While the Red Bulls are in the middle of a span of three games this week, the gap between the upcoming National Amateur Cup and United Premier Soccer League playoffs created a slight lull in the local lower league scene. While any updates on amateur sides chasing national glory are put on hold that doesn’t mean nothing happened over the last seven days. A new league is beginning to take shape, a century old club took a first step into semi-professionalism, and a new regional competition is nearing its conclusion with a local team nearing prize money.
New Amateur League Continues to Take Shape
A smaller piece of news making the rounds this past week was the continued development of a new amateur soccer league in New York City. The East River League is looking to begin play later this fall with hopes of bringing more organization to underrepresented areas of the city.
“Our league will tackle one crucial problem – why are soccer rich communities not being represented in (Eastern New York State Soccer Association) competition? The ERL feels there is tremendous talent in Queens and the Bronx that should be showcased,” an ERL representative told OaM in an email.
The league itself is set to operate under the umbrella of the Eastern District Soccer League, an institution that’s organized soccer in the lower hudson valley for nearly 100 years. Using the EDSL and keeping teams close together is one way the league wants to keep the cost of playing down for teams. But according to the league representative the EDL also hopes it will help create bonds, both rivalry and fan wise, within the community.
“Nothing fills a community with more pride than to see someone from their “block” succeed,” the representative said. “The ERL wants to be that bridge linking soccer players to soccer success. The sport is changing and has been growing exponentially. Right now our city boasts three professional soccer clubs and a few more just outside the city border. If we love the sport and our city, we need to change how NYC soccer is currently structured and organized. The ERL will be the leaders of this change.”
It’s a mindset one of those three professional teams has previously come out in support of. Last year, New Amsterdam FC sporting director Maximilian Mansfield said, nearly word for word, that seeing people from your community succeed in soccer is both a great way to garner fans and get more people into the game.
“The ERL will operate in a break-even economic structure. Player registration will be at cost, field permits will be at cost, and we will award generous cash prizes to our teams. We will work with clubs to prepare for higher competition. We will give our members access to local trainers/coaches, fields, and pro teams we currently have built relationships with.”
The ERL hopes to follow an almost European like structure when it comes to awarding spots into ENYSSA competitions. One example could be that the league champion gets their entry paid for into U.S. Open Cup qualifying while the runner-up enters the state tournament for the National Amateur Cup.
The league is hoping to launch with six teams in its inaugural premier division with none of the squads currently announced. However, one possible team could be Sporting Astoria which recently announced it would be leaving the Cosmopolitan Soccer League after 16 years. The team’s press release claimed it would “join a new league and become a founding member.” The ERL has also recently retweeted Sporting onto their feed.
Kearny Scots AC Hold First Friendly
On Saturday, new Eastern Premier Soccer League side Kearny Scots AC held their first friendly since rejoining the semi-professional ranks. With a roster nearly half comprised of trialists the Scots fell to Sierra Stars FC (Middlesex County, NJ), 3-5, at Harvey Field in Kearny, NJ.
The two organizations aren’t total strangers since both field teams in the Garden State Soccer League, a feeder league to the EPSL. The Scots finished in 8th place during the 2020–21 A North Division (2nd tier) while the Stars finished 2nd in the B North Division (3rd tier). The latter also finished runner-up in the B Division League Cup, falling to Giresun Spor USA (Edgewater Park, NJ) in penalty kicks.
On Saturday though there wasn’t a large crowd at Harvey and the soccer on the pitch wasn’t top class. That being said, the game was the first step in a return to form for the Scots after nearly 50 years playing at the amateur level. The same team that won the American Soccer League five straight seasons between 1937 and 1941 and reached the semifinals of the 1935 National Challenge Cup (U.S. Open Cup) is ready to try and return to the game’s higher levels starting with this next season.
Team manager William Mera-Orozoco told OaM the game against the Stars was what he expected to see; messy but with potential.
“The game was a typical first preseason game,” he said. “The team was sloppy with the boys having tired legs from all the preseason running we’ve been doing. We also used the match to look at some trialists and evaluate some youngsters to grow our squad depth. All in all - it was a useful exercise; if not pleasant on the eye. Definitely a stepping stone for us to build from.”
The gameday roster included former New Amsterdam FC defender Michael Nastu. The Monroe, NY native made seven appearances for the side, including two during the fall playoffs, in their inaugural 2020–21 National Independent Soccer Association campaign (of which the EPSL is an amateur affiliated league). Another name was Sevag Kherlopian who played collegiately at Kean University before heading to the German lower leagues, playing striker for teams such as CSV Bochum and TuS Ennepetal.
“It felt nice to get out there and play a real match,” said Nastu who also wore the captain’s armband during the match. “The preseason has been tough with lots of running and getting used to the new squad with the boys.
“Overall, I felt the performance was alright. Just silly mistakes and miscommunications really killed us. Fair play to the opposition who made it difficult for us to get into a rhythm. I was pleased with the mentality of the boys and look forward to our other friendlies as we gel as a group.”
The Scots continue to prepare for their upcoming EPSL season which is set to begin in early September. The current plan is to play games at Kearny High School Stadium with admission being free. The hope is to try and build a fanbase and get as many people from the Soccertown, USA community to come out.
While New York Contour United prepares to head to Los Angeles for the United Premier Soccer League national semifinals this weekend (and they are seeking donations to help with the cost), a few other things are happening around here.
Earlier this year the UPSL introduced “regional cups”, or separate competitions from the regular seasons where teams could sign up for a chance to win some extra cash. Essentially, it’s bonus soccer for teams that won’t make the postseason so they can keep playing competitive games. It also gives expansion UPSL teams a chance to dip their toes into the water before joining the typical league season.
One of these competitions, the American Cup, began with eight teams from four nearby states and is already down to two. New Jersey Alliance FC (Lyndhurst NJ) defeated Real New York FC (Jamaica, Queens) in one semifinal while NY Contour U23 fell to Sure Sports FC (Maryland), 3-1 in the other. The two remaining teams will meet later this month for a chance to win the cup and $2,000.