As American lower-league soccer comes back to life over the next couple of months, you’re probably sleeping on one region in particular and their lower-league scene.
In fact, that’s probably true for a lot of regions. Today, though, I’d like to give you an introduction to a league that’s serving the budding soccer scene in Northern Ohio.
Gary Wiggins is the league’s Director of Marketing, and he was kind enough to gather some introductory info about the league from its main men.
The overarching question we always have for a new league is “why?” Knowing what caused a league to start gives us an idea of why it’s worth following, so that very question was put to Braden Mast, the NOSL’s Director of Operations. His answer was a familiar one to those of us who follow the game at lower levels in the US.
I decided to start the NOSL because there weren’t any well-organized adult soccer leagues in the area for high school, college, and young adults. The idea was to create a league in which both clubs and players can grow and develop.Braden Mast, Founder and Director of Operations, NOSL
That’s the reason many league and club members do what they do, and it’s exciting to see a new area of the country’s promising talent get that opportunity.
That’s not to say there aren’t other options for clubs in the midwest looking for a league, though. NOSL sets itself apart when it comes to their mindset around their member clubs, as president Tyrone Hostetler explained.
We focus on working with our clubs to ensure they are equipped with the tools and business relationships to sustain long-term growth. A lot of other leagues seem to be out to make a profit but we would rather that money go towards helping clubs sustain themselves. The goal is for all of our teams to be around 10, 15 years down the road. The NOSL is set up in a way that makes it easy for people new to running teams or even a business, to operate a club and grow it from nothing.Tyrone Hostetler, NOSL President
Lots of leagues will tell you that’s a priority for them, but as we all know and have experienced to one degree or another, some back that statement up better than others. As little as we know what NOSL’s future will be after just one season of existence, it’s clear that the people at the helm of this league get it. They know why it matters to support clubs first and what it means to the state of the game on a national level.
As a league, we succeed when our teams succeed. The league cares a lot about the quality and longevity of our member clubs. Sustainability of clubs is one of the biggest challenges in lower-league soccer in this country and one that we believe that we are uniquely positioned to help solve.Braden Mast
As many other local leagues around them have done, the NOSL looks to the future and envisions a system of promotion and relegation within their member clubs, despite the fact that there’s just one division for now.
One of the long-term goals that we have probably spent the most time talking about internally is our desire for the NOSL is to have multiple divisions in an open system for all the men’s, women’s, and youth leagues. Eventually, we think that each division could have around 10-16 teams in each division. We also want to get to the point where each club in the league would be able to field a men’s team, a women’s team, and have some form of youth system.Tyrone Hostetler
And yes, you did see them mention women’s soccer. Not only is that a long-term goal for the league, it’s a present aspect of their league now and a pillar of their focus moving forward.
Having both a men’s and women’s league is an uncommon thing for newer leagues and there is a reason for this. I’m not going to lie, it has been a challenge organizing an additional women’s league as we are continuously working on growing our men’s league. From the start, we decided we wanted to have the NOSL encompass both men’s and women’s soccer, as well as youth soccer in the future. It is important to us that all people have access to the beautiful game and that is why we care so much about providing leagues for both men and women. Although the Women’s NOSL (WNOSL) hit some roadblocks and isn’t going to be ready for this summer, we have set a foundation with our existing members and have plans to get the existing women’s teams some action this summer.Braden Mast
But what does the on-field component offer us? Are these clubs going to give fans an exciting season to watch? Tyrone says yes:
The NOSL’s inaugural season in 2019 was a big success and part of this wasTyrone Hostetler
due to how competitive all the teams were. It was very entertaining and since basically
doubling in size, we expect even more competition and a lot of exciting matchups. Our teams are largely built of local talented high school and college players. Most of these guys have played with or against each other in high school, college, or club over the years. I’m expecting a very tight league table this year and fans that attend a game should expect some entertaining matchups.
After hearing from Gary personally and from Tyrone and Braden through these quotes, the NOSL has my interest piqued. It’ll certainly be a league to watch as it grows and develops, and the ambition is there to turn it into a great asset for lower-league soccer locally and nationally.
You can stay up to date with what the league is doing by following them @NOSLsoccer on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Their website features news and will update schedules and results this summer, so be sure to give that a click as well!
Thanks as always for reading and support local soccer!