W. Michigan Clubs Eye NPSL

Two Western Michigan clubs have their sights set on 2015 entrance to the NPSL.

Muskegon Risers SC, a new club founded in Muskegon on the banks of Lake Michigan will make a major announcement about their future plans on April 4th. It is anticipated that they will release details about the clubs ownership and potentially confirm NPSL approval for 2015. They are currently exploring home venues, and are toying with the idea of hosting home matches at different local venues as they seek to establish support throughout the greater Muskegon community.

Just 45 minutes inland, a group of soccer fans in Grand Rapids has started Grand Rapids FC ostensibly with the aim of a supporter owned club modeled after Nashville FC’s recent effort. The group is working on promoting the club and garnering interest in the Grand Rapids soccer community and will be hosting a launch party on May 3rd where they will announce more details about the club and begin offering club memberships. There is a lot of work to be done, but the group has stated that their goal is to enter NPSL competition in 2015.




FXBG FC (1)Press Release byTom Leiss via National Premier Soccer League.

The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) has accepted FXBG FC (Fredericksburg, Va.) into the league, with it beginning play as an expansion team for the 2015 season.

During 2014, the team will be training and playing friendlies while building its player pool and getting its name out in the community in anticipation for its official entrance into league play next year.

The team would enter the Mid-Atlantic Conference, which is the home of reigning 2103 NPSL National Champion RVA Football Club.

“NPSL is excited to add FXBG FC to the NPSL for the 2015 season.  The Mid-Atlantic Conference is adding another great club in a great market. With a 16 month runway to preparing for the 2015 season, Fredericksburg will be a successful addition to the NPSL, on and off the field,” NPSL President Michael Hitchcock said via email. “The City of Fredericksburg is a great location—filling the void between Washington D.C. and Richmond, Va.—providing an option for local players to develop and local supporters to have a team in their own backyard. ”

FXBG FC will be under the control of the Grover Gibson Soccer Foundation (GGSF), which also owns and operates RVA FC. The teams will be affiliated, but FXBG FC will be coached and operated by its own separate staff. The full staff will be announced at a later date.

GGSF founder and RVA FC coach Grover Gibson is proud to be able to bring a team to the area he grew up in and thinks this will only help NPSL continue to grow.

“I believe what we are trying to provide is a revolutionary way of thinking in how to help develop young players beyond their typical youth soccer environments,” Gibson said. “Fredericksburg is very capable of being a hotbed for supporting a NPSL team due to the central Virginia location and accessibility to Interstate-95.”

RVA FC’s success in 2013 also played a part in forming the new team according to Gibson, who added that it will also help the program grow by providing a more smooth transition for youth players hoping to play at the
collegiate level.

“We wanted to form this new team because we felt there was a need for younger players who are not yet able to make the jump into the RVA FC program, but still need to be in a proper nationally competitive league where they gain exposure to playing against older more mature players,” Gibson said.

Gibson said that he plans for this team to take over the roll of the current RVA Reserve team and to serve as a feeder to the RVA First Team.

“The team will be focused on mostly regionally-base high school-aged players, along with collegiate freshmen, but will also add some older more mature players to balance out the environment accordingly,” the former
German professional added about the talent pool for the team. “I don’t see many upper-level collegiate upperclassmen playing in this environment, as those players need to be playing for RVA FC at that stage of their career in order to be on a path that is professionally minded.”

FXBG FC is the first announced expansion team for the 2015 season, building on the exponential growth the league has shown heading into the 2014 season. Already, 20-plus new teams have joined the league following the 2013 campaign.

Rochester United Seeking NPSL

Rochester UnitedCould there be an Empire Division in NPSL? It seems a possibility as NPSL could be getting two new clubs in Upstate New York come 2015. Syracuse is one possibility that is being explored, and it seems a group from Rochester is looking to join in 2015 as well under the Rochester United moniker.

Rochester is a city with a great soccer history, though any new club will have to compete with the Rochester Rhino’s of USL.

Could Soccer Be Returning to Syracuse?

Nestled in a sub menu of the Syracuse Development Academy website, is this:

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It seems that the SDA, who currently operates the WPSL Lady Knights has future plans for a Knight’s branded NPSL club.

