For decades, America’s toyed with embracing soccer into the mainstream – but, like Tottenham Hotspur with winning trophies, could never quite seal the deal. In recent years, however, the ball seems to have finally found the back of the net.
Futbol-focused shows have become streaming hits, with “Ted Lasso” and “Welcome to Wrexham” helping translate the excitement of the sport to the screen. And speaking of the latter, big American names like Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney and JJ and Kealia Watt have bought into English soccer, bringing their spotlight to games overseas, with U.S. eyeballs following along. While the women’s national team prepares for another dominant World Cup run this summer, this fall’s men’s World Cup final broke viewing records in America – records likely to be broken again when the United States plays main host to the global phenomenon in 2026. The MLS is one of the fastest growing leagues in the nation, igniting rabid fanbases and rivalries wherever it pops up. And even Packers-addicted Wisconsin’s starting to cheat on football with futbol, making Forward Madison a sensation, supporting soccer bar hotspots and putting a new soccer field with a new yet-to-be-named soccer team at the center of a new Downtown development.
The future’s indeed looking bright for soccer – but why wait? Our footy-obsessed future’s already here in the present with FC Milwaukee Torrent, ready to kick off new seasons for both the men and women’s squads this month at Tosa’s Hart Park.
Founded in 2016, the Torrent’s men’s team currently plays in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), a semi-pro soccer league with more than 90 teams competing all across the country and alumni including the likes of U.S. soccer star Chris Wondolowski. Though not even a decade old, FC Milwaukee Torrent – named after the city’s essential lakes and rivers – found some early success across the seasons, going undefeated in its inaugural year and clinching a playoff spot in 2021 with a conference-winning 9-1 record. Their latest campaign will get things kicking on Saturday, May 20 with a 7 p.m. Hart Park home opener against Ehtar Belleville FC – an exciting new foe thanks to the NPSL’s new additions and divisional alignment for the 2023 season.
"We’ve put together a solid team. We’ve had a lot of success in the past, and I think that we have the ability this year to really make some waves – not only in our conference but in the NPSL playoffs as well,” said Scott Wegener, director of marketing with FC Milwaukee Torrent.
“We have a really young team, and that’s what I’m excited about,” he continued. “In the past, we’ve had some older guys who were out of the college ranks and still just trying to play competitive soccer here and there, and maybe make a name for themselves. We’ve got a lot of really young players that are in their sophomore or junior years of college that are playing soccer at a really high level. I’m excited to see how they can get themselves together a cohesive unit.”
The men aren’t the only ones with lofty goals – including hopefully numerous literal ones – ahead of them. Taking the pitch since 2018, FC Milwaukee Torrent’s women’s team starts this new run hoping to build off their strong 7-0-1 record last season, beginning the year ranked within the top 20 of the WPSL – an amateur soccer league rated just below the top professional National Women’s Soccer League. It’s impressive starting position, especially in a league comprised of more than 100 teams nationwide – but they’ll aim to go even higher over the course of their eight-game 2023 slate, starting at Hart Park on Friday, May 26 at 7 p.m., against the Midwest Select SA Muskrats.
Of course, as any fan who’s spent quality time at the Highbury or Moran’s on an early weekend morning can attest, the on-field action is only a part of soccer’s appeal; it’s the commotion and community around the game too. So this upcoming FC Milwaukee Torrent season has plenty surrounding the pitch to pitch to potential fans as well – from youth soccer nights inviting young teams and their families to come out and have fun outside of practice, to pizza giveaways to feed one’s fandom and The Flood fan group bringing the energy and atmosphere during the match.
“Torrent games are great because they have a little something for everyone – whether it’s the hardcore fan who’s analyzing each formation and dissecting what the coaches are doing or the more casual fans who just want to have fun and see quality soccer played,” Wegener said. “Kids are able to go on the field at halftime and knock a ball around. We’ve got a train that goes by a couple times a game. It’s just a really fun atmosphere; Hart Park is such a cool, unique venue for us that we’re incredibly honored to play at, and our games are just fun.”
That sense of footy fun extends away from Hart Park and away from game days as well, as FC Milwaukee Torrent’s hosted a number of pop-up events around town. Their next one will flood into Lion’s Tail Brewing, 8520 W. North Ave., on Thursday, May 18 at 4-7 p.m., building excitement with a kickoff party complete with the Torrent’s own special branded brew: a Torrent German Kolsch, available on tap and in four-packs.
So for those who can tell you every team playing in English League Two and those who couldn’t tell a yellow card apart from the 2000s band behind “Ocean Avenue,” take a tour by a Torrent game this upcoming season. Soccer’s on the verge of finally having its American moment – but if you stop by Hart Park this upcoming summer, you might just see that moment’s already arrived.
For more information on the Torrent's upcoming men and women's 2023 seasons and schedules – as well as purchasing tickets for any upcoming games – click here.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.