Soccer: The rise of Forward Madison FC

How Madison’s soccer squad elevated to new heights over past five years

· Mar 2, 2023 Tweet

Photo courtesy Forward Madison FC

In 2017, a new level of the United States professional soccer pyramid was built — the United Soccer League created a new third tier, the USL League One. 

This would operate as the second division for the USL Championship. By early 2018, the four founding members of this new league had all been announced. Among the lot was a yet-to-be-named team from Madison.

Many naming possibilities floated around the web during the online voting contest in June 2018. Some ideas were traditional, like “Madison United” or “AFC Madison.” Others were a little more unconventional and lighthearted like the “Madison Curds” and “77 Square Miles SC.”

Ultimately, the supporters decided on the name “Forward Madison FC” based on the Wisconsin state motto “Forward.”

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Known for their flamboyant shirt designs, Forward Madison gained national attention by winning SiriusXM FC’s ‘Kit of the Year‘ in 2019. They beat the likes of European giants such as Chelsea, Barcelona and PSG.

They became internationally known after Europe’s most popular jersey website, ‘ClassicFootballShirts’ started selling and promoting the Flamingos’ apparel. 

FMFC’s kits are very important to the fans — they get more say in that department than anyone else. The front office understands the importance of fan involvement in this club. 

“[We are] very proud to be the only club in the country that turns a kit over to their supporters,” COO and club owner Conor Caloia said in a press release

As is known, fans are one of the most important pieces of a successful franchise in any league around the world. Without fans, there is no atmosphere — nor is there a sense of community.

For Forward Madison, fans, or lack thereof, have never been an issue. It was anticipated that FMFC would be a huge hit among the locals, because it would be the city’s only professional outdoor soccer team.

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As a provision for the team’s inaugural season in 2019, the Madison City Council agreed on a contract that would allow Breese Stevens Field to receive a huge upgrade. Madison’s oldest sports park, which opened in 1925, was expanded from a 3,740 capacity to 5,000 just in time for the boys in blue to make their home debut.

The upgrade certainly helped. FMFC topped the 2019 USL League One attendance ranks with an average of 4,292 fans per game and 60,083 in total — over 11,000 more than the next highest. In the season following COVID-19, the Flamingos finished second in USL1 attendance and would reclaim the No. 1 spot in 2022.

Last October, Forward Madison FC tied their season finale in Tucson, extending their nine-game winless streak. Fans left their watch parties disheartened as their side had now gone their third consecutive season without playoff soccer. 

But, the Flamingos’ front office has been busy in the offseason, bringing in 13 newcomers — enough players to fill an entire starting lineup. Despite a number of players departing from the club, the new signings have granted the team’s supporters a glimmer of hope entering the 2023 season.

Forward Madison FC begins its 2023 campaign against Union Omaha at Caniglia Field in Omaha, Nebraska, March 26.

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This article was published Mar 2, 2023 at 9:00 am and last updated Feb 23, 2023 at 12:25 pm

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