Hartford Athletic, New England Revolution Discussing Direct Affiliation

Dillon Stadium renovation rendering

Hartford Athletic and New England Revolution are discussing direct affiliation, an agreement that would take effect when Hartford begins USL play in 2019. 

Earlier this week, it was announced that Hartford will join the USL as an expansion club starting next year. The club, Hartford Athletic, is backed by the Hartford Sports Group, an entity led by local businessman Bruce Mandell. It will play its home matches at Dillon Stadium, which is undergoing a renovation that result in some significant improvements, including new seating, upgraded facilities, and a new turf.

Elements of the new Hartford club will be taking shape over the coming months, and that could include a MLS affiliation. The club is reportedly in discussions with the Revolution about forming a direct affiliation, potentially giving the upstart USL organization a connection to a nearby MLS club ahead of its launch. Hartford will have to fill some key positions–including director of soccer and head coach–before the affiliation can be finalized, but it is confirming progress in its discussions with the Revolution. More from The Hartford Courant:

There are 19 USL teams are already affiliated with Major League Soccer clubs. Hartford Athletic would essentially function as a minor league team for the Revolution. MLS teams can loan out players to their USL affiliates…

MLS clubs can have up to three “priority players” from their USL affiliates. The priority designation allows the MLS team to hang on to those players and call them up to the main team when they are ready or needed.

Representatives from both sides met Wednesday night to further discuss the deal. According to Bruce Mandell, the chairman and CEO of Hartford Sports Group, the two clubs have a good relationship, and are moving towards an agreement.

The Revolution does not have an affiliate in the USL for 2018.

For the USL, this week’s addition of Hartford marks the latest announcement regarding its lineup for 2019. Hartford is the sixth club to join as an expansion team for next year. New Mexico (to play at Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park in 2019), Birmingham, Austin, El Paso, and Memphis all previously announced 2019 expansion teams, though it is not certain whether Austin will indeed be fielding a USL team given the city’s ongoing pursuit of Columbus Crew SC (MLS). Hartford’s addition puts the 2019 USL slate at 37 teams; there are 33 this season, but FC Cincinnati was awarded a 2019 MLS team and Toronto FC II will drop down to the new USL Division III circuit.

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