Cleveland Soccer Group to Launch MLS NEXT Pro Team in Cleveland in 2026

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Cleveland Soccer Group to Launch MLS NEXT Pro Team in Cleveland in 2026

Cleveland, OH – November 21, 2022 – Cleveland Soccer Group (CSG) today announced that it is launching a new men’s professional soccer team that will join MLS NEXT Pro in 2026. Established by Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2021, MLS NEXT Pro completed its inaugural season last month, featuring the global stars of today and tomorrow. Cleveland Soccer Group becomes the third independent club to join the League, alongside founding member Rochester New York FC, as well as Carolina Core FC, which announced earlier this month it will be joining MLS NEXT Pro in 2024.

Once the largest market in the U.S. without professional soccer, the arrival of a new MLS NEXT Pro team in Cleveland signals a new era for the city.

“We’re thrilled to have Cleveland as the newest expansion club in MLS NEXT Pro,” said Charles Altchek, President of MLS NEXT Pro. "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 in 2026.”

“‘The beautiful game’ will bring Clevelanders together like never before,” said Murphy, who serves as CEO in addition to cofounder of CSG. “Our group is committed to a long-term vision of supporting professional men’s and women’s teams. Bringing MLS NEXT Pro to Cleveland in 2026 is an incredibly important first step, and we’re especially excited about being able to showcase Cleveland professional soccer to the world as our games will be broadcast globally on Apple TV as part of the long-term broadcast rights deal with MLS.”

A member of CSG’s Advisory Board, Cleveland native and former MLS All-Star and U.S. Men’s National Team player Justin Morrow has been involved in bringing professional soccer to his hometown while helping shape CSG’s community-driven strategy. Morrow, who was an All-American while attending Cleveland’s Saint Ignatius High School, was named MLS’ 2021 Humanitarian of the Year after founding Black Players for Change, an independent organization consisting of over 170 players, coaches and staff from MLS working to bridge the racial equality gap that exists in society.

“Like most Clevelanders, my affinity for the city runs deep, and I’m committed to partnering with leaders like Michael and Nolan to have a positive impact,” said Morrow. “Having devoted most of my life to the game, I know that if we bring professional soccer to Cleveland with a ‘community-first’ mindset, it will bring about many positive changes to the region.”

CSG leadership worked behind the scenes over the last year to lay the groundwork for this exciting partnership with MLS NEXT Pro to bring men’s professional soccer to Northeast Ohio, contingent on U.S. Soccer Federation sanctioning. Understanding the importance of its fanbase, CSG will be hosting a number of listening sessions over the first half of 2023 where the Cleveland community can help shape the future of its newest professional sports team.

“We are excited that Cleveland Soccer Group is bringing professional soccer to Cleveland,” said David Gilbert, CEO of both the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland. “The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission exists to help bring more sporting events and activities to Cleveland, and Destination Cleveland exists to help drive economic impact through travel to the city – today’s announcement goes hand-in-hand with both missions. We intend to work together to help CSG and the City of Cleveland create the appropriate soccer venue that will allow Clevelanders to gather and celebrate the game while also preserving flexibility so the venue can be a resource for Cleveland in hosting other events.”

CSG has identified a number of potential sites and is committed to working with local and state stakeholders to build a best-in-class soccer stadium and training facility in Cleveland to be best positioned to embrace the growth of soccer here and in rest of the North America.

In addition to preparing for the team’s inaugural 2026 season, CSG has established the 501(c)(3) Cleveland Soccer Group Foundation, which will be dedicated to creating positive outcomes for Northeast Ohioans through sport, community, art, nature and unity. The Foundation will focus on doing so through community and corporate collaborations, including the development and installation of mini-pitches and other projects in order to provide public access to the game of soccer. More information about the Foundation’s involvement in the community will be coming soon.

Founded in June 2021 by Major League Soccer, MLS NEXT Pro is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States and Canada that completes the pro player pathway from MLS NEXT, the youth academies associated with MLS, through to MLS, the top U.S. domestic league. Twenty-one Clubs competed during the inaugural season – 20 MLS-affiliated and one independent club, Rochester New York FC – with Columbus Crew 2 winning the first-ever MLS NEXT Pro Cup in October. MLS NEXT Pro continues to grow the game through innovation and diversity, bringing professional soccer to new communities across the country and creating global opportunities both on and off the field. Seven MLS-affiliated clubs will join MLS NEXT Pro in 2023: Atlanta United, Austin FC, Charlotte FC, LA Galaxy, Los Angeles Football Club, Nashville Soccer Club (Huntsville City FC) and New York Red Bulls. Additional MLS-affiliated and independent clubs will join in the years ahead, including Carolina Core FC in 2024. Beginning in 2023, MLS NEXT Pro matches will be streamed live on the Apple TV platform as part of the monumental partnership between Apple and Major League Soccer. For more information about MLS NEXT Pro, visit

About the Cleveland Soccer Group
Founded in 2022, the Cleveland Soccer Group (CSG) is committed to bringing professional soccer to Cleveland and using the sport as a vehicle to enrich local communities across the city. In partnership with MLS NEXT Pro, CSG is launching a new men’s professional soccer team in Cleveland that will join the MLS-affiliated league in 2026. CSG is driven to make a difference by investing in the team, infrastructure and the region’s people to foster economic development, civic pride and unite fans of the sport in collaboration with Cleveland leadership and top organizations. The ownership group is comprised of cofounders and native Clevelanders Michael Murphy and Nolan Gallagher, who are both members of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Development Council. For more information, visit or follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook or Twitter.

For more information about the league, visit the MLS NEXT Pro website.

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