A few years back, they were the darlings of lower-league American soccer and the public representation of our corner of the game on a national scale.
Now, Christos FC of Baltimore, MD is a member of two separate (and competing) national leagues and gunning for continued growth.
In a Philadelphia Lone Star-esque move, Christos has added USL League Two to a large portfolio of leagues they participate in. They’re a part of the NPSL, the NESL, and now USL2, and that’s not including their over-40 team.
To be sure, there are really cool aspects of this move, especially given that Christos become Maryland’s first USL2 team. But the raging debate is reignited here: is any growth for a solid club good growth, or is joining certain leagues a hinderance to the development of the game in the US?
I’ll leave that for others to discuss, but I did want to get a perspective from within the club. For that, I’m very grateful to say that vice president and head coach Lawrence Sancomb took me up on a chat about the move and what it means for Christos.
Because we talked over the phone, I want to clear up the fact that these comments are paraphrased and not necessarily direct quotes. They’re from notes directly taken from our call and are fully accurate, but just figured I’d throw in that FYI in the spirit of good journalism.
In any case, Lawrence explained to me that because Christos’ teams are a blend of different guys at each level, they’re always looking for new ways to get more players on the pitch at a high competition level.
It’s no secret that the DMV area in and around Washington DC is a hotbed for young soccer talent, and Christos have historically done an excellent job tapping into it and giving players a high-level opportunity to keep playing after their school ball comes to an end.
Thus, says Lawrence, USL League Two provides them with a new piece to help them move and operate differently. It’s another chance to put 11 guys on the pitch who deserve to be there, and for Christos, it’s hard to argue with that logic since it’s the ethos of their club.
Lawrence was also quick to mention that Christos plays what he referred to as a chess game. That’s to say that the club is very intentional in the way that they go about league affiliations and don’t just jump into things. For as many quality players the DC area has, there are an equal amount of leagues and competitions Christos could put them in. They didn’t see stars in a pre-professional league and dive into deep water, but rather explored the option fully and felt like it was the right move to grow their opportunity base.
I had to ask Lawrence about whether there was an emphasis on winning one competition over the other two they’re participating in, and his answer was an expected one: he told me that they all matter and that Christos doesn’t enter a competition it doesn’t expect to win.
As a side note, their trophy case backs this up. Half a dozen USASA national titles speaks for itself!
Another thing Lawrence spoke to that I found particularly interesting was in regards to the idea of promotion and relegation in the US.
He told me that at a professional level, the idea of pro/rel is fantastic in theory but isn’t feasible for a club like Christos. He pointed out other examples of highly successful and historic clubs such as Bavarians SC in Wisconsin, Hoboken FC 1912 in New Jersey, and nearby Lansdowne Yonkers in New York. He says none of these clubs are even approached when the pro/rel conversation comes up.
To him, all those clubs need to and deserve to be a part of a pro/rel conversation, but none of them have the money to conform with the PLS that we all know and love (pains me even to write those words sarcastically tbh).
Continuing that thought process, he sees the value in pushing for pro/rel but feels that in the system we have, Christos and other clubs should play where they have the opportunity to play and make an impact in their communities. We can certainly debate what’s in and out of bounds as far as which competitions are making the game better and which aren’t, but I think what can’t be faulted is the intention and true impact in Maryland that Christos are making.
Lawrence’s final admonition to me was that Christos is all about being around good soccer people. For him, soccer is an inherently good thing. What he sees is a lot of people bashing a lot of other people, and in his eyes, that’s not right. His call to action is that we need to be a little more supportive of other soccer people, and he was equally reflective as he pointed out that he often finds himself needing to heed his own advice in that regard.
It feels right to this opinionated guy with a blog that Christos have earned the right to choose which (and how many) leagues are right for them to do what they do. They’ve done their thing consistently and made the game better for the people around them. It’s that simple. There’s more to the discussion than we can include in a blog post, but I think it’s healthy for you and for me to see more gray in a corner of the internet where we tend to focus on the black and white. Amidst the debates, conversations, and pushes for reform, there are people and clubs in every league in this country doing good for the game.
If we took the time to appreciate them for the good they do and seek to replicate it in our own backyards, we’d likely be better off.
I’ll step off my soapbox now and say one more emphatic thank you to Lawrence for being such an open book. It can be rare to hear so plainly and honestly from a club on why they make the moves they do, and it makes me truly happy to be able to bring a new side of a story to light.
Support local soccer (wherever it is) and stay weird!