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Why Brooklyn Football Club is joining the USL Championship

Locking in a home venue and having the Brooklyn women's team join a Division One-sanctioned league each played a part in the men's team changing leagues, according to Brooklyn FC's owner.

Photo: USL Championship's Twitter account.

USL and Brooklyn Football Club have confirmed what Hudson River Blue first reported last week: The Brooklyn men's team is coming to the USL Championship in 2025, not USL League One as was initially announced.

That gives the expansion Brooklyn franchise a men's team in Division Two and a women's team in Division One of the American soccer pyramid, with each side now occupying the highest possible league within the USL's structure.

Why the change, and why so soon? After all, Brooklyn Football Club's existence and intention to join USL League One was only revealed nine months ago.

Securing Maimonides Park, the 7,500-capacity baseball stadium in Coney Island, as a home venue, and the women's USL Super League officially receiving Division One sanctioning, each played a part in the men's team moving to the Championship, according to Brooklyn Football Club principal owner Matt Rizzetta.

In an interview with HRB, Rizzetta called the league move a shared decision between the team and USL, with both sides realizing that "Brooklyn feels like a Championship club."

"Our intent from Day One was always for the men’s team to play in the USL Championship," said Rizzetta. "We sat down, after we secured the stadium and the purchase of the women’s franchise, we sat down with USL, and we both realized, we’re building a world-class franchise here, and why wait?"

Super League sanctioning essential

Rizzetta confirmed that the Brooklyn women's team being slotted into a newly-christened Division One league played a direct role in the decision to move the men's team to USL Championship.

"We were waiting on the sidelines until we understood exactly what the outcome was with sanctioning," said Rizzetta. "The minute that sanctioning was approved, we were like, look, we have a women’s franchise sitting at the top of the US women’s soccer pyramid, and we looked at the men’s side and said, let’s just fast-track this and go all-in."

Had Division One sanctioning not been given to the USL's new women's league, Rizzetta makes it sound as though Brooklyn's men's team would have spent at least a few seasons in USL League One.

"We were obviously very confident it would receive D1 sanctioning–but if, for whatever reason, it didn’t, I think our approach would have been more conservative on the men’s side."

Championship always an 'option'

As Rizzetta tells it, despite Brooklyn FC signaling its initial intent to join USL League One in 2025, the USL Championship was always the intended destination.

Rizzetta said the club retained an option to move to the Championship after a few seasons in League One from the start of its involvement with the USL, and that "the option was tied to certain benchmarks and metrics."

A lease agreement to have the men and women play at Maimonides Park, and the Brooklyn women joining a Division One-sanctioned league, seemed to be enough to cut USL League One out of the equation entirely.

The USL Championship has been growing, with the league up to 24 clubs with Rhode Island FC and North Carolina FC joining for the just-kicked-off 2024 season. Brooklyn will be at least a 25th team in the league come 2025, though the rest of the "expansion class" of 2025 remains unannounced by USL.

USL expansion has also seen expansion fees rise for Championship teams, with the latest price reportedly $20 million to secure a new USL Championship franchise. That's a big difference from the reported $5 million cost to acquire a USL League One franchise.

Rizzetta acknowledged his ownership group had to pay more to have the Brooklyn FC men's team start in the USL Championship right off the bat, but said, "We wanted to have the men’s team play at the highest tier of the pyramid that was available to us within the USL structure. Did we pay more money for that? Yes, but we feel like we’re getting more value and representing the borough and the project in the best ways possible."

'A different caliber of player'

Switching from League One to the Championship will bring with it some positive changes on the player recruitment side, according to Brooklyn's owner.

"I think now we can get a lot more aggressive with our international player recruiting strategy," said Matt Rizzetta. "Playing in Championship lets us recruit a completely different caliber of player, that is certainly in line with the strategy we had in mind on the recruiting side."

In past comments about that recruiting strategy, Rizzetta has said Brooklyn FC wants to recruit U-20 national team-caliber players from countries that are "well-represented in the Brooklyn diaspora," from places like South and Central America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia.

How that recruitment plays out is still to be determined—Brooklyn Football Club have yet to announce the hire of their first-ever sporting director, though that should be expected soon, with the men's team now planning to enter the highly-competitive Division Two USL Championship when it begins play in 2025.