The Groundhopper's Guide To Lower League Soccer Stadiums In The U.S.

Whether you're on a soccer stadium tour of America, looking for a fun activity while on vacation or just a planning a day trip, these are the grounds most worthy of a visit.

Most sports fans in the United States think of summer as the season for baseball, but the warmest months of the year are also the perfect time to attend a professional soccer match — and there's no shortage of teams.

As Major League Baseball continues to cut minor league teams, the decline of professional baseball in the country becomes more prominent. But not so with soccer.

Professional soccer is heading in the opposite direction, as lower league teams are popping up in every state and competing in an abundance of leagues — all of which strengthen the backbone of soccer in the U.S.

With so many leagues, the world of professional soccer in the U.S. can be a bit overwhelming. Semi-knowledgeable fans might be aware of their local USL side, but there's so much more to explore in this country.

The hobby of groundhopping — attending as many stadiums as possible — is slowly growing in this country, and there's no shortage of suitable grounds to discover.

So whether you're a hardcore groundhopper or simply a soccer fan looking for an entertaining way to spend a day off, here are the coolest lower league soccer stadiums to catch a match at.

Best Lower League Soccer Stadiums in the United States

New England

Applejack Stadium

Teams: Black Rock FC (USL League Two), VT Fusion (WPSL)

Location: Manchester, Vermont

Without a doubt, Applejack Stadium is the most unique stadium on this list, as a visit to this ground in the foothills of the Green Mountains is a trip back in time. The historic wooden grandstand is the centerpiece and is unlike anything else you'll find in American soccer. It was built in 1887 as part of a horse racing track, possibly making it the oldest grandstand in the country.

It is a bygone ground that shares its architectural style with old soccer stadiums in England — very few of which still stand today. The picturesque mountains of Vermont in the distance, plus the surrounding forest, make this one-of-a-kind ground even more special. Applejack Stadium should truly be considered a mecca for all soccer fans in the United States.

Picturesque Applejack Stadium

Via Applejack Stadium on Twitter

Lusitano Stadium

Teams: Western Mass Pioneers (USL League Two), New England Mutiny (United Women's Soccer)

Location: Ludlow, Massachusetts

Known as the "Soccer Capital of New England," according to the stadium's website, Lusitano Stadium is "modeled after European stadiums" and is "the only soccer-specific stadium in New England."

Built in 1918, the ground was home to Gremio Lusitano — a successful amateur side founded by Portuguese immigrants — for more than 80 years before the Western Mass Pioneers were awarded a USL expansion team in 1998.

Both the Pioneers (USL League Two) and the New England Mutiny (United Women's Soccer) play in this wonderful 3,000-capacity stadium about 90 minutes west of Boston.

Eusebio Statue outside Lusitano Stadium

The Pioneers' Portuguese influence is noticeable even outside the ground. Here is a statue of 1966 World Cup Golden Boot winner Eusébio, with a nice view of the stadium in the background. Via Providence City FC on Twitter.

Mid-Atlantic

Highmark Stadium

Team: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (USL Championship)

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Location is everything when building a new stadium, and the Riverhounds nailed it when they completed Highmark Stadium in 2017. The ground is located at the confluence of Pittsburgh's three rivers: the Ohio, Monongahela and Alleghany, and it has some of the best views of any soccer stadium in the country.

To the northeast of the field is lovely downtown Pittsburgh, and to the northwest is one of the Steel City's trademark arched bridges — the Fort Pitt Bridge. 

Embed from Getty Images

Gaelic Park

Team: Manhattan SC (USL League Two)

Location: Bronx, New York

As the name suggests, Gaelic Park was originally built back in 1926 to host Gaelic sports — which it still hosts today. Among the other tenants are Manhattan College (located across the street) and USL League 2 Side Manhattan SC, which joined the fray in 2018. The only thing older than the field is the Van Cortlandt NYC subway yard on the north border of the ground — built in 1906 and on the National Register of Historic Places. All in all, a true landmark of New York history.

Embed from Getty Images

Southeast

WakeMed Soccer Park

Teams: North Carolina Courage (NWSL), North Carolina FC U-23 (USL League Two)

Location: Cary, North Carolina

WakeMed Soccer Park, constructed in 2002, was one of the first major soccer stadiums in the country that was not constructed for an MLS team. The 10,000-seat ground is a top-class facility that was originally made for the Carolina Courage of the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association, and in 2007 it became home to North Carolina FC of USL League One. The ground has also been host to international men's and women's soccer, and in 2017 it welcomed NWSL side North Carolina Courage.

Embed from Getty Images

CHI Memorial Stadium

Teams: Chattanooga Red Wolves SC (USL League One), Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves SC (WPSL)

Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the growth of soccer in the United States more than CHI Memorial Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The beautiful 5,000-spectator stadium was constructed for the Chattanooga Red Wolves of USL League One and is already the model for how to grow a fan base and advance soccer in this country. Don't forget the Lady Red Wolves either, who also began play in 2020.

