By Michael Lewis
For years, the Rochester Rhinos had a dream of competing in Major League Soccer.
That never came true, but under a new name, the franchise will be competing in a lower version of the first division league – MLS NEXT Pro.
Rochester NY FC, rebranded from the Rhinos in September, Monday was introduced as one of 21 teams that will participate in the league when it kicks off its inaugural season in 2022. The league will be sanctioned by U.S. Soccer as a D3 Pro League, co-owner David Dworkin told Soccer Is a Kick In the Grass on Monday night.
The team is owned by David and Wendy Dworkin and co-owned by Premier League striker and former English international Jamie Vardy of Leicester City.
“We are thrilled that Rochester NY FC will be the first independent club to join MLS NEXT Pro,” David and Wendy Dworkin said in a statement. “Rochester established itself as a winning club with the Rhinos, and we are pleased to add a new chapter in the city’s rich soccer history as Rochester NY FC. We are excited to develop the future international stars of soccer, right here in our local community. By joining this league, Rochester is on the cusp of the future and the evolving global game of soccer.”
The club will call Monroe Community College home, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said at a Rochester, N.Y. press conference. Rochester NY FC will play on John L. DeMarco Field, which is also used for soccer and lacrosse.
“We look forward to showcasing Rochester as a premier professional club and are excited to kick off that process by helping to launch the inaugural season of MLS NEXT Pro in 2022,” Vardy said. “Joining this league, full of opportunity for communities, fans, players and staff – on the pitch and off – is a tremendous point of pride for our club.”
Known as giant killers in their formative years, the Rhinos are the last non-MLS club to win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, capturing the 1999 title with a win over the Colorado Rapids in Columbus, Ohio.
Andrew Battisti contributed to this story