American Pyramid Blog

Beer And Bros in Boulder: Johnny Freeston of Harpo’s FC

Beer And Bros in Boulder: Johnny Freeston of Harpo's FC

Welcome back to #FromTheVault on Non League America, ladies and gentlemen! Sorry this one is a little delayed, sometimes the day job rears it’s head and I’ve got to focus on other things for a time. But here it is, just in time for your lunch break! (If you’re on Eastern Standard Time, of course)

This interview was done back in January, right after the New Year. Johnny Freeston was kind enough to take some time over a couple of days to interview over Facebook Messenger. I preface with that because this interview covers a lot of different stuff. Beer, the Colorado soccer scene, and The Topic That Must Not Be Named: Promotion and Relegation. Check it out.

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Music City Miracle: An Interview With Chris Jones Of Nashville FC

Music City Miracle: An Interview With Chris Jones Of Nashville FC
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Welcome back to American Pyramid’s #FromTheVault series ladies and gentlemen! I’m proud to be putting this interview out, as it bears the distinction of being the first interview ever done entirely over the phone! So if you happen to run a team and you’re reading this, there’s another avenue to get one of these interviews done for your team.

Chris Jones was gracious enough to take 30 minutes out of his day to do all this with me, and it strikes a great balance of length and detail, covering a wide variety of topics about the team, and also details what fans looking to start a team should do first. Check it out.

Tell me about yourself. Who you are, where you’re from, what your role is with Nashville FC.
CJ: My name is Chris Jones, I’m from Nashville born and raised, one of the few these days, the city is growing so quickly. Went to Middle Tennessee State for marketing and work at a bank here in town, and I’m the president and founder of NFC. Started the club in May 2013. Been a long journey, but we’ve come a long way.

How would you describe Nashville, and the team, to an outsider?
CJ: The city is becoming very trendy, very entrepreneur friendly and loves supporting the little guy. We also have an average of 89 people moving to Nashville each day. They can’t build the city fast enough. Our club fits in perfectly with that. How we went about forming it was very unique and the city really embraced that. It fits with the blue collar vibe of the city.

What brought about the decision to make this a supporter owned team, and how does that work?
CJ: Saw a video of FC United of Manchester and that really set me on this path. It’s like the equivalent of a group of Yankees or Cowboys fans going off and starting their own minor league team because they are fed up with high ticket prices. That really resonated with me. We went from 100 to 500 founding members in short order once word started getting out about the club.

There are a lot of people looking to start supporter owned teams in cities that don’t have one. What kind of advice would you give them to make sure they do it right?
CJ: You need to do your homework on how you want to legally be set up. We went in clueless. ‘We want it to be supporter owned, here’s a Pay Pal, figure it out.’ Take the time to figure out the legality.

Next, be very transparent. Not everyone is completely honest, so it’s important to be honest with those you owe honesty to, your club members.

Really understand why you’re doing it. Don’t do it just because it’s cool, do it because there’s a why. Have a message that really resonates with the people you want to get involved.

For example, you can deliver a message a boring way. Saying something like ‘we want a Nashville team and supporters get a say in what happens.’ Or you can say ‘we believe fans are the driving voice and should have a say in what goes on in the club.’ They’re the lifeblood of any team.

What was your reaction to the Harrisburg to Nashville relocation rumors?
CJ: It’s was something of a punch to the stomach, a little disheartening. No one approached us or explained to us what they were doing or why. We felt we had warranted some type of approach because of what we had done both as a team and outside of soccer too. And a team in Nashville will probably need to be locally owned. If you’re from here, we’ll give you the shirt off our back. You’ll need to be local to get this team behind you. We’re growing, but still a small town at heart.

Where would you like to see NFC in 5 years?
CJ: I think in 5 years one way or the other, I’d like to say NFC will be in the professional ranks. Realistically in 5 years, it would be USL or NASL. MLS in 5 years would take a lot of pushing. There’s no reason why NFC couldn’t be in the pro ranks in 5 years.

We have members in 26 states and 5 different countries, so people know who we are. Regardless of league we are in good place.

What does your average attendance look like?
CJ: First game we were just shy of 2,000 people. It feels like more every time I look at the stands. I have a picture from a game where we had 1300 and it looks like 2500. We average right around 1500. We’d love more, but I remember thinking, we only need 500 per match in our first season to break even, so we’re doing very well.

What’s your favorite league and/or team to watch?
CJ: Chelsea is the team I fell in with because of my buddy when I started watching soccer in 2007. He was a Manchester United fan, so I wanted to be able to banter back and forth. I also keep an eye on Athletic Bilbao in Spain. They arent community owned but you have to be from the area to play for the team. It would be like Nashville FC going pro and saying ‘only talent from Nashville and middle Tennessee can play here’ and really competing.

What’s your favorite book, soccer related or otherwise?
CJ: Soccernomics.

Favorite player. One past, one present.
​CJ: Michael Essien. I feel like if I had played soccer, rather than football in college, that’s the kind of player I would have been. No surprise, my current favorite player is Branislov Ivanovic. A really physical player, like Poku, those are just my kind of guys. Maybe that’s just some of the American Football player in me.

Chattanooga FC is:
CJ: The ultimate measuring stick. I give credit where credit is do. They get the credit they deserve until someone knocks them off their perch. if and when we beat them it’s a party at the Jones’ house. But summing them up in a single phrase, it would be the ultimate measuring stick.