The ground uses the club's earthy red tones to add color to the seats and the outside of the stands without being overwhelming, but the stadium comes alive under the lights. A trip to Tennessee is not complete without taking in an evening match at CHI Memorial Stadium.

CHI Memorial Stadium

Via Bob Bobbick on Twitter

Midwest

Breese Stevens Field

Team: Forward Madison FC (USL League One)

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Located in the heart of Wisconsin's capital city, the ground originally hosted semi-pro and exhibition baseball games in the second quarter of the 1900s, was nearly demolished in the 1980s, then was named a historical landmark before the new millennium.

Breese Stevens Field has been home to Forward Madison FC since 2018, and while the field might not be as impressive as others on this list, Forward Madison has created a die-hard fan base through great branding and even better marketing (claws and claws anyone?), making for a fantastic in-match experience. The ground will also be hosting numerous high-level European clubs this summer.

Breese Stevens Field

Via Forward Madison FC on Twitter

Keyworth Stadium

Team: Detroit City FC (USL Championship)

Location: Hamtramck, Michigan

If the massive floodlights towering above the ground or the stadium's location nestled within the houses of Hamtramck (the most densely populated municipality in Michigan) don't give Keyworth Stadium the feel of a proper English ground, then certainly the energy of the fans inside will. 

Fans of USL Championship club Detroit City FC live by the motto "Passion for our city. Passion for the game," and they show it at every match. Flags, colored smoke bombs and loud chanting throughout are just a few of the things you can expect at a DCFC match — where the environment rivals anything you'll find in the United States. This ambiance was on display in April, when the club earned a famous U.S. Open Cup victory against MLS side Columbus Crew.

Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Michigan

It's hard to believe this stadium is located in the outskirts of Detroit and not somewhere in the suburbs of London. Via Adam Hernandez on Twitter.

Mountain West

Weidner Field

Team: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL Championship)

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Another soccer-specific stadium built for a USL side within the last few years, Weidner Field is a great ground made even better by the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. The Switchbacks average around 6,500 fans per match at their 8,000-seat stadium this season, making Colorado Springs a great soccer destination for any visitor to the Rockies.

Weidner Field

Via Justin Papadikas on Twitter

Zions Bank Stadium

Team: Real Monarchs (MLS Next Pro)

Location: Herriman, Utah

Zions Bank Stadium is proof you can never go wrong with a new field as long as you have mountains in the background. While MLS B sides are usually relegated to playing at training grounds, local colleges or other random fields, Real Salt Lake recently constructed a new 5,000-seat stadium for its second side — Real Monarchs — which looks and feels like the miniature version of an MLS ground. 

Zions Bank Stadium

Via Academy Sports Turf on Twitter

Southwest

Kino North Stadium

Team: FC Tucson (USL League One)

Location: Tucson, Arizona

FC Tucson's partially covered main stand at Kino North Stadium looks about as good as anything you'll find in the United States. Full stop. It is built in the classic style you'll see in lower league stadiums across England and holds 3,200 supporters. Kino North is also home to the boisterous FC Tucson supporters' group known as the Cactus Pricks, who sit opposite the grandstand in their own smaller bleacher area.

Kino North Stadium

Via the Kino Sports Complex website

H-E-B Park

Team: Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (USL League One)

Location: Edinburg, Texas

In terms of stadium quality, H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas might be the best lower-league ground in the country. The covered grandstands ensure that at least half of the nearly 10,000 seats are in the shade at all times, and the exterior of the ground is just as beautiful as the inside. The Toros did well here to combine modern design with the classic feel you come to expect in a soccer stadium.

H-E-B Park

Via H-E-B Park on Twitter

Pacific

Championship Soccer Stadium

Team: Orange County SC (USL Championship), California United Strikers (NISA)

Location: Irvine, California

This newly-built ground in southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego is easily one of the gems of the West Coast. The beautifully constructed covered stand has 2,500 seats, while the ground has a space for an additional 2,500 standing supporters. This is a stadium that would make any lower-league European side jealous.

Championship Soccer Stadium

Via California Baptist University Athletics Website

Kezar Stadium

Team: San Francisco City FC (USL League Two), San Francisco Nighthawks (WPSL)

Location: San Francisco, California

Built in 1925, this historic stadium is located just a few miles from the Golden Gate Bridge and was home to the NFL's San Francisco 49ers from 1949 to 1970. It has hosted numerous soccer and football teams over the years — both collegiate and professional — as well as other sports, but now USL League Two side San Francisco City and WPSL club San Francisco Nighthawks are the only professional teams currently using the field.

Neither club competed during the 2021 season due to COVID concerns, but with pro soccer back in the Bay Area, this ground is a must-see for any American sports fan.

Kezar Stadium

Via Peter Hartlaub on Twitter

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