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FC Motown to join USL League Two for 2021 season

Morris County semi-pro club will continue to maintain a team in the NPSL structure

Photo by Mike Battista

FC Motown, the elite amateur club based in Morris County, will join USL League Two for the 2021 season. The club has spent most of its history competing in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), a similar level national league, as well as local state and regional amatuer leagues such as the Garden State Soccer League (GSSL) and Northeast Super League (NESL).

USL League Two has already announced 11 other new teams for 2021, including three other New Jersey teams with one of those also being from Morris County (Morris Elite SC). Including Motown, seven of these new teams also previously played in the NPSL.

The team has confirmed to Once A Metro that it will continue to field a team in the NPSL as well. This follows precedent set by other area NPSL teams, namly Philadelphia Lone Star FC and West Chester United, that joined League Two prior to 2020.

Founded in 2012 and calling Drew University home, Motown’s first team has been coached by former New York Red Bulls’ academy team captain Šaćir Hot since 2016. Hot, who was Red Bull New York’s fourth-ever homegrown signing, has led the team to a 23-1-5 record in the NPSL including playoffs.

On a national level, Motown has made a name for itself thanks to its postseason results and appearances in national tournaments. In its inaugural NPSL season in 2018, the club reached the NPSL National Championship Final defeating sides like New York Cosmos B and FC Mulhouse Portland on route. The team lost in the title game, 3-1, to professional-laden Miami FC 2 (who now compete in the USL Championship) in front of 2,000 fans at Drew.

Besides that, Motown has competed in three straight Open Cup tournaments since 2017 including an appearance as a local qualifier. Most recently, in one of the most exciting matches in the 2019 tournament, Hot’s side fell in a penalty kick shootout to New York Red Bulls U-23 in the First Round.

Motown was set to take on three-time tournament champion New York Pancyprian-Freedoms in the 2020 First Round prior to it’s cancelation, with current plans to hold the rescheduled 2021 tournament later this year.

When it came to joining USL League Two, team co-owner Dan Karosen told Once A Metro that it all came down to timing. Motown’s recent youth team additions and the growth of the league in the state were all huge factors.

“We are thrilled to provide a platform for our younger generation of players in the USL2,” Karosen said. “If we do this properly the USL2 team should be of similar talent level for our traditional first team in the NPSL.”

“It also gives us two cracks at an Open Cup bid (based on national league results) which is gold for the club.”

The Open Cup tournament has been a huge motivation for Motown since its inception and over its growth the past few years. With teams that included former pros and local talent, such as 2018 NPSL Golden Boot winner Matt Nigro and two-time Cosmopolitan Soccer League MVP Chris Katona, the chance to play professional teams in the tournament is always on the team’s horizon.

On the league side, Motown has performed strongly wherever it went but playing against high talent New Jersey clubs might be the best litmus test Motown can get. While the NPSL currently only has three New Jersey teams, the three new League Two teams in the state join three already established sides, including New York Red Bulls U-23.

As Karosen also explained, travel costs are one of the biggest cost impediments in the lower leagues. For reference, the NPSL’s Keystone Conference competition is spread across all of New Jersey (down as far as Atlantic City, NJ) and into Eastern Pennsylvania. League Two’s Metropolitan Division teams are located across the northern half of New Jersey and New York City/Long Island with the farthest being in South Huntington, NY.

Another reason, as Karosen explained, was Motown’s development of new teams. Since its founding in 2012, the club has focused on adult players in both local and national leagues. This even includes professional players with local roots such as Dilly Duka (RBNY, Columbus Crew), R.J. Allen (New York City FC), and Sidney Rivera (Puerto Rico National Team). While the NPSL can have both younger and older players, League Two is “fully amateur” meaning players are generally younger and any professionals cannot be paid.

However in 2020 Motown announced a new Under-23 side that began playing in the EDP’s men’s central red division. A winning record in this, alongside scrimmages against Red Bull Academy teams and other local non-league sides, were positive signs for front office staff like Karosen.

“We had great success with our foray into U23 so that gave us confidence we could do big things with a different player base,” he said.

That different player base, Karosen hopes, might be coming from local colleges. He noted that the Red Bulls’ and others in-house development of players could benefit the team by allowing more local talent a chance to get competitive minutes while also remaining college eligible.

“With (Red Bull) and Philly going so young, and most likely shying away from college players, we think this is a good opportunity to get some of the best potential pro college talent in the New York metro area.”

He did note however that the U-23 team has no current plans to join the USL Academy. Additionally, the 2021 Open Cup team roster, which qualified based on 2019 NPSL league results will be admitted into the tournament since Motown is keeping a team in the NPSL, will still mostly consist of experienced talent including Duka and others.

In all, Motown will be fielding four teams in the upcoming year (USL2, NPSL, U23, GSSL/NESL). For the team that’s won the NPSL’s Keystone Conference the past two seasons and have dominated the GSSL’s super division for nearly a decade, there are hopes that the organization’s success on these levels can translate into this new venture.