Why should people care about NFC, and the lower leagues in general?
CJ: I think if you’re a person that believes in challenging the status and quo and enjoys innovative and trailblazing, that’s the spirit behind Nashville FC. We have wins and losses, but the journey is pretty fun. It’s the adventurous spirit. If you have that spirit, Nashville is the club for you. It’s been a heck of a journey.

Chris, thanks again for taking the time to do this with me. If you are enjoying the content I’m putting out, I’d encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook.  And if you’d like even more content coming your way on the regular, click here and sign up for the weekly newsletter, containing fun articles and videos, sometimes covering soccer, sometimes not. Make sure to spread the word. Share interviews, tell friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can’t accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without you. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.

Once, Twice, Three Times Milwaukee: An Interview With Patrick Hodgins of Milwaukee Bavarians

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Welcome back to #FromTheVault on Non-League America ladies and gentlemen! Got another exciting interview to share with you all this week, but I’ve got a few things to bring up first. If you are enjoying the content I’m putting out, I’d encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook.  And if you’d like even more content coming your way on the regular, click here and sign up for the weekly newsletter, containing fun articles and videos, sometimes covering soccer, sometimes not.

Now, this interview below was actually conducted over the span of a couple of weeks due to the NSCAA convention. It’s got great detail about who the Milwaukee Bavarians are, what they do, and just how big their trophy cabinet is. Check it out.

Let’s start with the basics. Who you are, where you’re from, and what your role is with the Bavarian’s.
Patrick Hodgins and along with Tom Zaiss we coach and run the Bavarian PLA and adult soccer program.

How did you wind up getting into soccer, and helping with Bavarians SC?
Played at Lakeland college in Sheboygan. Work full time for Wisconsin Youth Soccer as a program admin running leagues and state cup and various other events. ODP staff coach. Started at bavarians fall of 2012 with the adult programs.

You’ve got some pretty solid coaching chops. What got you into the coaching side of the game?
Tom Zaiss played at UConn. Been involved with adult program since 1996. Won 4 national championships amateur 01,02,03  and 03 open, WI Soccer Hall of Fame inductee 06. Assistant coach for national championship in 09 open.

Knee injuries in college. I transition from a player to a “volunteer assistant” while I finished up school. My College coach Marc Colwell kept me around and taught me the recruiting side of soccer, sessions and building a program. Just build a love for the game and I am fortunate to learn from great coaches like Bob Gansler, Tom Zaiss, Bob Spielman, Craig Peltonen, Alex Toth, Jim Launder and Craig Carlson.

You got to learn from Bob Gansler? That’s awesome. He’s in Sporting KC’s Legends group, my local team. Can you describe Bavarians set up to me? Based on the website, it’s far more than just a men’s weekend team.
Bob was the instructor for my D license and always around the Milwaukee area. Played, coach back in the day with Bavarians. I believe won a national championship in 76.

Now our setup. We have a full youth club u8-u18 and offer the adult teams as the extension. We have a first team and majors that play in our state run leagues and now the PLA team which replaced our former NPSL team. Club has a rich history of adult soccer so just trying to keep it going and meet the past accomplishments.

That’s really cool. If you don’t mind my asking what prompted Bavarians to join the PLA instead of returning to the NPSL?
We received an invitation to join the Great Lakes League now PLA for 2015 but declined due to uncertainty with the league. As the season progressed we began hearing good things about the level and league so we approached the league about joining for 2016.

Bavarians are one of the founding members of NPSL but the cost and travel with running teams was getting high and PLA offers a great alternative with the same level of play. Playing teams like Croatian Eagles and Madison 56ers in state really reduces the travel budget and keeps the level of play high.

Alright, so would you say the big advantage of joining the PLA is being a similar level of competition to the NPSL, but with a far more regional focus?
In my opinion yes. The league is split east/west to help reduce travel. The PLA clubs have a rich history with various clubs winning national championships.

It has been really neat finding out about teams like Corinthians FC, who never would have gotten a chance to play at a higher level without something like the PLA. How would you like to see the PLA, and by extension, Bavarians, grow its footprint in Wisconsin?
The responsibility falls on us as participants in the PLA to grow a following, brand our team/league an put a great product on the field. If we take care of those things the PLA will grow in credibility throughout Wisconsin, regionally and nationally.

Bavarians along with Croatians and 56ers are very established clubs on the adult side in Wisconsin so we bring a lot of credibility to the PLA.

That’s a good answer. It’s not up to the league to bring credibility to the club, it’s up to the club itself. Now Bavarians has it’s own field for soccer games. What can you tell me about it?
We have a turf field that was built in the fall of 2013 I believe. Heartland Value Funds Stadium. Home/away locker rooms along with bleachers, covered benches etc.

How many people can you fit in there?
Not sure. Let me get you an estimate. We have a large park with seating and eating areas behind the stadium with a concession area as well for standing room.

Okay, we can come back to that later. How would you describe Milwaukee to someone who’s never been there? What makes it unique, best place to eat, grab a beer, those kind of things.
Smaller, friendlier version of Chicago. Ethnic diversity is what still stands out, have a lot of festivals including summerfest during the spring/summer months.

3rd Ward and Eastside are always good places. Little hipster areas with variety of bars/places to eat. Would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nomad World Pub (One of our sponsors).

I’ve heard several people talk about the diversity of Milwaukee, which is really neat to hear about. How many trophies has Bavarians won in its history? I seem to remember seeing a picture of a trophy room earlier this week and I think someone attributed it to Bavarians SC.
17 Wisconsin Major Championships since 1973. 34 championships since 1929, 7 in a row from 1960-1966. 6 National Championships, 12 Region 2 Championships and 4 Region 2 Runner Ups. Not sure on the state amateur and open state championships but a lot.

