How Bringing Soccer to Cleveland Can Unlock the City's Potential

cleveland pro soccer scarf

How Bringing Soccer to Cleveland Can Unlock the City's Potential

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Soccer is widely known around the world as jogo bonito – literally, “The Beautiful Game.” The sport is diverse and growing, and Cleveland was the largest market in the U.S. without a high-level professional outdoor soccer club – until now.

Cleveland Soccer Group (CSG) was founded to bring this globally beloved game to our community, and after working for the last year with city officials and leadership to make this dream a reality, we’re proud to announce that CSG is launching a new Cleveland professional soccer team that will join the MLS NEXT Pro league in 2025. At CSG, this announcement underscores a commitment to a long-term vision where soccer will serve as a key vehicle to drive civic pride, foster economic development, and connect us to teams, countries and billions of soccer fans around the world.

CSG’s long-term vision is to be the North Star for soccer in the region by promoting collaboration and inclusion. CSG will also lead investments in men’s and women’s professional soccer teams and work with stakeholders to design and build a best-in-class, soccer-specific stadium and training facilities for professional and youth clubs in the city. At the community level, our newly formed Cleveland Soccer Group Foundation will exist to further serve the community through various outreach programs and initiatives.

So, why is now the right time to bring a team to the city? Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and its presence is growing rapidly in the United States. Despite its increasing popularity, Cleveland remains the only top-20 metro without professional soccer even though our region is larger than other successful soccer markets including Cincinnati, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, and Portland – to name a few. Moreover, as seen in the fervid fanbases that support Cleveland’s other professional sports teams, we have the capacity and passion to make professional soccer work here.

The timing of bringing professional soccer to the city also coincides with the U.S. hosting the 2026 World Cup. The last time the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994, the event smashed all FIFA World Cup attendance records and brought a whole new generation of fans into the sport. In Cleveland, we need to capitalize on the extraordinary growth this will generate among U.S. audiences, which makes now the time to invest in this city, this team and this sport.

Beyond the timing, soccer’s global popularity is ideally suited for appealing to our diverse and multicultural region. Ohio is No. 3 in the nation in receiving immigrants, and many of the diverse ethnic communities these families settle in are right here in Northeast Ohio. Whether it’s communities that have been entrenched into Cleveland’s fabric for generations like Italians, Slovenians, Irish, Croatians, Germans, Hungarians and Indians, or the more recent influx of Rwandans, Salvadorians, Ukrainians and Syrians, soccer serves as a universal common language.

CSG will intentionally work towards developing relationships with nearly 100 professional soccer clubs in Cleveland’s 23 sister cities and recruit international soccer talent to Cleveland from countries with thriving ethnic communities in the city. The goal is twofold: create a pipeline of talent to Cleveland and, in time, stimulate population growth in the region with individuals looking to live, work and contribute to Northeast Ohio.

We have a vision, but we know there is vibrant soccer community here with great ideas. This is an open invitation to collaborate to bring The Beautiful Game to Cleveland the right way.

As we come together to bring the world’s game to our diverse city, the possibilities for enriching the region and creating a better tomorrow for our communities are truly boundless.

Interested in joining our mission? Learn more and find out how you can get involved here.

Michael Murphy
Co- Founder & CEO, Cleveland Soccer Group
Member, U.S. Soccer Development Council

David Gilbert
President & CEO Destination Cleveland and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission