Soccer’s steady rise in popularity here in these United States will take on a decidedly local flavor next year when the Kingston Stockade Football Club begins playing in the Northeast Region of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).
The expansion Stockade FC, with its name and logo referencing the historic wooden stockade fence protecting the mid-17th century Dutch settlement once called Wiltwyck, will play its home games at Dietz Stadium. Though they’re based in Kingston, as the only semi-professional soccer team in the area, club Chairman Dennis Crowley said he hopes they will find support from fans of the beautiful game throughout the Hudson Valley.
“Our thinking all along is that the Hudson Valley is long underserved in terms of having a really competitive semi-pro team,” Crowley said. “Let’s see if we can put one in place and see how well it does and see how the soccer landscape unfolds over the next 5-10 years.”
The NPSL, which operates in the fourth tier of the U.S. Soccer pyramid, seems enthusiastic about Stockade FC.
“New York is a great state for soccer,” said NPSL Chairman Joe Barone in a press release last week. “Adding Stockade FC gives the NSPL yet another market in the Northeast. It should be very exciting news for our fans and supporters.”
The official announcement about the new team came at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 27, a time of Black Friday mania and post-Thanksgiving food comas. But the news still traveled quickly, with the club’s official social media pages picking up hundreds of fans, and the buzz extending into the traditional soccer realm of supporters clubs.
“I cannot believe how well it went over,” said Crowley, adding that there’s a tangible grassroots feel to the excitement. “We’re hearing rumors of supporters groups that are starting to get together. It’s inspiring. There’s a little bit of risk involved. You don’t know how people are going to react until you hit the go button. There’ve been folks following us on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook. People are really genuinely interested and excited. To be honest, we haven’t put a ton of effort into reaching out. There’s no paid marketing here, it’s all just social media. I’m trying to imagine how big it’s going to be a couple of months from now. It’s really fun to imagine how far it can go.”
More on that in a moment, because for now Stockade FC’s next order of business is to hire a coaching staff.
“We’ve interviewed a handful of candidates, and we’ll probably select someone in late December or early January,” Crowley said. “And then once the coach is in place we’ll kind of let them run with it. They’re going to have an assistant coach, probably a goalkeeping coach. One of the things we’ve been asking the coaches is to put together a plan of what the first 30 days looks like, what the first 10 days looks like. What are the first couple of phone calls you’re going to be making? Who are you going to be recruiting? What will be your schedule for tryouts? How many tryouts do you think we should have? We’re meeting a lot of these candidates and having a dialogue about what their plan is. That’s what I’m most interested in. How are they going to engage the community? How are they going to be able to attract or recruit players?”
In keeping with the local theme, next year’s tryouts will likely yield an inaugural roster of athletes from the surrounding area.
“I imagine that a lot of the players will come from nearby collegiate programs,” Crowley said. “You can almost think of it as maybe like a college all-star team, as well as a mix of folks that are either right out of school, or maybe didn’t play in college or didn’t go to college. There just seems to be so much talent in the area. I’m imagining a squad of 18-20 from all throughout the area that have played at all different levels. I think it’s going to be great.”
Stockade FC is led by Crowley, the CEO and co-founder of Foursquare; Operations Director Randy Kim, who has managed digital content for a wide range of sports media outlets; and creative directors Doug Jaeger and Kristin Sloan of JagerSloan Studio, a brand consultancy and creative studio. They also boast an impressive lineup of advisers, including Greg Lalas, a former professional soccer player and the vice president of content for Major League Soccer (MLS); Michael Milberger, a former NCAA Division I soccer player and the director of content for MLS; and Dan Hoffay, the co-founder and president of American Outlaws Hudson Valley, which seeks to unite area supporters to help back United States National Soccer teams.
The hope is that the team will perform well enough in the NPSL to earn a bid to the U.S. Open Cup, a tournament including teams as far up the food chain as those in MLS.
“That’s the point of starting the club, to compete on a national level,” said Crowley. “How many people will show up to try out? 100? 200? What’s going to be the quality of the squad we’re going to put together? I don’t think we’re going to know a lot of this stuff until the late spring. Maybe we can do well enough in the first season where we can compete in this league and we can make the playoffs. It’s not crazy talk to think that could happen during the first couple of seasons, and I think that’s a great goal to shoot for.”
But while the club will try and compete on the national level, it will remain dedicated to the local community.
“People ask, ‘Why not Poughkeepsie?’ or ‘Why not Newburgh?’” Crowley said. “[Kingston is] an amazing town. There’s a lot of amazing energy going on there, and some great people moving there. Dietz Stadium is right downtown. It’s got tons of history to build off of. I love the city. It just seems like a perfect place.”
The NPSL season is relatively short, running from mid-May through mid-July, with the playoffs to follow. Depending upon the conference Stockade FC is assigned to, they will play between 10-12 games against other clubs from the northeast. Crowley sees the team’s home games at Dietz as an opportunity to celebrate the city.
“I’m imagining the games are going to be on Saturday, and I’m hoping I can schedule the home games around the Kingston Farmers’ Market,” he said. “I don’t want it to just be 90 minutes of soccer. I want it to be a whole day about spending time in Kingston and experiencing all the things going on with the merchants and the community. So maybe start at the Farmers Market, have lunch on Wall Street, hang a left and head down to Dietz Stadium, maybe there will be food vendors there or food trucks on the lot. Really make it an all day thing. We’d encourage people to go to the Frogmore [Tavern] afterward, maybe there are bands playing. We really want to make it a mini festival that happens the five or six times we have a home game each season.”
For more information on Kingston Stockade Football Club, visit: www.stockadefc.com. They can also be found as StockadeFC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.