Through the addition of six new clubs and the loss of a few others, the American Soccer League is poised to begin the 2016 spring season with 10 teams. Connecticut United FC is among the expansion sides set to join the ASL in the second season of the newest incarnation of that league’s name. The launch of Connecticut United FC marks the return of professional soccer to New Britain’s Veteran Stadium for the first time since the Connecticut Wolves folded after the 2002 USL-D3 Pro season.
The birth of Connecticut United FC in New Britain was a matter of the right people being connected in the right places. ASL Commissioner Dan Trainor was aware that Greg Bajek, who owns ASL defending champion Icon FC, was looking to start a new ASL team in Connecticut. Trainor facilitated a meeting with Daniel Hoskins, a New Britain resident with a breadth of soccer experience.
Hoskins sold Bajek on the history of soccer in New Britain and the potential that remained in Veterans Stadium. It was not a hard sell. Bajek was already familiar with the market from his days a player competing against the Connecticut Wolves.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Hoskins, who will serve as General Manager for Connecticut United FC. “Everybody just sees it happen over night, but I’ve been working on this for almost a year. Now it finally gets going.”
The ASL spring season will get going for Connecticut United FC in April after preseason camp in March. The regular season will end in June before the playoffs and championship in July. After a short break, a new season will begin as the ASL transitions to a yearly schedule similar to that of the NASL.
The year-round schedule will afford Connecticut United FC the opportunity to develop young players in a professional environment. This is what attracts Hoskins to a league like the ASL.
“A lot of the lower-league European clubs do this. They look for younger players. They develop them. They sell them, move them on to bigger and better things,” Hoskins said. “That’s really what we want to focus on.”
How committed Hoskins to finding young, talented players and to developing them into product that other professional teams desire? When Hoskins recruits players to Connecticut United FC, he tells them that if they are still with the club after two years, he is not doing his job. It is a philosophy that he wishes would be adopted by other professional soccer leagues in the United States.
Hoskins said, “There’s always going to be that next step up. What we should be doing, even at the MLS level, is taking our best talent, letting them thrive for a few years, and letting them go on to bigger and better.”
Connecticut United FC is confident that New Britain and surrounding communities will turn out to support a roster that has the potential to turn over every couple of seasons. Hoskins is counting on a sense of community pride.
“I’m getting local boys. I’m getting local talent, and I will do that year after year after year,” Hoskins said. “I wan’t this to be ‘Hey! Look what our boys did when they were together. Look where they went.’ Ideally, I want to get everybody from within a 30-minute drive, just to make it a hometown feel.”
The club also hopes to replicate some of the successes from the history of professional soccer in New Britain while making necessary adjustments to make Connecticut United sustainable.
Hoskins is aware that the bulk of his job of helping to grow Connecticut United FC is ahead of him, but he expressed appreciation for those who helped get the club to this point. In particular, pointed to the Mayor and New Britain City Council, who approved a 5-year deal for the team to play in Veteran’s Stadium. He applauded the city’s parks and recreation department for keeping the stadium in fantastic condition over the years. Hoskins also expressed personal gratitude to Sid van Druenen of the Dayton Dutch Lions, for giving him his first real opportunity in the world of American soccer.