Sounds like a good problem to have, too many trophies to count. Who are you most excited to play against this upcoming season?
We play Croatian Eagles a lot in league play but it’s always fun playing them. Renewing the 56ers rivalry sticks out and playing the new Minneapolis City team is exciting.

Weren’t the Madison 56er’s with you in the NPSL?
That is correct. They left in 2015, Bavarians departed NPSL in 2013 I believe. We have played in exhibitions the last few years but a true league game is exciting.

Where do you hope to see Bavarians SC in 5 years time?
A leading contributor to the growth and development of the PLA in the Midwest and nationally. Add a supporters group and additional sponsors to continue growing the men’s program.

You were recently at the NSCAA convention. How was it? Learn anything helpful for Bavarians?
NSCAA convention was great. A lot of coaches and people in town networking. Took in some good sessions and educational opportunities.

That’s great, education is important for coaches. Let’s go for some shorter, rapid fire questions. Who wins the PLA this year?
East-RWB Adria, West-Bavarian/Croatian Eagles. 56ers as the NPSL regular season 2015 winner will be a team to watch.

​Who’s your favorite league and/or team to watch?
EPL-Manchester United Sir Alex Years. Bayern Munich recently

Favorite player. One past, one present
Roy Keane, Yaya Toure

Oh, Roy Keane, that’s a first. Favorite book, soccer related or otherwise.
Love Malcolm Gladwell but The Miracle of Castel di Sangro

Okay, you’re the probably the fourth guy to mention The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. I think I know what book I’m buying next. Last question for you. In general, why should people support a team like Bavarians, and lower level soccer as a whole?
I know for us we put out a good product, our team is made up of former pros, college players, etc and it doesn’t matter if you play PLA, NPSL, ASL its all amateur. Guys aren’t playing for the money but are passionate about the sport and want to continue playing at a high level. People would be surprised at the level of play these teams put out and should get behind “amateur” teams. The soccer community forgets soccer existed before professional leagues and it’s really good to see the movement and support for amateur soccer.

​That’s a great point, the professional side really seems to act as if all the amateur history doesn’t exist. Patrick, thanks again for taking the time to do all of this, I really appreciate it, and I know my readers do as well. Thanks for reading everybody. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.

Punk Rock Soccer: An Interview With Dan Hoedeman of Minneapolis City SC

Punk Rock Soccer: An Interview With Dan Hoedeman of Minneapolis City SC

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It’s Monday, which can only mean one thing. #FromTheVault is back, baby! Buckle up!

I’ll give you some short background on this one before letting you dive in. Dan Hoedeman and I started working on this interview in December, and finished it last week. We went from talking about starting up in 2017 to discussing new things after the team joined the Premier League of America for 2016. It’s a long one, but it’s great. Check it out.


Let’s start with some basic stuff and work our way into deeper things. We don’t need to rush, so we can ramble on as long as you’d like.

Sounds good to me. In terms of the basics, we’ve already been called crazy by more than one person for even thinking about launching a lower division team in Minneapolis with Minnesota United about to make the move to MLS. There are two reasons why we respectfully disagree. First, we’re not using this as a vehicle to get rich, we’re doing this to have fun. Second, we believe that soccer is a lot like coffee, if you’ll excuse a potentially stretched analogy. At some point in the 90s drinking coffee became a popular thing, a general culture thing. There was money in it, which meant it became corporatized. Yet, as Starbucks expanded throughout the country a funny thing happened. Starbucks didn’t drive the quality, local shops out of business. In fact, it actually expanded their market by bringing more people into the category, making them more knowledgeable and actually training them to like more quality coffee. I’m not saying that we’ll be higher quality than MLS, but I do think that we will offer something different. Our scale is more human, our focus is on our community, and we appeal to the super knowledgeable. I think that Minnesota United have done a great job banging the drum for soccer in Minnesota and building an active group of people who would be interested in them — and in us. No reason the two would be mutually exclusive, though I do envision partisans on both sides.
Whew. That was certainly a ramble. Maybe I back up quickly to more of the basics…Minneapolis City is born from an existing club: Stegman’s. Stegman’s itself is the result of the merger between FC Internationals, founding in 1977 and 13-time Minnesota champion, and Stegman’s Old Boys, founded in 2010 and lost a cup final on penalties once but have proven surprisingly quirky, energetic and driven to build a club that is fun to be part of on the field and off for players of all levels (while making sure that at our top levels we’re always in contention for trophies). We call ourselves professionally amateur. We are regularly surprised just how well known the club has become. We figured that we may as well follow the Vegas maxim “keep riding a heater” and that’s what got us in the discussion about launching a lower division team.

That’s exactly what I was thinking. So that covers the team’s ‘origin story’ pretty well. Can you elaborate on the merger between Stegman’s and FC Internationals? Why merge now?

