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The future Revs are coming to New Hampshire

Apr. 11—PROFESSIONAL SOCCER is coming to New Hampshire.

The New England Revolution's reserve team, New England Revolution II, will play eight of their 14 home games this season at Southern New Hampshire University's Mark A. Ouellette Stadium in Hooksett.

The Revolution II are the equivalent of a minor league team and play in the MLS NEXT Pro league, which recently started its third season. Players from Revolution II can be called up to or come down from the Revolution's first team, which plays in the MLS.

The Revolution II will play their first home game at SNHU on Sunday, April 28, at 3 p.m. against Inter Miami II. The team will also play two games at SNHU in both May and June and one each in July, September and October.

"We've always had great support from New Hampshire," New England Revolution President Brian Bilello said, "and we just thought this was a way where those Revs fans in New Hampshire could get a little bit more access to something easier to get to and still be main fans of the Revs but be able to access some of the Revs II games and see the future stars of the Revs in their younger days."

MLS NEXT Pro features 29 teams — 27 of which are affiliated with MLS teams and two that are independents (Carolina Core FC and Chattanooga FC). The league is in the third division of the U.S. soccer league pyramid — below MLS and the United States Soccer League (USL) Championship league.

Revs II will play their remaining six home games this season at their usual home field, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where the Revolution also play.

Nashua North boys soccer coach Jeremy Zelanes originally reached out to Bilello with the idea to bring the Revs II to the Granite State in 2022.

Zelanes, a Nashua resident, said his goal since late 2019 has been to bring pro soccer to New Hampshire. He previously tried to bring a USL League One team to New Hampshire with an ownership group that included Manchester native and former Revolution and U.S. national team player Charlie Davies.

"It was a chance for them (the Revolution) to expand the market that they already have," Zelanes said, "and it gives a lot of people up here a chance to see professional level soccer at an affordable price and they're not having to drive all the way down to Gillette to do it."

Bilello said having a partner like Zelanes, who knows the local market, made New Hampshire the right place for the venture.

Revs II defender Colby Quinones, who grew up in Bedford, began his pro journey playing first for Seacoast United and then the Revolution Academy. The 20-year-old became the first Revolution Academy player to play for Revs II during the team's inaugural season in 2020.

Quinones said he likely would have taken soccer more seriously when he was younger if there was a pro soccer team in New Hampshire when he was growing up. As a kid, Quinones went to Revolution, Saint Anselm College and Franklin Pierce University soccer games.

"I hope they find that it's possible to go pro in New Hampshire," Quinones said of the youth players that attend the Revs II games at SNHU. "I know some of the kids there make the trip down to Gillette sometimes to watch our games but now that it's closer in (Hooksett), there's going to be a lot more kids there, I hope, and hopefully that can inspire them to get serious about soccer and try to get to the next level."

Bilello said this first season of Revs II playing at SNHU is all about proof of concept. He wants to see that it makes sense for the team and the players and confirm there's a market in New Hampshire.

If all goes as expected, Bilello said, the ultimate goal is for New Hampshire to become the permanent home for Revs II.

Several MLS NEXT Pro teams have recently changed their name from the second team of their parent MLS club to one that identifies with the city or state that they play in. For example, the Tacoma Defiance was formerly Seattle Sounders II and Moraga, California-based The Town FC was previously San Jose Earthquakes II.

If Revs II eventually move to New Hampshire, maybe the team will join that group and adopt a name more representative of the state, Zelanes said.

"I think if (this) goes really well, we'll be talking with Jeremy about how to expand it further in the very near future," Bilello said, "and, ultimately, if we can make it work, a full-time sort of home for Revs II up in New Hampshire."

ahall@unionleader.com