The last major outdoor club to play in the Salt City was the Syracuse Salty Dogs who played in the then USL A-League. They only lasted two seasons (2003-2004) but drew a solid attendance average of over 6,000 both years.

It is exciting for soccer fans in Syracuse to potentially have a club to support again.

Petition To Oust NPSL Commish Hitchcock (And Why I Won’t Sign)

If you follow the goings on of the NPSL like I do, you may have seen this petition at change.org circulating to replace Commissioner Hitchcock:

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And while the petition raises a few important issues facing the NPSL, I thought I would take the time to work through the petition point by point – because, in my opinion, Commissioner Hitchcock and PMI have been good for the league and because I think its too early to determine the legacy they will leave after one season.

First and foremost, the petition is arranged by what “We do NOT stand for.” It would be helpful, I think, to note what such supporters DO stand for. PMI and NPSL is executing on a certain vision. It may not be the vision you or I would choose, but if we want to criticize it lets at least offer something in its place!

  • Multiple teams in a single market (too many teams in Michigan and more planned for 2015, 3 teams in San Diego). This point may be partially valid, though I think it oversimplifies things a bit. There are currently only 3 teams in Michigan, and of these only 2 can geographically be considered the same market – though Detroit is certainly a big enough metro to host more than one team, especially at the NPSL level. Further, I think club aims are important to note here. Some clubs, like Detroit City, exist solely as an NPSL club. Others, like Greater Binghamton FC exist as a senior mens side to an existing youth club structure. Both clubs saw great success last season attendance wise, based on very different models. There seems to be no reason that we couldn’t see two different model NPSL clubs in the same greater metro, especially if both have different aims. And in reality, if clubs want to be successful they need to market to a community and build themselves an identity in a community – like Detroit City has done. As for the San Diego clubs, this is a more valid point – but again, San Diego is a big soccer community and it seems very reasonable to have multiple clubs there catering to different communities in the greater metro. It also makes for some great local rivalries and reduces travel costs – two things which I believe are important in a successful club at the NPSL level.
  • The involvement of PMI in the NPSL. The NPSL, as member owned, realized they needed some hep forging a vision for their league. PMI brings a lot of soccer management expertise, and I believe is a great fit for helping the NPSL plot and execute a vision. Democratic organization and leadership is great, but can result in a lot of things getting dropped – especially when the member representatives are doing so on a part time and volunteer basis.
  • Allowing the commissioner to buy an expansion team. It should be noted that the ‘the commissioner’ is not the sole owner of this team. If anything, PMI’s operating a team gives them a greater reason to want the NPSL to be successful as they are now shareholders in the league. Additionally, it is hard be against a club that is obviously well organized and has solid financial backing.
  • Paying commissions and fees to PMI. PMI is a management and consulting firm. They don’t do this for free; collecting fees is what they do. And NPSL most definitely needs the help.
  • Unstable teams being allowed to remain in the league. This is a point that I am in full agreement with. Clubs like the Las Vegas Stallions do the league no good. They result in embarrassing forfeits and when they do play, often end up as cannon fodder. The standards should be stricter, and clubs who can’t maintain them should be put on probation.
  • Schedules being released months late. This is a faux issue. A schedule can’t be made if expansion clubs are still being announced. The real issue here is expansion.
  • A lack of response from the commissioner to emails from supporters and fans. This is a real issue, as supporters and fan concerns need to be heard. That said, as a member owned league probably the best conduit for voicing concerns is via the local club. Most CEO level individuals don’t have the time to personally deal with every request. This might happen in an ideal world, but our reality is at least a little less than ideal.
  • What we believe is reckless growth planned for 2015 and beyond. This may also be a legitimate point, and one that I have voiced on several occasions. As a corollary, while approximately 30 clubs are being added for the 2014 campaign, several clubs have folded and won’t be returning, and a couple others are undergoing significant rebrands and/or ownership changes. I like the increasing regionalization of the NPSL, but at some point I want to see more stable clubs and higher standards throughout. Still, I believe it is too early to kick PMI out. This is the first offseason they have been involved in, and while it seems unlikely that every club will make it through to the 2015 season intact, we can’t be sure. As with many new jobs it takes a solid year to really to get up to speed, and it is often well into the second or third year that things ‘fall into place.’ As an electrical estimator, it really did take about a full year at my current job to get a feel for the office, the business, and synthesize everything to start consistently winning competitive bids. That first year our sales stayed flat from the last year. But the following year we doubled our sales volume and the third year we doubled sales volume again. In years since we have kept up this increased volume but have focused on making that same volume more profitable. Sometimes the growth needs to happen first. What is unpalatable in this situation is the history high growth leagues in US soccer history. But I’ll suspend judgement on this count for at least another season.

