The gap from the youth to the professional ranks is large. There are thousands of youth clubs in the United States and little more than 50 professional clubs. Maziya Chete has seen the gap first hand as a lead coach with the Santos FC youth club in Columbus.
He believes that the the newly launched Columbus FC will help fill that void.
”We created a youth club in 1999,” Chete said referring to the long history of Santos FC in Columbus. “The progression was to establish a soccer club that would eventually develop players who want to move on to the next level.”
Columbus FC will play in the National Premier Soccer League as an expansion team in 2018. The team was announced last Friday.
”We were organizing under-23 teams comprised of college players,” said Chete. “Our players would leave us, they leave high school, there would be no competition that they could play in.”
The promise of organized competition and shared goals of player development made NPSL a great fit for Chete.
”The NPSL comes along, we are fortunate to raise the finances to put the team together,” Chede enthused. “This fills a void”.
The NPSL is a large collection of clubs that has grown since it’s beginnings in 2003. It has increased to nearly 100 teams for the 2018 season. Given it’s amateur status, players retain their college eligibility and alumni have graduated to college and pro careers.
As for competition to Columbus Crew SC or Save The Crew efforts, Chede sees the goals as different and the teams can share the growing Columbus soccer scene.
”FC Columbus is about developing players,” he noted. He hoped that the NPSL side could be one of the pipelines for the pro team.
FC Columbus is also an extension of Santos FC’s earlier efforts to extend player development. Negotiations with the NPSL offices began over the summer. This isn’t a team looking to capitalize on the uncertainty with the Major League Soccer club.
FC Columbus and Crew SC will share the market in 2018. The NPSL team kicks off its inaugural slate of games in May at Grandview Heights High School.
While FC Columbus is a separate club from the Santos FC youth version, there is overlap in staff. Chete will be the head coach for the NPSL side. He will be joined by fellow Santos FC coach Seymour Alleyne, who comes on board with the new team as co-founder. The staff is rounded out by General Manager Darrell Hughes and Game Day Manager Analisa Trares.
With opening day coming in just about four months, the coaches are quickly trying to build the roster. The team will holding tryouts to start adding players looking to stay sharp over the summer. True to the team’s stated mission, they will start looking for local Columbus talent to add to the roster first.