Andreas Davi is a man on a mission. The German’s life has always revolved around football, a fact which he readily acknowledges. However, he has never undertaken such a mission as the one he is on now. Sure, there was the time that he spent with Bayer Leverkusen, and the work he did with the Milwaukee Bavarians in the NPSL. Yet, the new challenge which he has embarked upon poses unique problems; there are few things more difficult than creating a football club from scratch.
Davi’s and Milwaukee’s new club, the Milwaukee Torrent, will be attempting to fill a void in the Milwaukee community. Although the history of association football in the city is rich-the first recorded association football match took place in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1866; the oldest continuous football club in North America, the Croatian Eagles, are based in Milwaukee-there has not been a fully professional outdoor side in the Cream City since the Milwaukee Wave United collapsed in the mid-2000s.
Given the success of the Wave in the American indoor circuit, the outdoor void is one felt poignantly by soccer aficionados around the city. Crowds at friendlies between British and Mexican opposition at Miller Park have been good over the last two years, and the Milwaukee Barons movement has gained some traction. However, no savior has come out of thin air to gift the city an MLS club.
Davi is quick to stress that he is not that savior. His new club, the Torrent, will begin play in the early summer of 2016 in ASL2, the NCAA-compliant division of the American Soccer League, and will look to move up to the regular ASL by 2017. He recognizes that it is practically impossible to envision a top tier team in the city; it has no suitable location for a stadium, and the expansions fees one must pay to MLS and the NASL are astronomical. However, he says that is no reason why there can’t be some kind of team here which the city embraces.
“This is a dream come true [for me]… I was lucky enough to have the talent that I could play for Bayer Leverkusen, soccer is my life. I was raised with it. I came to Milwaukee for the Bavarian Soccer Club (formerly of NPSL), I had six different director titles at the Bavarian Soccer Club-soccer is my life. I didn’t do anything else.”
“For the Milwaukee area, even though it’s not the highest level yet, it’s just the start. I always say, and I think this is one of the most important things, that people unfortunately in the Milwaukee area forget, because there are many people who say ‘oh this is not good because it’s not the highest level’. But you know what? Everything that you want to do when you go to a soccer game, we’re talking about tailgating, hanging out with friends, your family, cheering for your team, being in the stands, getting a scarf, you can do everywhere, it doesn’t matter what league you are in. If you identify with a club, it doesn’t matter what league you are in.”
That fan culture is one which makes soccer a unique sport. Although tailgating is something which is integral to the Wisconsin sports scene (it occasionally feels weird to go to a Packers or Brewers game and not tailgate), with soccer it goes so much deeper than that. Yes, going to a pub and having a pint then going and playing bags before a match is a great time. Yet, baseball and American football don’t boast the supporters’ cultures that soccer does.
Singing and chanting is, of course, commonplace at soccer games. Most teams have a group of ultras who gather behind one goal to roar their team on, and the Torrent already have one such group: The Flood.
The Flood seemed to be created within moments of Davi’s announcement of the formation of the Torrent. The Flood have already picked up 369 likes on Facebook; while social media is no true indicator of what actual support will look like, for a 4th or 5th division side who have yet to play a match, the number is impressive. The formation of the group is something that had an influence as well on where the Torrent will play come summer 2016.
While sites such as the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s downtown rooftop stadium and nearby Wauwatosa’s Hart Park were considered as the Torrent’s first home, Davi eventually settled on Time Warner Cable Field at Uihlein Soccer Park, a 7,000 seat soccer specific stadium 15 minutes out of downtown Milwaukee.
The soccer specific stadium is located at the area’s largest outdoor soccer park; it boasts 15 other outdoor fields in addition to the big stadium which are utilized by various age groups in addition to the three indoor fields which are used during the winter. The park hosts the final rounds of the Wisconsin state tournament in addition to innumerable youth matches and youth tournaments. As such, it boasts concession stands and the ability to sell merchandise, the sort of thing which can be crucial to a professional team.
“The reason I choose [Uihlein]…There were obviously many people [who thought] I should play at MSOE because of all the bars around. I cannot play at MSOE only because of all the bars are downtown. I can’t do that…The locker rooms are in the parking structure. The concessions stands are way too small. And, the most important thing, for our supporters’ group—no referee will start a game if our supporters’ group stand at the sidelines and cheer. You just don’t have the space to play at MSOE. And with Uihlein—you can tailgate at Uihlein, you can get buses from downtown up here, we are already working on this, you have a concessions stand, the Flood can stand behind the goal with a huge banner. It’s absolutely convenient. And when people say, oh, I don’t think you get a fan base out of there… what does it mean, out of there? This is Glendale. You are 15 minutes away from downtown over the freeway. What do you want more? It would be the same distance if you play at Hart Park in Tosa.”
Uihlein is not unfamiliar with playing host to professional outdoor soccer. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s the Milwaukee Rampage and later Milwaukee Wave United, both of the old A-League, utilized Uihlein as their home stadium. While it will be quite some time before a second division side uses it as a home stadium, Davi has not given up hope of bringing some of the top teams in the country to the stadium.
Although the Torrent have missed the USASA deadline for 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Qualifying, he is hopeful that the Torrent may be able to get in if there is a dearth of teams signed up for regional qualifying. If they can’t get in for 2016, they will look to 2017 with optimism of making a cup run.
In addition to the team's home taking shape, the team itself is as well. Davi has a tryout scheduled for October to fill in the roster, and has already made two signings in the form of Ian Bennett and Luke Goodnetter. Bennett is a name familiar to Milwaukee fans as he has played for the Milwaukee Wave since their 2009/10 season, and has consistently been one of the best indoor soccer players in the country. Meanwhile, Goodnetter played college soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and was a 1st Team All-Horizon League pick in his final season.
In spite of all of the positivity which Davi is looking to bring to the table, the team has yet to garner support from the city of Milwaukee. Yet, he insists that he is still dedicated to building the Torrent as a club for the city.
“I am absolutely committed to this town. I am committed to the kids here… I am so committed to this community… I am doing it because I think of our kids here, and I know it can and it will work.”
The Milwaukee Torrent will begin play in ASL2 in early summer 2016.