I have been and in many ways am still critical of the NPSL and believe there is a lot of room for improvement. But I believe PMI and Hitchcock’s involvement is good for the league – if nothing else, they have certainly raised the profile of NPSL soccer. So sorry Mr. Jones, I’m not going to sign the petition.

Nashville Clubs Merge To Form Nashville FC

It’s official. NPSL expansion club Atlas FC have merged with grassroots organization Nashville FC (long rumored to be seeking NPSL admission) and will be keeping the Nashville FC moniker with the Atlas identity to be used for youth and community outreach purposes. This is a great move for both sides, I look forward to following their progress this season!

Joplin Demize Join NPSL

JoplinDemize-logoThe National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) is proud to announce that the
Joplin Demize (Joplin, MO) have joined the league as an expansion team.

“The NPSL is looking forward to bringing high level soccer to the great
city of Joplin, Missouri,” NPSL Commissioner Michael Hitchcock remarked.
“One of the goals of NPSL is to grow the game of soccer in every city in
the U.S. so we’re excited to help inspire local youth players to reach
their potential while providing soccer fans with a team to support in
their own backyard.”

The Demize are led by the Hershewe family. Owners Ed and Alison Hershewe,
who operate a prominent law firm in Joplin, are known for their passionate
commitment to Joplin and its surrounding communities. They view this
venture as an opportunity to develop soccer on both sides of the spectrum,
including the youth game at the recreational and competitive levels.

Chris Hanlon will serve as Director of Soccer Operations in addition to
serving on the coaching staff with Armen Tonianse, Luis Percovich, and
Keegan Hudson.

Hanlon was a standout goalkeeper with the University of Pittsburgh before
moving on to play with the Sioux City Breeze, Des Moines Menace,
Springfield Storm, Springfield Demize, and Saint Louis Steamers. He has
served in a variety of roles on the coaching and management side of the
game, including time as a general manager, head coach, operations
director, and director of coaching. Hanlon holds the National, Advanced
National, and Premier Diploma with the NSCAA.

Tonianse, a USSF “C” licensed coach, was a top player at Division I
Western Illinois University before playing with the Thunder Bay Chill,
leading them to a franchise record for wins in 2003 and 2004. Percovich, a
graduate of William Woods University, starred for both the St. Louis Lions
and the Springfield Demize.

Hudson, who will serve as the team’s Technical Director, was named First
Team All-American during a national championship season at Richland
College in 2004. He would go on to play with the Austin Aztex and DFW
Tornados before heading to Europe to sign a pro contract with Belgian side
Royal Racing FC. He would return to the U.S. to sign with the Milwaukee
Wave (MISL) and Texas Outlaws (PASL-Pro).

The Demize were also quick to credit the work of Chris Cotten, Director of
the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department, as a key part of the project.

“We are very excited to be a part of the NPSL,” Hanlon declared. “The
amount of growth that the league has shown over the last two years is
impressive and to have the chance to play in a national league where we
can highlight college players in the southwest Missouri area and provide
an outlet to continue to develop soccer in the area, is intriguing.”

Home games will be played at The Joplin Athletic Facility on the new
Hershewe Stadium field. It features a lighted Bermuda grass field, covered
seating for home and away fans, a press box, and full concessions.

Players from Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Illinois expect to
make up the talent pool for the Demize. Players from local colleges like
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Neosho, Southwest Baptist University, Crowder,
and Missouri Valley will now have a place to showcase their talents. The
organization will continue to bring in top international talent to round
out their roster.

WYSA To Field NPSL Team

Westfield Youth Soccer Association (WYSA) and the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) today announced a new relationship between the two soccer entities. Beginning in the summer of 2014, WYSA will field an NPSL expansion team, to be known as Westfield Select. WYSA is located in suburban Indianapolis, 20 miles north of downtown in thriving Hamilton County.

