Greg Hines, the Mayor of Rogers, Arkansas, and USL USL Chief Operating Officer & Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis are joined by USL Arkansas' leaders Warren Smith and Chris Martinovic, and Co-Chair of the NW Arknasas Council Marshall Saviers.
ROGERS, Ark., and TAMPA, Fla. – In a historic leap forward for professional soccer in Arkansas, the United Soccer League (USL) announced today an exclusive partnership with USL Arkansas, a group that will bring a professional men’s and women’s soccer club to Northwest Arkansas, as the region’s first professional teams.
USL Arkansas is led by co-founders Chris Martinovic and Warren Smith. Martinovic, a long-time business executive in Northwest Arkansas with a lifelong passion for soccer, and Smith, a seasoned professional in the sports industry with a proven track record in building teams and stadium solutions across the country, bring a unique blend of expertise and enthusiasm to the venture.
Northwest Arkansas includes the cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale and is home to a rapidly growing population of more than 570,000.
“As a former player, I am delighted to bring professional soccer to Northwest Arkansas, a region that so richly deserves it,” said Chris Martinovic. “I have seen firsthand the power of soccer in bringing communities together, and I am excited about the positive impact this club will have on our region.”
Founded in 2010, the United Soccer League (USL) has rapidly grown into a globally respected organization that is shaping the future of soccer in America as the first to build complete youth-to-pro pathways for men and women in one ecosystem.
The USL Championship currently features 24 men’s professional teams each playing a 34-game regular season from March to October and receives Division II sanctioning from the U.S. Soccer Federation. USL Championship teams average more than 5,000 fans per game with teams such as Louisville City SC, New Mexico United, Sacramento Republic, and Indy Eleven regularly drawing more than 10,000 fans per game.
Kicking off its inaugural season in August 2024, the USL Super League will bring world-class professional women’s soccer closer to home for more communities across the country and plans to receive Division I sanctioning from U.S. Soccer. The USL Super League will play on an international “fall-to-summer” calendar – unique in American soccer – to align with global women’s soccer.
“USL Arkansas represents a new chapter in the USL story,” said USL Deputy CEO and Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis. “Northwest Arkansas is a rapidly growing region with a vibrant community, making it the perfect location for this expansion. We have successfully partnered with Warren in numerous markets and his experience coupled with Chris’ passion for his community are the perfect ingredients to create something special for this emerging region. We can't wait to see the positive impact this club and their teams will have on the local community and beyond.”
In addition to providing the region with its first professional team, USL Arkansas is committed to developing a 5,000+ seat multi-purpose stadium nestled in the heart of the Pinnacle Hills entertainment district in Rogers, AR. This move forms part of the wider vision of both Martinovic and Smith to embed the world’s game within the community and deliver an exciting, unique match-day entertainment experience for fans. USL Arkansas’s goal is to begin play in the USL Championship prior to the 2026 FIFA World Cup kicks off in the United States and in the fall that same year for the USL Super League.
“I have been visiting my family here for 33 years and have watched how this community punches above its weight class creating a dynamic place to live, work, and to play,” said Warren Smith. “We look forward to the beautiful game adding to that while working with local authorities, community leaders, and most importantly, the fans, to create a soccer club that reflects the unique spirit of this community and that makes us all proud.”
USL Arkansas has begun a listening session campaign where the club hopes to learn from the community what it wants to see from their club. The official team name, colors, and branding will be developed through this process and over the months to come.
“While we are building a club, our aim is to build a symbol of unity for Northwest Arkansas,” explained Martinovic. “That's only possible by listening and will be instrumental in shaping the identity of our team.”