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Lower League Round-Up: January 20, 2022

Local amateurs leagues are back in action after winter break

Yemen FC poses for a team photo ahead of its league match against CD Iberia.
Photo by Ibrahim Saeed

It’s been a long winter around these parts. Despite a few exceptions, soccer in the Tri-State Area wrapped up for 2021 after the guys across the river won MLS Cup. It’s been cold and depressing for anyone, especially New York Red Bulls fans. But the end is in sight and the 2022 preseason is already set to start this weekend. But soccer in New York is also returning in other forms and outside of the professional spectrum.

The amateur game is always playing whether you know it or not. The harsh local winter may keep teams off the field but they return fairly quickly. If you thought the MLS offseason was short you’ve seen nothing yet! That includes leagues, league cups, and major area/regional tournaments.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be going over some of the best upcoming contests the local lower leagues have to offer in the near future. I can’t make you go to these games, but hopefully I can peak your interest enough that you look into it. Maybe give a team a follow on social media or perhaps head out yourself.

While there are plenty of options to start with, I think the best option might be the one that starts this weekend. The Cosmopolitan Soccer League might be on break but the near century old organization will be running both of it’s league cups over the next few weeks. While normally the tournaments just start in January and finish in the summer, the CSL has elected to play both over five weeks ahead of the league season’s resumption.

The format is fairly simple for both the John Kilby League and Harry J. Saunders Cups. Participating teams are divided into three groups and will face on-another over two to three match-days: January 23, January 30, and February 6. The top team from each group plus the highest finishing second place team will advance to the knockout semi-finals on February 13. The Cup Finals will be held two weeks later on February 27. All of these dates are weather dependent because it’s still winter in New York.

The league’s Over-30 Cup will also be happening over those dates for anyone interested.

John Kilby League Cup

(Full competition schedule)

The Cosmopolitan Soccer League’s main league cup, named after former president John Kilby, will be playing it’s 33rd edition this year. The competition is open to teams playing at every level of the league pyramid, including both the first and second division reserves. This year nine teams were divided into three groups for the round robin. Since there are less teams, there is a chance the knockout stage starts a week early.

Defending champion Borgetto FC leads the pack in Group A. Head coach Ivo Mohorovic’s squad is coming off a treble year in 2020/21, winning the league’s Division 2 title and the Ryder-Vass Under-23 tournament. This year in the top tier, the team currently sits in third place with forward Angelo Bordenca being one of the league’s top goal scorers. They’re joined by Manhattan Celtic II (Division II) and Desportiva Sociedad NY Reserve (Division 2 - Reserve) in the group. As Celtic’s first team earned promotion to the Eastern Premier Soccer League last year, the former reserve team elected to remain in the CSL as Celtic II. This also means there is a Manhattan Celtic II Reserve team in the reserve league. Make of that what you will.

Group B is similar to the former with one first team headlining alongside two reserve sides. Hoboken FC 1912 is currently undefeated in the CSL’s Division I (8-3-0) and sits in second place. With players such James Reed (eight goals), Aitor Hernandez (four goals), and Kevin Bzdek (four assists) it might come as a shock that the unit is actually more known for its defense. Head coach Steve Korfiatis’ backline has only allowed four goals in eleven games, the least by a large amount in the entire top division.

They’ll be flanked by New York Shamrock SC Reserve and Borgetto FC Reserve (both of Division 1 - Reserve). The Rocks’ are coming off a double last season after winning both the Division 1 and Reserve league titles. This year the reserves also lead the table at the break.

Group C is probably the most interesting of the bunch as it holds two defending divisional champions. The aforementioned New York Shamrocks SC (Division 1) may have hopes of winning the cup for a second time in their history (2017-18). But so far this season the group hasn’t fully gelled well in the top flight. A four game winless streak early on seemed like a typical title hangover mixed in with roster issues that are exacerbated by COVID-19. But a strong six-game unbeaten run pushed the Rocks back into the top four heading into the break. A strong performance in the cup could align the team heading into the Spring.

The other defending champion is New York International FC of Division 2. After winning both the North Conference and Division 3 Playoff last season, the social media darlings of the league have kept busy. With a 6-1-2 record at the break (with one game in hand due to a very understandable postponement), NYIFC is positioning itself to jump into title contention this Spring. The defense is one of the best in the division, tied for second with only eight goals allowed, with just enough offensive talent to get away with three points in most games.

The final team in Group C is Desportiva Sociedad NY (Division 2). They are currently ninth in the division (record of 2-1-7) and in danger of being relegated should they not put some distance between themselves and the bottom two. It’s hard to see them making a mark against either the Rocks or NYIFC but strong performances could give the team momentum heading into the league slate.

Harry J. Saunders Cup

(Full competition schedule)

Despite being the secondary league competition, the Harry J. Saunders Cup is still no easy title to win. The competition is named after Harry Saunders, whose resume includes being a league president, president of the Southern New York state association, president of New York Hota Bavarian SC (1971 National Challenge Cup champions), and being a 1981 inductee into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

As it’s open to only Division 2 - Reserve, Division 3 and Division 4 teams, the slate of competitors can vary drastically. Point being though, it also means plenty of opportunity for lower division sides to make a run, battle higher tier competition, and possibly win their first league honors plus prize money. This year, the twelve teams will be taking part with a majority coming from the highly expanded Division 3.

Starting off, Group A comprises Barnstonworth Rovers FC (Division 3 - West), Brooklyn City FC (Division 3 - Central), FC Partizani NY (Division 3 - Central), and Falco FC (Division 4). The lone D4 team in the group might actually be a dark horse contender to reach the knockout stage. With 31 goals scored and only nine allowed in the fall, it beats the other three teams in both of those categories along with goal differential (+22). That being said Barnstonworth Rovers are no stranger to the Saunders Cup winning it previously in back-to-back years (2015-16, 2016-17).

Group B is headlined by New York International FC Reserve (Division 2 - Reserve). As the lone D2 Reserve side in the competition, NY International might be considered one of the favorites to win the whole thing. Head coach and player Christopher Minty has helped lead the squad to third place in the D2 Reserve table but that also includes a two-game losing streak heading into the winter break. His team, including goalkeeper Zack Wertheim, may falter in some of these games. But using the competition against lower division sides might be the best way to tune up ahead of the spring schedule.

The rest of the group includes Central Park Rangers Black (Division 3 - Central), Desportiva Sociedad NY City (Division 3 - East), and LaLiga Academy NY (Division 4). All three are currently either in the middle or lower parts of their respective table. Of note while LaLiga’s roster is mostly composed of younger talent there are some notable exceptions. Iván Cifuentes, a former Spanish pro who won a Segunda División B title with Albacete Balompié B, has played league matches for the squad this past fall.

Finally, Group C comprises Brooklyn Bound SC (Division 3 - Central), Laberia FC (Division 3 - East), Tibet FC, and Yemen FC (Division 3 - Central). Of the bunch, Tibet FC is actually a new team that only joined the CSL last week. As an arm of the Tibetan and Himalayan community of New York and New Jersey, the team will likely be an extension of the group’s already existing youth soccer program and will kick off it’s first ever match against Yemen FC. Labëria FC, named after the Albanian professional football team of the same name, is the defending Saunders Cup champion after defeating Sons of Queens, 3-0, in the 2021 Final.