Stegman’s and Internationals merged because of serendipity. Internationals, historically a powerhouse in the Minnesota Amateur Soccer League, had tons of quality on the field, but had struggled in recent years with some management, financial and operational issues. Stegman’s had a number of teams across leagues, really engaged and energetic member/owners and surprisingly good management and operations but had struggled to make a breakthrough at that top level. Members of the two clubs met through joint work with The Sanneh Foundation, USMNT legend Tony Sanneh’s charity, and through conversations and a year of affiliation in the MASL realized that the two groups shared similar ambition and personality — and had complementary strengths. Together, we’re simply a better club.We had that shared ambition to be a regional (amateur) powerhouse, and couldn’t have hoped to achieve it without the combined strengths, people, personalities, etc.
There is another aspect to the “why now?” question. The opportunity is here now in a way it wasn’t in the past (for us, given where our club is and in general, given the great work of clubs and leagues to show how successful lower division soccer can be). For the past few years Stegman’s had been scheduling friendlies against regional opposition like Milwaukee Bavarians and FC Fargo. It was a blast, our guys loved it. So we looked on with a little bit of envy at the success of GLPL, NPSL and others. We wanted a piece of that. It’s not turning away from our local leagues — our club will still have a ton of teams in our local leagues — but there is a big draw to building regional rivalries, competing at a higher level, etc. The Dark Clouds still sing F*ck Milwaukee songs years after the last Minnesota-Milwaukee game. That rivalry aspect is where the passion springs from, in soccer and other sports (there is a reason why Vikings-Packers is a bigger game than Vikings-Chargers). With the increasing enthusiasm for soccer and success of other trailblazing clubs, we looked around and thought “why not us?”

That’s understandable. Now is a great time to step up. There are so many options when it comes to leagues to join, regional, national and local. And the internet has made it very easy to market teams on a level that couldn’t have been imagined 20 years ago. I mean, that’s how this interview has come about, through the power of Twitter. Now, what exactly is your role with the team? I guess you could say we’re putting a face to the name. Who you are, where you’re from type of deal.

I am Dan Hoedeman, one of the founders of Stegman’s. I was born in Minneapolis and, while I’ve moved around a fair bit as a child and adult, can’t quit this place. My family are all here. I love it here. I grew up playing soccer and played to a decent level despite injuries and my own middling talent. From my own experience, from friends, guys I went to school with, etc I’ve seen this sport grow, change and develop. But I have to give credit to one of the other founders of the club, Jon Bisswurm, for actually making it happen. Jon and I played youth soccer together way back in the day for a few years before we both moved away. Anyway, twist of fate, we both end up as adults working at the same ad agency in Minneapolis and Jon thought that, instead of joining the team I had played with, we could start our own team and have more fun. He was absolutely right.

We started the club with a focus on the player experience. All too often for an adult amateur you’re playing on a team, it’s not super organized so you don’t know who will turn up any given day, everyone leaves right after and we wanted something that was organized, was social, was club-like. As we look at what we want Minneapolis City to be, we want that same club experience. We don’t just want to have a team that people watch. We want people to join us (players, staff, other supporters) at the bar after the game, we want them volunteering/coaching with our affiliated youth teams, we want people voting and talking and debating at our AGM, we want people playing on Stegman’s teams (or their own local amateur team) in whatever level is fun for them. We want people to feel like they are truly part of something, that this is theirs. And a result, we care less about how much support we have and more about how intense it is.


As far as my role with the team, with typical over-the-top grandiosity, I’m Chairman of SSC Minneapolis City. What that means in reality is that I get to run this Twitter account and do the financials. Our club is owned by its members — we have more than 50 guys who own the club, and we plan to open that ownership to fans and friends of Mpls City in January — and those members are really active in the club and in helping to build Minneapolis City. We’ve got members helping with PR, with identity, with scheduling and facilities and player recruitment and all the little things that go into making something like this happen.

Sorry, you said ramble away…

It’s not a problem, this exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. Can you explain Stegman’s to me a little more? I’ve noticed you’ve said a couple of times that Stegman has multiple teams. I’m trying to get a better grasp of what that means and what it looks like.

For sure. The big outdoor season in Minnesota is summer and there are two main adult amateur leagues: Minnesota Amateur Soccer League (highly competitive, 4 division pro/rel league) and Minnesota Recreational Soccer League. Stegman’s fields three teams in the MASL (D1, D3 and D4) and two teams in the MRSL (D2 and D4). Players are placed based on their ability and interest (for example, some very good players can’t commit to the more rigorous MASL schedule so they play once weekly on an MRSL team; as guys have aged a number have selected to play in lower divisions to stick with the club). With that same group of players, we also field teams in more casual fall outdoor and winter indoor leagues throughout the Twin Cities. We have indoor training sessions from Nov – Apr with a competitive player training on Tuesday and open club training in Sunday. Club events are throughout the year and include guys from throughout the team. We just had our Ugly Sweater Christmas Party last Friday at Honey Nightclub, one of our club sponsors. It’s fun, social and a good way to make sure guys throughout the club know each other and such.There are over 100 active players in the club and most of them, as long as they are not in school or injured, play most of the year with us.

Wow. That’s a pretty intense setup, but a good to find talent. Are you hoping to be able to field some guys from Stegman when you get the team up and ready to go in 2016?

Definitely. I think that we have a number of players, especially in our SSC Internationals team, with the quality to do well in the PLA. I hope that they form the core of our 2016 team, with us building around them.

How did you go about the design of your new logo, and what inspired the final design?
Logo design was a lot of fun. I work at an ad agency as does one of the other guys in our ‘founders group’, so we did what any good ad man would do — we wrote up a creative brief and called designer friends of ours to see if they would be interested in creating something for us.

We actually had four designers, all of them top level designers, send us ideas. The brief was simple: we wanted to represent Minneapolis, we wanted it to look cool, and we didn’t want to be derivative.


It was hard to choose, the designs were so good. We had a ‘focus group’ of people who responded to a tweet asking for their opinion, we shared it with guys in our men’s club (Stegman’s), and we talked about it ourselves. In the end, we went with something that was simple and, at least to us, unexpected.


