Carl Schneider can’t seem to shake free from his hometown. He was born and raised in Madison, played four years as a defenseman and midfielder for the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team, and now he’s an inaugural member of Forward Madison Football Club, the professional soccer team that will take the field this spring.

Before his days as a Badger, Schneider gained notoriety as a local soccer icon. As a senior at La Follette High School, Schneider was named the Wisconsin State Journal Player of the Year on his way to leading La Follette to a 21-2-1 overall record and its first-ever Big Eight Conference title. A three-time La Follette MVP and four-year All-Big Eight Conference honoree, Schneider took his talents to UW in the Fall of 2011, where he redshirted his freshman year before becoming a starter by his redshirt sophomore season.

Schneider was a strong presence on the field as a defender at UW, allowing him the opportunity to move to the professional level after graduation. He went on to play for a low-level professional Swedish team before returning to the U.S. in the fall of 2018 to pursue a career with Forward Madison, where he will once again be playing defensive back.

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The La Follette High School graduate expressed excitement in playing against his former team in an upcoming exhibition match between the Badgers and Forward Madison.

“It’s awesome,” Schneider said. “I think when I look back at my sophomore year as a redshirt, even the coaches would admit that they’d be surprised that I’m coming back as a professional player. This game is an opportunity to show that I’ve really grown as a player since I graduated.”

The exhibition will take place April 16 at Breese Stevens Field and will be quite the spectacle for Madison’s soccer community. The game provides the first opportunity for fans of Forward Madison to see the team in action, as all of their earlier exhibition matches will be either closed to the public or away from Madison.

“We are very excited for the opportunity to play Forward Madison,” UW Head Coach John Trask said. “This match will provide us the opportunity to expose our current student athletes to another level of soccer. We look forward to an entertaining and challenging game, and will be thrilled to see UW alumnus Carl Schneider potentially representing Forward Madison.”

Forward Madison will also be hosting an exhibition against their Major League Soccer affiliate — Minnesota United — June 25 at Breese Stevens Field. The match marks the first time since the Chicago Fire visited Milwaukee in 2005 that an MLS team will play in the state of Wisconsin. As Forward Madison’s affiliate, Minnesota United will also be loaning players to them throughout the season.

So far, Forward Madison has played in two exhibition matches, one against Indy Eleven and another against St. Louis FC. Both teams compete in the United Soccer League Championship division, one tier above Forward Madison, but the team scored a 1–0 victory against Indy and battled hard in a 1–0 defeat at the hands of St. Louis.

“As a whole, I was really impressed with us. I felt that to not only win but to hold our own possession-wise and defending, that’s a good sign for us heading into the season,” Schneider said, discussing the win against Indy Eleven.

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Schneider also approved of how Head Coach Daryl Shore has approached the team thus far, saying he’s built them up instead of knocking them down.

“So far, it has been more of a build-up to the season,” Schneider said. “Slowly learning all of the principles that coach wants us to play with: pressing, attacking shape and possession in general. It’s been a work in progress, but we are learning something new every day.”

With the regular season set to begin on the road April 6 against Chattanooga, Forward Madison is in full-on preparation mode, getting ready for a grueling 28-game regular season. The season features a few additional exhibition matches, including those against UW, Minnesota United and another against the Green Bay Voyagers in early June. There is also the potential for more exhibition matches, depending on scheduling conflicts.

After the regular season concludes in the first week of October, the top four teams in USL-League One will head to the postseason in a single elimination bracket. With only ten teams in the league, there is a high chance that Forward Madison can make the postseason. There will be a total of three postseason games, two semifinal matches and the final.

In a previous interview, Shore said he believes his team has what it takes to win the league in its inaugural season.

Shore said he expects to be “holding up a trophy, hopefully in front of a home crowd, as well as a parade down State Street.”

Needless to say, as we approach the spring soccer season in Madison, it is evident that the team and fans alike are excited to begin a new era of professional sports in the city.

Carl Schneider is no stranger to the Madison soccer community. But Forward Madison FC has provided him a unique opportunity that did not previously exist — playing professional soccer in the city he loves.