Welcome to a new SmallScale Arguments post! Looking at what’s been most popular among our admittedly small viewership, SmallWorld Soccer (aka just me) has decided that the NPSL is a well of reader interest that should be drawn from again after successes such as Minneapolis City’s feature post.
With that said, we’re going to take a gander at the eleven (as of writing) expansion clubs joining the NPSL in 2020 and rank them based on my own personal opinion of how excited I am to see them in the league.
I may take into account things like prior club history, presence on social media (if you think that’s not a valid criterion, then ok boomer), location, and just my plain old gut feeling.
All that to say, this will be anything but factual. Please feel free to murder me on Twitter if I rank your club lower than its rightful place.
Let’s get this list kicked off, shall we?
11) Valeo FC (Newton, MA): A while back, I wrote a SmallScale Arguments post about Valeo’s entrance into the NPSL and Boston City’s response as an existing NPSL member. Back then, I took the stance that Valeo deserves to be in the league, and I especially thought the club deserved some time to create their own brand and hopefully add something to the lower-league scene in Boston. While I still feel like Valeo’s presence is a good thing, they haven’t exactly jumped at the opportunity to be invovled in the lower-league community and get people excited about what they’re up to. Hopefully I’m proven wrong soon, but as of now, it doesn’t really feel like Valeo is taking their NPSL status seriously. I prefer to think they’re just gearing up for a really special inaugural season and getting everything prepared for that point.
10) Las Vegas Legends (Las Vegas, NV): I’m a bit conflicted on the Legends. The club hasn’t been active on Twitter since 2015 until its NPSL expansion announcement. That’s a bit worrisome for me, but it’s also a blank slate moment for the club, I suppose. Another worrying factor for me is that Las Vegas Lights have already expanded into USL Championship and seem to have a pretty good hold on the Vegas soccer community. All that said, Legends can certainly build up trust and excitement on my end with some good PR and content that tells the community about its goals/plans. I just haven’t really seen much of that so far.
9) North Alabama SC (Huntsville, AL): A very intriguing addition because of the mystery around it. It’s very difficult to get a whole lot of information on the men’s team, but it seemed like they had a pretty solid women’s squad in the WPSL. Consider me interested to see what happens, but not quite bursting at the seams to watch their every move. Until I know more about the culture of the Coalition, that is (and yes, SC stands for “Soccer Coalition”).
8) Pensacola FC (Pensacola, FL): This situation reminds me a lot of NASC in the previous block. This, however, is a bit different because Pensacola’s female affiliate is absolutely dominant in the WPSL. They won the national finals this summer, and they’re so much better than their local competition that their academy team competes in their WPSL division. They actually competed pretty evenly with the other clubs, so, yeah, they’re pretty good. However, that says little to nothing about how the men’s club will do. It doesn’t seem like communication is great on the women’s side for a national champion, so hopefully that doesn’t carry over to the men’s team now that they’re entering a national league as well.
7) Carpathia FC (Sterling Heights, MI): I really don’t know what to make of Carpathia. I don’t have much info to go off of with them, since they have a relatively quiet social media presence. However, they have a pretty cool ethnic and familial identity to them, and I think that’s something unique that not every lower-league soccer club can claim. It should also be mentioned that they won’t charge for admission in their opening year. If they really key in on and use their strengths, they could develop a really nice culture within the club that would be well worth supporting!
6) AFC Mobile (Moblie, AL): I like the focus at the club on grassroots growth and their mention of previous success stories as inspirations. I think there’s a lot of potential for Mobile to be a really great addition to the league and a positive influence on the soccer community in the Gulf Coast area and around the country, but I do feel like that potential isn’t quite being reached yet. I’ll be watching to see if it does get reached in the near future, and I’m looking forward to see what level of success the club can find in its opening season.
5) Maryland Bobcats (Germantown, MD): First off, I’m glad the club changed their name in accordance with the move. World Class Premier just wouldn’t have worked for an NPSL club trying to be involved with the community. The logo redesign is nice, and I really like their activity on social media to involve themselves with the lower-league community. However, I’m not convinced that the club will succeed on the field immediately after moving from the UPSL. They’ve performed well there, but the NPSL is a whole new monster, and if their youth setup is all the Bobcats have to pull from, they might find it tough sledding on the field at first. I’m still definitely excited to see where the league jump takes them, though, and I’ll be following their journey closely.
4) Muskegon Risers (Muskegon, MI): There are a lot of great pieces in place for Muskegon to potentially top this list. These include a fun, city-uniting name and brand, history in some unique leagues and even in the realm of indoor soccer, and a club leader who’s growing the community economically as well as in soccer terms. Dedicated and experienced leadership is what’s missing from a lot of lower-league clubs, so this could be a great success story in contrast to clubs that have folded recently. I’ll be very interested to track their success on the field and from a financial perspective in 2020!
3) Fort Wayne FC (Fort Wayne, IN): Let me just start by saying that I LOVE Fort Wayne’s website. They’ve done a beautiful job in general with marketing and PR (my academic specialty, so I have a special place in my heart for the lower-league clubs doing this well). More than that, their community focus is awesome and evident right from the start. It really feels like they’re in it for the Fort Wayne community and using the pieces already in place to serve and grow soccer in the region. Sounds like a fun club to keep an eye on in my book!
2) Port City FC (Gulfport, MS): The club definitely has a promising location and a beautiful crest going for it, and their stadium is apparently the only soccer-specific venue in the state of Mississippi. But what really stands out to me with Port City is its focus on developing underfunded and overlooked communities in the Gulfport area and using soccer as a means to that end. The club is not for profit and it really seems like the intentions are way deeper than a soccer club. That attitude is exactly what makes lower-league soccer special and what SmallWorld Soccer was created to highlight, and for that reason alone, I think Port City would probably win the day as the club I’m most excited about to follow and support in 2020. However, they don’t quite come in at number one, mostly because of…
1) Tallahassee SC (Tallahassee, FL): This club looks like a beautiful addition to the NPSL on paper, and I think they’re a legit member of the lower-league soccer community that could build a fantastic following and a worthy on-field product. They have a pervasive community feel, a cool stadium with history, and a leader who’s pretty relateable as a guy who just loves his soccer and his community. They also have ambition that suggests success and a positive vibe about them from what I’ve gathered in my research. I absolutely love their nickname, the Battle Lions, and their crest to match. Then there’s their supporters group, the Olde Fields Battalion, and the history behind their motto, #ToTheGoal. I love it all and I can hardly contain my interest and excitement in the on-field product as well as the off-field impact that Tallahassee will have on its surrounding area.
That’s all for this list of NPSL expansion teams! Tallahassee SC is officially SmallWorld Certified as the 2020 Team to Watch in the NPSL!
Let me know how you feel about the order of the clubs.
What’s the most important aspect of an expansion club for you? Drop a comment on this post or reach out on SmallWorld Social to let your opinion be known!
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