Minneapolis has historically had great designers — design, advertising, architecture, packaging. Even Target used design to change retail. So the look is a great design. Interesting use of type. Insert other advertising/design fluff words here, you know. And we are using the font from the Foshay Building, which was Mpls’ first skyscraper and remains an icon in the skyline.


So it’s connected to the city in a few ways. We also liked how it wasn’t your typical shield/circle logo. And, specifically, we were digging how this particular angle was more than just the logo. There is a lot of great stuff we can’t wait to roll out like matchday posters, scarves, t-shirts and other stuff that makes it more a brand than just a logo.

In the end, people we talked to liked the feel of the overall design that we ended up choosing. We liked it too. So we went with it.

What kind of team have you been able to start putting together for your first season in the PLA?

We are going to have a very good team. We are focused on providing a professionally amateur, high-performance environment for the top college players from Minnesota, mixed with some older players for a bit of experience and steel.

We have already been able to sign guys like Sam Forsgren, a local kid who plays at Northwestern. He was a Big 10 All Freshman Team selection and last year he kept the momentum going, appearing in all of the Wildcats’ games. We’ve picked up Trey Benhart from Wisconsin, Green Bay. Trey is a guy who has really stepped it up in college and become a massive member of the UWGB defense — he has led the team in minutes the last two seasons. He will be a leader for us on the field. Really excited to have him. I see us having a team that is tight at the back, and looks to use pace and width to create chances. It should be a very exciting team.

What do you mean when you say ‘professionally amateur?’ Are you talking about the environment you’re fostering for the players?
Ah, professionally amateur is a phrase we’ve been using. We’re NCAA-compliant, so the players are amateurs. But as an organization on the field and off we want to operate to a high standard. So, yeah, it’s amateur players, but they’re top players, in Keith Kicker and Jeremy Iwaszkowiec we have top coaches, and we want it to be as professional a set-up as it can be.

That’s true off the field too. Going back to the logo, it’s why when we called designers we were talking to guys like the guy who did LAFC’s crest, like the guy behind Football As Football, and two guys from top ad agencies. We’re building this from the ground up and we’re hardly Peter Wilt, but it doesn’t mean that we have to half-ass it.


So professionally amateur seemed to make sense for us as a mantra. Just ramshackle enough to be fun, community-based and kind of lovable, but legit.


Gotcha. I think that a lot of teams forget that even if you can’t pay players, you can still run your team in a professional manner. Now I did see in the last couple of weeks that you have a supporters group now, The Citizens. How has that been, getting a SG going already?

It’s  been awesome. Best part? I have no clue who they are.
It always felt a bit desperate and plastic when clubs started or tried to start SGs. So we made a decision to let whatever happen, happen. Even if it was nothing. Next thing you know, we have a group out there and they’re funny. Their song about Wisconsin (poster on Twitter yesterday)? Brilliant.

So they’re going to be something of a sarcastic supporters group, egging people on?

Without rivalries, without teams you really, really want to beat, the experience isn’t the same. If they are out there singing songs like that and making Mpls a tough place to visit then it’s a fun experience. People want to come back to watch when the games are that fun. Players want to play in that environment.

I’ll sing along, too. I really want to beat the teams from Wisconsin. I can’t help it, I’m Minneapolis born. It’s basically in my blood.

For some reason, that last comment makes think of the scene in How I Met Your Mother when Marshall is riding through Wisconsin in Vikings gear, yells out the window ‘There’s a Viking in town!’ and blows a Viking horn. Hopefully the Citizens will come up with something cool like that for you.

Ha! I remember that scene. That is definitely how I see things going down when we visit Milwaukee for our first ever game. We’re subsidizing transport and hotel for supporters and hope to get a really good group there.

Oh that’s great stuff. Local pride is the great untapped energy source of amateur soccer. Glad to see that you are putting effort to ‘mine’ that, so to speak.

We have been surprised by the response we have gotten. Not a ball kicked, but we have members, lifetime members, and a supporters group. We haven’t even announced our logo yet or where we’ll be playing! Hopefully the momentum continues like this.

What made you guys decide to join the PLA? It will only be in it’s second year in 2016 and is no sure thing yet, and you’ll be the Westernmost team in the league. For now, anyway. What is it about their vision and set up that brought about this decision? Was it cost, vision, maybe something else?

Oh, cool. That timing should work really well — MNU is working through their management and player contracts and such and I don’t want to blow up Donny’s spot.

As for what made us join the PLA, there are a number of things that make it a great fit for us. We’re really excited about creating some intense regional rivalries, and are already penciling in Milwaukee Bavarians and Croatian Eagles’ visits. Whenever a team from Wisconsin comes to town, things get a little crazy and it’s about time soccer fans were able to get in on the fun. It also separates us from MLS. Orlando will be a fun game because of Kaka and soccer is fun in general, but any red-blooded Minneapolitan would far rather stuff Milwaukee than Orlando. That’s the nature of fandom, and a huge positive of the PLA.


We love the vision too. This is a league that is on its way to building something special and I think it’s because the league recognizes that it exists for the clubs — it is built with a tight divisional focus that gives us meaningful rivalry games and keeps travel costs low; it is not *just* a regional league and is smart about the end of season tournament, establishing a single location so teams can plan ahead; the league has ‘recruited’ well, if I can use that term loosely. There are great, established amateur clubs in its ranks like RWB Adria, Bavarians, 56ers, Croatian Eagles, Carpathia. It’s cool to look at the logos of these clubs and see just how old some of them are. We’ve been around since 1977 and we’re on the young side. The league may not be that old, but its ability to attract clubs like that, clubs that have survived through the decades, says a lot about the solid foundation the league is on.


