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Cubs owner Tom Ricketts agrees to be part of new Chicago-based soccer team

Tom Ricketts | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

The effort to bring a new soccer team to Chicago got a big boost Wednesday.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and real-estate developers Sterling Bay are forming a joint venture to own Chicago’s proposed United Soccer League franchise. Ricketts would be the majority stakeholder in the team, which is expected to begin play in 2021. Sterling Bay will develop the Lincoln Yards stadium and own part of the team.


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“My family is very excited at the prospect of bringing professional USL soccer to Chicago at this terrific new development,” Ricketts said in a news release. “Sterling Bay is a tremendous partner and the USL has a great vision for meeting the demands of passionate fans and growing soccer’s fan base.”

Adding Ricketts gives the nascent franchise one of the biggest names in Chicago sports.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be working with the Ricketts family to bring this project to life” Sterling Bay managing principal Andy Gloor said in a news release. “With their deep expertise in sports franchising, the Ricketts are an ideal partner for us to collaborate with and energize Chicago sports fans with a new local team to rally around.”

Numerous MLS clubs own or operate developmental teams that compete in the USL with independent franchises. The USL is the second-tier league on the United States’ soccer pyramid, which was something the Fire alluded to in their comments about Wednesday’s announcement.

“We are unsurprised that interest in our sport continues to increase and the growth of minor-league soccer is a reflection of that,” the Fire said in a statement.

The USL took a major step toward gaining a presence in Chicago with the backing of a prominent owner of a major team.

“It speaks volumes about the growth of the USL when you continue to see interest and investment from proven sports business executives like Tom Ricketts,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a news release. “Over the last several years, we have assembled one of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable ownership groups in professional sports, drawn by our focus on building a sustainable, stable and professional organization with significant room for future growth.

“We welcome Tom and the entire Ricketts family to the USL. They bring a proven record of success to the team, and combined with the excellent group at Sterling Bay, we look forward to their contributions to the future of professional soccer in Chicago.”