When Forward Madison FC began to play this past spring, they officially became Madison’s first-ever professional soccer club. Playing their home games at Breese Stevens Field, they have drawn hordes of fans for just about every game, leading the league in average attendance per game.
Considering Forward Madison’s high attendance rates, it is clear that the team means a lot to the local community and soccer culture in the area.
The team’s fan club — the Flock — turns out in large groups to every home game and even some road games. They also host watch parties at local Madison bars for every road game and major announcements during the offseason.
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The team’s promotions are also perhaps the most unique of any American professional sports team, including games with special ticket deals involving watermelons, bowling, and even Naturdays — the unofficial drink of broke college students.
They also recently hosted a game themed around “The Office” television show, where they managed to get Leslie David Baker (who played the character “Stanley”) to make a special appearance and sold soft pretzels and crossword puzzles as a promotion.
Along with their regular-season USL-League One schedule, Forward Madison made appearances in several scrimmage games and even a tournament this season. Included in these scrimmage match-ups are two games against the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team.
In an early-season match back in April, the Flamingos defeated the Badgers by a score of 2–0 on one of the first warm days of 2019. That was also the first game played at Breese Stevens Field this year, and it included Wisconsin alumni Carl Schneider on the field for Forward Madison.
“I’ve been playing at Breese my whole life and I’ve never seen it so rowdy,” Schneider said. “The Flock was amazing. The songs they were singing, I had them stuck in my head at halftime.”
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Throughout the season, several star players have emerged, starting with forward Don Smart. Smart earned the mid-season USL League One MVP award while scoring seven goals to go along with four assists to this point, both of which are good enough for top-10 in the league.
Smart’s signing was the first for Forward Madison late last year, making him an obvious choice as a leader for the squad. Smart is undersized for a forward but uses his speed to create scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates.
Smart is obviously a fan-favorite player for the Flamingos, but what separates Smart from the rest is that he reciprocates that feeling for the fans and the city of Madison.
“I love this weather and I love the fans,” Smart said after a game early in the season. “You can’t get any better.”
Along with Smart, forwards Paulo Júnior and Josiel Nùñez have contributed in a big way to the sixth-place Forward Madison club. They’ve combined for seven goals and eight assists, while also being tied for third in the league in chances created with 38 opportunities each.
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Altogether, these players have contributed to a surging Forward Madison team, who went from ninth place in the standings up to a fourth-place spot, putting them right on the cusp of making the playoffs.
In a league with just ten teams, only the top four make the playoffs, and the Flamingos are right there knocking on the door. Thanks to a recent streak where the team won three straight, they are tied for fourth-place with only a few games left in the season.
“Yeah definitely, we just gotta keep the momentum, you know keep grinding with the team and you know, just keep the same spirit and just keep going and we play like this, you know, day in and day out, you know, I guarantee a win every single day,” Smart said of the streak.
With only a handful of games left, Forward Madison must prove their strength as the season comes to an end. Nearly all these games are against teams currently in playoff position, meaning the Flamingos control their own destiny as they attempt to earn a playoff spot in their inaugural season.
If you haven’t gone to a Forward Madison FC game yet, you should definitely check it out if you can! Even when the team doesn’t win, the atmosphere of the games makes it worth the trip, even warranting some attention from the players. Head over to Breese Stevens Field or forwardmadisonfc.com to buy tickets today!