Part of that vision is ensuring that the league is a value for clubs. We have been approached by and had discussions with some other leagues and the value proposition isn’t always there. It’s not just a matter of price, though I won’t pretend that isn’t a big factor. We looked hard at things like league fees, travel expenses (which matter a lot to us…Minneapolis is surprisingly far away from other major cities), etc. The PLA is a great value on all counts.


That is not to ding other leagues. If Minneapolis were 5 hours from Detroit instead of Milwaukee, you better believe the NPSL value equation changes significantly. It will be interesting to watch the PLA in the coming years. I think that it has a framework that can extend nationally. Smart, intentional growth of that type that we’ve seen for 2016 and already happening for 2017 will help it avoid some of the pitfalls that we’ve seen others fall into. I am really excited about what this can be.

And I think that as it expands its value proposition only becomes stronger and stronger.

You know, as a fan, that’s a lot of what attracted me to the Great Lakes Premier League, was that attention to a region, to making it easy for teams in smaller towns to be able to play on a bigger stage against teams from cities they would consider rivals. That’s also why I’m a fan of the PLA and hope it really takes off, especially if it can give some of these older teams a larger platform to perform on. Now, you might not be able to answer this, or you might only be able to give hints, but do you know what other cities are looking into joining the PLA in 2016 and beyond?

I can tell you that I don’t expect that we will be the first team from Minnesota to join the league. Beyond that, I know that the PLA has a surprisingly large number of applications that it has been working through. What I like about their approach is how balanced and methodical it is. They are working hard to be sustainable in their growth to avoid the ‘team churn’ that has happened in some other leagues.

But as to the specifics of which teams in which towns, I don’t know yet. I am sure that I’ll learn more once I’m past that first owner’s meeting.

Well that’s good to hear. Do you know what’s making the PLA so attractive to these other cities?
I think that the other PLA teams see the same strengths that we see: regional rivalries, manageable costs, high level of (amateur) play, and a league that exists for the clubs and not the other way around.

Now, this might just be me, but it seems like the PLA is slowly spiraling out from their original locations to allow for that kind of regional growth. Does it look like that to you as well?

I think that it is and I wouldn’t be surprised to continual regional growth.

Sounds like a solid plan. Now, this might be a tricky question. I’ve often wondered why teams in bigger cities don’t try and engage their ethnic communities more to help create more fans and find more players. How does City plan on engaging those types of communities, especially in Minneapolis? I mean, you guys have a ton of ethnic communities.

I spent some time playing ball in Brighton in the UK and the guys there used to give me a hard time for the relative under performance of the US given our population size. I had a stock response that though we do have a long, rich soccer history here it’s only with this current mid-30’s-ish generation that we truly grew up with the sport. I think back to my Dad, who played on one of Minnesota’s first ever high school varsity soccer teams and probably only because his off-the-boat-from-Holland Dad though it was the right sport to play (and/or he was bad at hockey). Fast forward to my generation and people grew up with it. There is a lot of interest in building something at the grassroots level because there are a lot more people with a passion for the game *and* there is a huge gap in even the really big markets in terms of clubs to join and teams to support. I think that we’re seeing soccer’s equivalent of the Baby Boom.

Great point about the ethnic communities and I agree — the lack of outreach makes no sense to me! We absolutely plan to reach out to the ethnic communities in Minneapolis, it’s actually part of how the club is set up. We’re set up as a non-profit with a specific focus to help kids who struggle to/can’t afford the classic US Soccer pay-to-play. We are working with guys in our club who are active in communities and community youth clubs and plan to offer financial support as well as things like free camps and coaching to help those players both achieve their potential on the field and also to provide mentors and break down barriers with the larger Mpls community. I’m really excited about it. I believe that by inviting these organizations and their members into the club, *and* by involving ourselves into their clubs, we build something together for the larger community.


I think that is important because all too often discrete groups, ethnic or otherwise, are looked at more as marks or revenue streams (“as a group sales wet dream” as a ticket sales guy from another team may have told me in an offhand comment not too long ago). Yes, we are reaching out to ethnic groups and have a plan for it, but it’s based on partnership. We want to help them. We would like them to help us too, but our non-profit mission means that we’ll feel fine if the help goes from us out.

All that said, this outreach is also based on guys in our Stegman’s amateur teams — they are already involved in those communities, in those clubs. So it’s authentic. We’re not doing this just because we think it helps Mpls City. Our guys are already active because they are in the communities and think it’s important to help those youth clubs and their kids.

Whew — that answer went really long. It’s something that we’re all really passionate about. Not only to help with cash and coaching, but I think that we can give some of those players a look into a high-level amateur first team, help them with college admissions and navigating the scholarship process and maybe make a really big impact on the lives of some of these players who otherwise really struggle to get a look-in in the current US Soccer structure. At least I hope that we can do that. We would feel a lot of pride if that were something we could do.

Passion is a good thing. What are some of the biggest ethnic communities in Minneapolis?

Biggest ones are probably Hmong, Hispanic and Somali. And Hipsters.

We’re counting Hipsters as an ethnic community now? Better make sure your logo has crossed arrows. What is the Hmong community?

Hmong are people from the mountain areas of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. There is a really large community that settled in the Twin Cities after the Vietnam War (they were US allies) and other associated southeast Asian wars and it has a continued to grow. It’s a really vibrant community and they’re really into soccer.

Interesting. Sounds like the type of community you’d want behind your team, or even the type of community that could field their own team in, say, 2017? What do you want MCSC to look like in 5 years, and what team, anywhere in the world, would you love to have MCSC look like?

