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'I think Buffalo is ready': New plan to bring pro soccer team to Western New York

Posted at 12:04 PM, Mar 28, 2024

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A signed agreement is in place to bring the highest level of professional soccer to Buffalo that this region has ever seen.

Peter Marlette, Jr., a Buffalo native who most recently served as the general manager of a professional soccer team in Omaha, is president of Buffalo Pro Soccer. The organization signed an exclusive agreement with USL Championship, the second-highest league in the U.S., just behind Major League Soccer.

“USL believes this will be a successful market and believes they need to do everything they can to make sure it happens,” Marlette said.

USL Championship currently has 24 clubs, the closest of which are in Pittsburgh and Detroit. The league has TV deals with ESPN and CBS, which will air the league final on its primary broadcast network on November 23.

There was a plan in 2019 to bring a team to Buffalo, but that never materialized. Marlette said this time is different.

“This is very real,” Marlette said. “I was approached by USL to make this happen.”

Buffalo Pro Soccer provided the following quote from USL Deputy CEO Justin Papadakis:

“Buffalo is home to some of the most fervent and proud sports fans in the world, and we know they will embrace and support a professional soccer club of their own. Peter Marlette is a Buffalo soccer product with experience at all levels of the game and a deep commitment to the community he calls home. With his leadership, a growing, diverse population of young professionals, and a pent-up demand for the global game, Buffalo is poised to create a flagship club during this transformative moment in American soccer.”

Marlette played soccer in college, for club teams like FC Buffalo and professionally in Australia. He eventually transitioned to the business and management side of the sport after getting his master’s degree from a prestigious sports management school in Switzerland. He worked for FC Dallas of Major League Soccer before becoming general manager of Union Omaha.

“I did three years in Omaha very successfully both on the field and, you know, in the business management of that club,” Marlette said.

He acknowledges there’s work to do, shoring up financial support for the team plus a new stadium. He’d like to see a modular stadium built near Downtown Buffalo with seating for about 10,000.

“How much does a stadium like that cost,” 7 News’ Michael Wooten asked Marlette. “A modular stadium, I am estimating, around $15 million,” Marlette responded.

His website, www.buffaloprosoccer.com, is up and running, and he says the public will have input on the stadium as well as the club’s name, crest and colors.

“We want to get community input,” Marlette said. “We want this to be a club that truly represents this city and this region.”

The goal is to have the team ready to go to compete in the 2026 season, which begins each year in March.

“Buffalo is the ideal market for this level of soccer,” Marlette said. “Now we just need to make it happen.”

Buffalo Pro Soccer said its initial focus is launching the USL Championship men’s team, but it also intends to pursue a professional women’s soccer team in the USL Super League, which launches in August with Division I sanctioning.

Papadakis joined 7 Voices on Tuesday to discuss the plan, you can watch his full interview below.

USL Deputy CEO discusses bringing a pro soccer team to Buffalo