“WYSA is excited to contribute to the growth of the National Premier Soccer League and expand our reach in the local soccer community,” said WYSA Executive Director Mark Webber, who will also serve as the General Manager for Westfield Select. “Currently, college talent from Midwest powerhouse Indiana University, as well as local Division I athletes from Butler University and IUPUI, have committed to the team. We are able to expand the club’s footprint thanks to our relationship with the City of Westfield and the world-class facility it has developed at Grand Park.”

The formation of an NPSL squad marks a major step in WYSA’s post-high school soccer offerings.  WYSA already has a flourishing youth soccer program, with strong recreational and travel leagues, as well as an adult social soccer league, and this will be competition at a whole new level. Westfield Select will play a 14-game schedule in the NPSL’s Great Lakes Conference, featuring well-supported clubs such as AFC Cleveland and Detroit City FC.

The team will be coached by two of the area’s best coaches: Head coach John Simmonds will be assisted by Joe Sochacki. Simmonds has coached youth soccer for 20+ years in Indiana, becoming the WYSA Boys Technical Director in 2009. He’s known success at every level of soccer. He holds a USSF National “C” License. His coaching resume includes one Region II Championship with U23 Men (USASA); he’s also taken two teams to the Region II semi-finals.  He has coached eight teams to state championships and four teams that were state runners-up.  In 2003 he was named Indiana Youth Soccer Boys Coach of the Year. In 2003 he was an assistant coach for the Indiana Blast.

Sochacki also has an impressive list of accomplishments. In 2011 he was recognized as Director of Coaching of the Year by Indiana Youth Soccer. He has coached 10 state championship teams, most recently in 2012 with U13, U14 and U19 teams. He also has taken two teams to the Region II finals. Sochacki organized the USSF Academy Program in Indiana and helped guide that program to two national championships. He worked with and helped develop 10 players from the area who have played for the U.S. Youth National Team. Sochacki also worked with and helped develop more than 100 players who went on to play college soccer. He spent 10 years coaching men’s soccer at Butler University, first as an assistant and then as head coach. In those 10 years, Butler’s men’s soccer team made four trips to the NCAA Tournament. Sochacki has his USSF “A” License.

“The formation of Westfield Select allows a platform for many of the college athletes and recent college graduates who grew up in central Indiana to come home and play on during the summer,” Sochacki said. “We look forward to working with the players and providing an environment that prepares the young men for their upcoming college seasons and beyond.”

“We are very excited to offer these NPSL games to our local soccer community,” Simmonds said.  “Between Westfield Select and Indy Eleven, Indy area soccer fans will have multiple opportunities to watch high caliber soccer play across the summer months. NPSL will feature some of the top local talent playing in their own backyard.”

Westfield Select will begin their tenure in 2014 at Westfield High School, while the team’s long-term plan will involve a move to Grand Park upon the complex’s completion. The squad will play seven home matches in Westfield between May and July, with the regular season to be followed by the Great Lakes Conference Tournament and the NPSL National Playoffs.

Electric City Joins NPSL for 2014

Last spring, the Electric City Shock announced intentions to pursue NPSL. Now almost a year later, Electric City is unveiled as the newest member of the National Premier Soccer League.

As expected, Electric City will be joining the Keystone Conference. Matches will be played at the University of Scranton Fitzpatrick Field.

Check Electric City out at http://www.electriccityshock.com, on Facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/ElectricCitySC, and on Twitter @ECShockSoccer.


Ft. Worth Soccer Group Announces NPSL Venture

Fort Worth Soccer Group, led by managing partner Playbook Management International has announced that they will be fielding a club in NPSL for the 2014 season.

In 2010 PMI successfully launched the San Antonio Scorpions of the NASL where the team won the NASL Regular Season championship in its inaugural season in front of an average of over 9,000 fans per game.

The club has announced a naming contest, season ticket schemes, and an innovative supporter season ticket which will include a replica jersey as well as free entrance to all away matches. You can connect with Ft. Worth soccer @ftworthsoccer  or www.facebook.com/FtWorthSoccer.

It will be interesting to see if PMI can ‘blueprint’ the success of an NPSL club, and as consultants for NPSL, if this will ultimately help the dozens of other clubs reach that seemingly elusive goal of ‘sustainable success’.