That is a pretty big question!

That’s why I’m here, to ask the big questions

That had me tempted to give you the classic soccer interview answer: “what do we want to look like in 5 years? we just want to take it 1 year at a time…”

We are excited about what we can be in 5 years though — on the field, in our community, for supporters, for our players, etc. Our guiding goal is to be a regional powerhouse. On the field, that means that we want to be fighting for the title in our league and we’d love to make an impression on the USOC. In the community, we want to be making a difference by donating money and time to underprivileged kids and their kids. For our supporters, we want to have a long term home in Minneapolis (with beer), a solid, non-corporate game day atmosphere that includes real relationships with fans, staff and players, and an engaged group of supporter/owners who love the club like we do. And for our players, we believe that we can offer a ‘professionally amateur’ playing experience that complements DAs and what our MLS team will offer to give them a high level, high performance, professional playing experience. But in 5 years, the real goal is to be having a lot of fun, flying the flag for Minneapolis. We want to be a little punk rock, a little disheveled, somewhat silly, very over-the-top, and the antithesis of corporate. Because who are we? We’re just a bunch of guys (and girls) who got together to start a soccer club. We’re owned by supporters and aim to stay that way. We want other people to join, to own, to call Mpls City “theirs”. We want to build a true club, and we’re successful if in 5 years we’ve got a club that people think of as theirs — supporters, owners, players, staff, volunteers, our community, you name it.


As for clubs that we admire, there are a lot — we love what Bavarians have done. They have great facilities, a history of on-field success, ability to serve players of all ages, and the ability to help kids financially as well (it’s not all about pay-to-play). Tons to admire there, despite their geographic location. We love the attitude and ability to do a ton on a threadbare budget that we see with a club like St Pauli. It’s inspiring to see what Portland Timbers, as organization+supporters, have done to represent their community. I loved the dedication and application of the fans and organization of Brighton & Hove Albion as they completed their incredible rise from almost out of the Football League and playing in a rickety ~6,000 seat/bleacher athletics “stadium” (honestly, smaller and in worse shape than my high school’s soccer field) to unbeaten until Mourinho showed up, second in the Championship, residents in a packed 30,000 seat state-of-the-art stadium. So many great clubs we admire and think that we can learn a lot from. At the same time that we look to other clubs, I think that we are on track to build something uniquely Minneapolis.


Very cool, keeping it close to home with Bavarians. I’d say if you guys can get to Bavarians level, you’re pretty successful. Ready for some rapid fire questions to wrap this up?

We actually held the Bavarians up as a model way back in the day when we first started Stegman’s. They do a lot of things right. And yeah — let’s go rapid fire.

Alright, rapid fire it is. Who wins the USL, NASL, and MLS next year?

My first prediction is that, like all of my predictions, it will be wrong!
NASL has gotta be Minnesota United. I love what they’re doing with their roster, and I think that the moved with Carl and Manny is also smart.
MLS is trickier because playoffs are so unpredictable and we’re already seeing some surprising moves. For example, I would have picked LA Galaxy but without Omar Gonzalez? This is a classic trap pick, but I think that NYRB could finally break through next year.

For USL, let’s see who’s all in the league first! (Though I can tell you that it will NOT be FC Cincinnati)

Good point, there could be more teams then we expect in USL. What’s your favorite book, regardless of genre?
You’re talking to an English major here so couldn’t have asked a tougher question, really.
Soccer book: Brilliant Orange, by David Winner. Favorite book ever: Argh…right now probably The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene.

You’ve read Brilliant Orange? I’ve read that book at least twice, absolutely love it. Explains so much more than just soccer. Do you have a favorite soccer movie, podcast or website?

I just love Brilliant Orange, how it tracks the social and other changes in the Netherlands as well as an incredible time in the development of soccer. So good.

For soccer, I like to read widely. From The Guardian to The American Pyramid to Football365 to ESPNFC to Northern Pitch to The Blizzard to American Soccer Now, I have a really broad list of sites, blogs, and Twitter feeds that I follow. It’s a sort of golden age of soccer writing and commentary, which makes it hard to choose a favorite.

As for soccer movies, I think that there is more work to be done! Nothing really stands out to me outside of documentary-like movies like The Damned United and Once In A Lifetime


That’s perfectly fine, soccer movies are normally pretty weak. Who are your favorites players to watch, one past, one present.

The best player I’ve ever seen live and my favorite player growing up was the inimitable Dennis Bergkamp. He saw the game differently from everyone else. Just incredible.

It’s sad to put him in the ‘past’ category. I wish he could have played forever.

Current player is Alexis Sanchez. He plays like every fan imagines that they would play: irrepressible, enthusiastic, dynamic, happy, and damn effective.

You could argue the same about a guy like Nat Borchers, only with a sweet beard. Added bonus.

You might be the first guy who’s said Sanchez. Definitely first to say Borchers. Good choice. Do you have a team and/or league you really enjoy watching?

I spent some time playing ball in Brighton back in the day, so whenever I can catch the Mighty Seagulls I do. Especially with Bobby Zamora back in the mix. Total legend.

As for leagues, I watch whatever I can. Premier League, especially Arsenal (even since the Bergkamp days), Bundesliga is a blast, Eredivisie is as open as Sunday league with slightly worse defending, Liga MX (and Tijuana) is something I’ve gotten into last year. MLS, too. No specific team. More fun that way sometimes. The stress of watching “my team” is almost too much, I’m embarrassed to say. Can’t even tell you how hard it was to watch Crystal Palace beat Brighton in the playoffs a few years back. So stressful and in the end I couldn’t watch. I went outside and pulled weeds and had my wife give me updates. Makes watching something random like Sporting Kansas City v Orlando City surprisingly fun and easy.


