Since immersing myself in amateur adult American soccer over the last year, the primary circuit in my orbit has been the National Premier Soccer League. And considering my locale (the Upstate of South Carolina), Asheville City SC, Greenville FC, Atlanta SC (formerly the Atlanta Silverbacks FC) and Chattanooga FC have been the clubs I’ve kept the closest watch on.
It’s been fun to map out the “must-sees” of the summer schedule and watch the rollout of players via Twitter.
However, my biggest fan-boost came just a couple of days ago when the NPSL Founders Cup released its fall schedule.
That made it finally seem “real.”
Actually, it’s been real for a while now; the NPSL officially announced its professional venture on Nov. 15, 2018. Still, for me, sporting endeavors don’t reach the “Hey, it’s happening!” stage until a schedule is put together, and a schedule is now what we have.
The Founders Cup begins with East Region play beginning on August 10, West Region action starting on August 24, and the tournament finale taking place on November 9.
That’ll set the table for a full season starting in the spring of 2020.
So ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a warm round of applause for Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, Miami FC, Miami United FC, Milwaukee Torrent and New York Cosmos in the East and ASC San Diego, Cal FC, FC Arizona, Napa Valley 1839 FC and Oakland Roots in the West.
Eleven clubs – not franchises or satellites from a single entity business model, but clubs – will chart a new course in American soccer. And the cool thing is, no one really knows where that path will lead.
That’s scary, I suppose, but it also opens the door for so much opportunity.
You can pick any club out of the 11 and find a lot to like.
Chattanooga FC, of course, started offering equity shares in the club earlier this year, and is more than halfway to its goal of $1,070,000 raised through fan ownership.
Yep, I bought in because I want to say I was part of American soccer’s new beginning. I have no illusions that I’ll be given a suite at Finley Stadium, but how sweet is it to think you got a chance to move some earth and alter the landscape?
And while it’s tempting to call CFC “America’s Team” because it now has owners across the country, international supporters have also staked their claim.
The footprint is big and getting bigger; from a soccer standpoint, the Scenic City is, indeed, making quite a scene.
And from a personal standpoint, I was thrilled the Cosmos jumped into the Founders Cup.
This is a “brand” I’ve followed since its original North American Soccer League days, and one I’ll continue to support.
While not an official member of the 5 Points, I’m still #ForeverGreen and forever grateful the Cosmos are reborn.
Chattanooga FC hosts the Cosmos on August 10, so my conscience will have to balance ownership and a newfound love for a club founded in 2009 against a passionate rooting interest that is well into its fifth decade.
I guess that’ll be existential angst I can work through on my 250-mile drive to the stadium.
And if you want to apply a really, really broad definition to promotion/relegation, you can say that Napa Valley 1839 FC is the first team in the NPSL to “move up.”
When California United Strikers FC withdrew from the Founders Cup and NPSL, Napa Valley made the jump from amateur to pro.
After spending this summer in the NPSL West Region Golden Gate Conference, its players will play for pay starting in the fall.
I know, I know … it’s really not a pro/rel situation, but there’s nothing wrong with projecting, especially when you’re talking about a league that gets to write its own history.
My hope for the immediate future is that the Founders Cup proves to be a successful launch of what we’re currently calling “NPSL Pro.” Beyond that, I envision passionate supporters transforming a league into a revolution.
While I have no clue how it will ultimately be structured, I’d love to see a day when clubs like Asheville City SC, Atlanta SC and Greenville FC can play their way up – and into – this league.
Ideally, I want fan ownership to be the rule, not the exception, and hope a time comes when the Beautiful Game can be as attractive as any town chooses to make it.
For now, though, I’m just happy the Founders Cup is taking shape.
Its schedule is official, so I’m officially on board.