NPSL Weekly: League Underway Out West

Games begin in the NPSL and more are on the way from different conferences
by Daniel Casey   |   Saturday, April 20, 2013

NPSL Weekly – column on the NPSL and the league's clubs, players and owners

The first piece from the new Soccer Newsday column NPSL Weekly by Daniel Casey, covering the budding 4th division soccer league and its clubs. For NPSL coverage, opinions & analysis be sure to follow Daniel on Twitter @winslowbobbins and look out for his column here on SN.

It might not be the most well known or sexiest league, but the National Premier Soccer League, which shares the 4th tier of the US Soccer pyramid with the USL’s Premier Development League (PDL), is probably the fastest growing.

Like its PDL cousin, the teams of the NPSL are mostly made up of college players. Because the NCAA has refused to create sensible rules for collegiate soccer players, the college soccer season is short and limited in scope, leaving many players in a situation that stunts their development and ruins their fitness. Here is where the NPSL comes in to help, providing collegiate players with an opportunity to play at a comparable level to continue their development over the NCAA “offseason.”  

More than this, the NPSL also makes room for professional players and internationals to play alongside the domestic talent, a context that improves the skills and scope of many collegiate players.

It is in the ranks of the NPSL that the future domestic stars of the NASL and MLS will arise. Aggressive but reasoned expansion by the NPSL has put semi-pro soccer well within reach of most Americans. A quick look at a map of the territory covered by the league’s 60 teams should give you an idea of how the game has grown.

NPSL Weekly

And because the vast majority of players in the league are from local colleges, teams in the NPSL are more homegrown than any other soccer league in the country. These teams are made up of your neighbors.

Also, given that the growth of soccer has coincided with the maturation of many digital natives, the NPSL has perhaps the most extensive and casual social media presence. Twitter can be used to talk to players, coaches or even owners, who more often than not welcome chatting with fans of all ages. Facebook is a treasure trove of action shots of players on the pitch as well as supporter group activities.

Already underway is the Western Conference, which is broken up into 2 divisions: North and South. The Northern Division is dominated by teams in the Bay Area of California consisting of the San Francisco Stompers FC (@SFStompersFC), expansion side CD Aguiluchos USA (@CDAguiluchosUSA), which is a sister team to one of the biggest soccer clubs in El Salvador CD Aguila, Sacramento Gold FC (@sacramentogold), Sonoma County Sol (@SonomaCountySol), and Real San Jose (@RealSanJose).

The Southern Division features 2 San Diego teams – San Diego Boca (@sdboca) and San Diego Flash (@SDFlashSoccer), the latter part owned and coached by FOX Soccer commentator and Newcastle United legend Warren Barton. Also, the San Diego Flash is one of the few teams in the United States or the world that has a species of fan ownership (another being the Canadian PDL team Victoria Highlanders FC).

Also new to the league will be the Las Vegas Stallions FC (@lvstallions), which is the sole professional soccer team in Las Vegas. Joining San Diego and Las Vegas will be teams hailing from Orange County and Los Angeles County and the greater Los Angeles area, like FC Santa Clarita Storm (@fcscprosoccer), Orange County Pateadores (@OCPateadores), and FC Hasental (@fchasental).

These teams got their season underway on March 30 and will have at least a month on the other NPSL conferences.

On May 4, the Sunshine Conference dominated by teams in Florida will get underway with matches between the Cape Coral Hurricanes (@CapeHurricanes), Miami United FC (@MiaUnitedSoccer), Jacksonville United FC (@JaxUnited_NPSL) and Tampa Maraduers FC (@TampaMarauders).

And on May 10 the Midwestern Conference will get underway with 2 expansion teams, FC Sparta Michigan (@FCSpartaMI) and Zanesville Athletic FC (@ZanesvilleAFC) playing their first ever matches. FC Sparta will travel to face AFC Cleveland (@AFC_Cleveland) and Zanesville Athletic will have their inaugural match against FC Buffalo (@FCBuffalo).

The next day on May 11 the Northeast Conference will also get underway with matches between Keystone Division rivals FC Reading Revolution (@FCRevolution) vs. Hershey Wildcats and Greater Binghamton FC (@BinghamtonFC) vs. Junior Lone Star FC (@JuniorLoneStar).

The late spring start for most of the NPSL may hamper the chances of the teams that qualified to participate in this year’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. Eight teams – Brooklyn Italians (@BklynItalians), Chattanooga FC (@ChattanoogaFC), FC Hasental, FC Lehigh Valley United Sonic (@LVUSonic), Georgia Revolution (@GA_Revolution),  Madison 56ers (@Madison56ers), New York Red Bulls U-23s, and Sacramento Gold – will represent the NPSL. Play in the tournament will commence in late April.

It could be a big pay day for one of the clubs if they manage to pull off a deep run or act as giant-killers. The overall champion will be award $250,000, runner-up $60,000, and the team that advances the furthest from each lower division (NPSL, PDL, USL and NASL) will be given $15,000.

So far the West Conference has delivered some exciting soccer. Goal scoring is not an issue, either. With every team having played at least twice so far this young season, only OC Patedores remains unscored upon, which is the polar opposite of what has happened thus far to Las Vegas, which lost its opener 13-0 to FC Hasental.

The 1st National Player of Week, FC Hasental’s midfielder Armando Gaitan announced himself to all with a hat trick in his team’s rout of Las Vegas and he looks to have set the standard for Player of the Week.

This last week saw score lines of 4-3 (FC Santa Clarita v Las Vegas), 4-5 (San Diego Boca v FC Hasental), and 4-0 (CD Aguiluchos v San Francisco). The 2013 NPSL season is looking to be a fast paced, high-scoring league, which should sit well with many neutral and casual fans who desire big scores and dramatics as well as with those regular and fervent supporters craving for their team to dismantle opponents or come screaming back from being down.

This week will see a full ticket of action on Saturday, April 20. Las Vegas and San Diego Boca will square off, each looking for their first win. Another team looking to avoid losing its first 3 matches is San Francisco, which will have a hard time of it as it faces Sonoma County.

The only 2 undefeated teams, FC Hasental and OC Patedores, will face off in what will be the marquee match of the weekend. Hasental has scored 18 goals over its first 2 matches while Patedores have yet to surrender a goal. All the matches can be followed via the teams’ Twitter accounts.

Daniel CASEY

Nationality:
USA
College:
Carthage College Univ. of Notre Dame
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire & Minnesota Stars
Club Foreign:
Manchester United
Founder/editor of the literary magazine Gently Read Literature, active but barely read poet and literary critic, and an occasional English professor. Never got to play soccer until his mid-30s, so he is routinely schooled by U10 crowd at pick-up games.
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