Chicago Cubs owner Ricketts investing in soccer's future

Updated 5/9/2018 8:45 PM

A Chicago real estate company announced Wednesday that Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts will take a majority ownership position in a proposed Chicago professional soccer team.

The team will play in the United Soccer League, a second-division league. It will compete for fans and media attention with the first-division Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.

The Chicago USL team will play in a state-of-the-art stadium planned by real estate developing and investment company Sterling Bay on the north side of Chicago. The stadium site is one of the places proposed for a second Amazon headquarters.

The Chicago USL team reportedly will begin play in the 2021 season.

Ricketts purchased the Cubs in 2009. The Fire is owned by Andrew Hauptman, who purchased the team in 2007. The Fire plays in 20,000-seat Toyota Park, built in 2006 in southwest suburban Bridgeview, where the club is averaging 15,132 fans a game through five games, 18th in the league.

Though some MLS teams operate a developmental team in USL, the Fire has chosen to affiliate with USL side Tulsa Roughnecks.

"It speaks volumes about the growth of the USL when you continue to see interest and investment from proven sports business executives like Tom Ricketts," said USL CEO Alec Papadakis in a league statement. "Over the last several years, we have assembled one of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable ownership groups in professional sports, drawn by our focus on building a sustainable, stable and professional organization with significant room for future growth.

"We welcome Tom and the entire Ricketts family to the USL. They bring a proven record of success to the team, and combined with the excellent folks at Sterling Bay, we look forward to their contributions to the future of professional soccer in Chicago."

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