around a professional club has great value for the city’s future.”
The USL Championship is one of the fastest growing professional soccer leagues in the world, with 36 clubs across two conferences. More than 3 million fans are expected to attend matches in 2019, with every game available live via the league’s recently announced three-year agreement with ESPN.
“Buffalo is no stranger to the beautiful game,” McClutchy said. “Youth soccer is especially strong, with over 10,000 registered players and a supporter culture that has a great foundation with its American Outlaw chapter. When you combine this with Buffalo’s vibrant downtown community and its growing millennial population, the time is right to get the ball rolling on bringing a USL Championship club to this great city.”
Outreach by the development team to various community leaders, sport organizers, and soccer enthusiasts has commenced and is expected to ramp-up in the coming months.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for the City of Buffalo and the entire Western New York Region. We have a vibrant soccer community and some of the nation's most avid sports fans,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “My administration looks forward to working with John McClutchy, Dennis Penman and JHM Sports Enterprises as they explore the feasibility of bringing a USL Championship club to the City of Buffalo, and we welcome the chance to help them identify potential sites that would be suited for this development project.”
Through his organization, JHM Sports Enterprises, McClutchy is working together with Penman Development Partners to identify potential sites for the construction of a 10,000-seat soccer stadium. In addition, a series of economic feasibility studies are underway for the project with results expected to be released in December.
“As a Western New York native and someone who has had the privilege to invest in the greater Buffalo area, I understand the positive impact a stadium project like this can have on the region’s economy,” Penman said. “It can be a significant community asset, generating jobs, boosting tourism and rallying civic pride. The sky’s the limit for what this potential stadium and franchise can achieve.”
If awarded the franchise, the group is targeting the 2023 USL Championship season for kickoff.
The USL Championship is one of the most successful professional soccer leagues in the world, reaching a population of more than 84 million and fueling the growth of the game across North America. Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, the USL provides club support with a growing team of more than 60 professionals across 17 departments, ranging from operations to marketing, communications and sponsorship.
The USL Championship has a national media partnership with ESPN, wherein all league matches are broadcast on ESPN+, ESPN3 and across linear channels. The league also operates USL Productions, which includes a state-of-the-art facility that produced and distributed more than 500 league matches and more than 1,000 hours of original content to national partners, local affiliates and international markets throughout the 2018 season.