I spend a lot of time watching our Stegman’s local amateur teams play as well. It’s fun to support friends, and I could watch soccer at just about any level. Plus, I’m outside in the summer with a beer, friends and soccer. Hard to beat.

Having a favorite team can be real stressful. Last question, could say it’s more of a day what you’d like yup of deal. Why is it important for people to support their local teams? What would you tell someone wanting to know why they should do that?
At its most simple, if you love the game you will want to grow the game. Building strong local clubs helps to grow the game and, most importantly, you’re part of it! I like to remind people that massive clubs like Aston Villa were started by a few guys talking in a bar. They are sustained by families like Jack Grealish’s, fans for 100 years, where he and his great-grandfather both played in FA Cups with the team. We’re at such a great point in the development of the sport right now, it’s like those early days in other countries where supporting a club meant literally building it and not just being a “consumer” of its “products”.

​If you’re looking to build something, now is the time. Just look at Detroit City and clubs like it. Regular guys coming together to build something incredible — and only just started. It doesn’t have to be to the exclusion of MLS, Premier League, USMNT or whatever your other poison is. Probably shouldn’t be. Local and global aren’t at odds. But local is where you can make a real, immediate difference.

Dan, thanks for taking time to do this. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully we can do it again sometime.Alright everybody, take some time to go follow Minneapolis City on Twitter. It’s a great way to keep up with the team, and their content won’t disappoint. And give us a Twitter follow and a Facebook like too, and don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter, it comes out every Friday, to keep up to date with the world of soccer through the eye of the Pyramid. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Stay Local.

Here Come Ze Germans: An Interview With Rob Oldfield of Vereinigung Erzgebirge

Here Come Ze Germans: An Interview With Rob Oldfield of Vereinigung Erzgebirge

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Welcome back to #FromTheVault on Non League America faithful readers. Today, I have a very special, and you could even say, unusual interview.

​During my wanderings online, I stumbled across a league in Pennsylvania. And in that league I found Vereinigung Erzgebirge. I got connected with Rob Oldfield, and I have to say, what these guys are doing sounds absolutely awesome. We talk about some German regions, the Pennsylvania soccer scene, and a country club for soccer. Check it out.
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Surf, Sand, Soccer: An Interview With Nick Surface Of Albion Pros SC

Surf, Sand, Soccer: An Interview With Nick Surface Of Albion Pros SC

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It’s a new week, which can only mean one thing. #FromTheVault on Non League America is back!

Now, Nick Surface graciously agreed to do this interview with me back before Christmas, and a lot has happened with his team since then, including getting Delta Airlines (!) to be the teams official jersey sponsor, and drawing over 2,000 fans to their NPSL debut. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this season goes for them, and really enjoyed doing this interview. Check it out.

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From The Ground Up: An Interview With Daniel Workman of Mobile City FC

From The Ground Up: An Interview With Daniel Workman of Mobile City FC

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Welcome back to American Pyramid’s #FromTheVault on Non League America ladies and gentlemen! I’m really excited to be sharing this interview with you. Let’s get right to the chase today.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the second interview I’ve done for a team based in Mobile, with AFC Mobile being the other. Check that interview out by clicking THIS. Daniel Workman was gracious enough to spend some time answering questions with me over Twitter messenger. This is a long interview, but it’s a really good one, covering all kinds of topics including the development of youth soccer players. Check it out.

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Valley of the Sun: An Interview With Lonnel Baisey of Gorilla Elite FC

Valley of the Sun: An Interview With Lonnel Baisey of Gorilla Elite FC

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Welcome back to American Pyramid’s #FromTheVault series on Non League America! Today you’ll get to enjoy an interview with the very first interview I’ve done with a team in Arizona.

Lonnel Baisey reached out to me here at AP over Twitter back before Christmas. Due to the holidays and the surprising amount of responses to interview requests, January was the first opportunity I had to get this out here, and know I’m republishing it on Non League America. It was a fun interview, and there’s a very substantial, story like section explaining the teams origin taken directly from the team website. Check it out.

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The Sound Of Many Waters: An Interview With Andreas Davi of the Milwaukee Torrent

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Welcome back to American Pyramid’s #FromTheVault series on Non League America! Today you’ll get to enjoy the second of three interviews I’ve done with teams and/or groups involving soccer in Milwaukee.

Now, this interview was a surprise. After the previous interview with the Milwaukee Barons, Andreas Davi of the Milwaukee Torrent reached out to me and we spent New Years Eve doing a rolling interview, covering some German soccer, the American Soccer League 2, and what the plan is for soccer in Milwaukee. Check it out.

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Spell That For Me Please: An Interview With Ron Patel of Albuquerque Sol FC

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Welcome back to American Pyramid #FromTheVault on Non League America Ladies and Gentlemen! This is the latest re-release of some of my older content on the American Pyramid blog. Don’t worry, one day soon I’ll be caught up, and it’ll be nothing but fresh, shiny new content from there on out!

I wanted to preface this interview with an interesting note. This was almost the first live interview ever done here on the Pyramid. Over Thanksgiving, I was actually in Santa Fe and was supposed to potentially have time to sit down and interview Ron Patel face to face. That didn’t happen, but we still managed to get an interview done. It’s a fun interview, shedding some light on the city of Albuquerque, the history of soccer in New Mexico, and the teams 10 year plan. Check it out.

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