Posts Tagged Non League America

Unaffiliated Leagues Series: Vol. 1- Gotham Soccer League

Welcome to part 1 of our Unaffiliated Leagues Series where we shine a light on some competitive leagues that for one reason or another do not feel it necessary to affiliate formally with US Soccer in order to achieve their goals.  In this series we hope to touch on a wide variety of clubs and discuss the reasons why they may feel there currently is no place for them within the formal US Soccer organization as it is currently structured.


Non League America:  What is the Gotham Soccer League?


Gotham Soccer League:  Gotham Soccer League was founded in 2006. At the time, there wasn’t an option for players who wanted full-field 11v11 soccer on weeknights in NYC. For the first 8 years, that’s all we did, and we slowly grew to two divisions. Growing the league wasn’t a priority at first because it was only a side project of the founder. The goal was simply to provide an easier option than the time-consuming Sunday leagues since they require travel and giving up a full day of the weekend.


NLA:  How does the GSL differentiate itself from other lower divisions leagues in these regions?


GSL:  New York City has an incredible adult soccer scene, and last time I counted, there were 20 adult leagues. So it’s very competitive, and it’s hard to stand out. However, over the last two years, we have done things that no other league has ever done, and we continue to innovate. We film a 4K HD game highlight video every week. Every team gets filmed each season. A professional photographer shoots a game for every team each season. We pick a Best XI. We host All-Star games. We started one of the only women’s divisions in town. We held the first ever Champions League style tournament and had the best teams from different leagues face off. And we give our divisions news coverage that more resembles a pro league. We like to say we’re the rec league that provides the pro experience. Other leagues have attempted to copy what we’ve done, but only sporadically. When we are in season, there is constantly new video, photography, stats, etc. And the players seem to love it. It takes hours each week since we do almost all of it ourselves, but it’s a labor of love!



NLA: I’ve noted no US Soccer affiliated.  Why is that?


GSL:  That’s a great question. First, we want to keep our league affordable. The cost would have to be passed on to our teams, and we don’t want to raise prices. Second, there’d be no real benefit to our league. The only thing we miss are state and national cup tournaments, and we are already having intercity games among our own leagues. We are hoping that someday, you’ll be asking leagues why they aren’t affiliated with Gotham Soccer League!


NLA:  Any plans for the future (growth, expansion)?


GSL:  In 2015, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to grow much in NYC due to the limited field availability. So we decided to try starting a new city (Cincinnati). It really took off, and now we’ve gone from one city and 16 teams to seven cities and over 150 teams in only two years! And we are already scoping out some more new cities for 2018 and beyond. It’s a ton of work, but it’s exciting, and it feels great every time we see people in a new town sporting Gotham shirts and enjoying our brand of soccer.


NLA:  In my opinion, the amateur and open cup regional tournaments are the most exciting feature of lower league soccer in the US.  Any plans for regional/national tournament structure?


GSL:  We have already had regional competitions (Gotham teams from division regions playing each other) as well as tournaments among different local leagues. We’ve found that we don’t need to be part of US Soccer to hold interesting and innovative tournaments. We just need quality teams and a sense of adventure! It’s been very cool to see these matchups go down. And we definitely want to see soccer in America go forward. It can be done from the outside. We’ve had scouts from pro teams watch our games, and big clubs have started to realize that there’s talent beyond the traditional channels.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 4.20.41 PM

NLA: What other cities does GSL have leagues in?


GSL:  Currently our seven locations are:  New York City, Cincinnati, Tucson, Indianapolis, Columbus, Phoenix, and Dayton. And we’re in the process of starting 2-3 more cities as I type this.


NLA:  What are some of the biggest hurdles you have had jumping into different markets?


GSL:  Real estate is always the biggest challenge. We need good fields that are available on nights and times during which our potential players want to run a game. Sometimes we have to be creative, but we love a challenge.


NLA:  Have any clubs jumped from other leagues in NYC to Gotham?  Or vice versa?


GSL:  I would say that MOST clubs who have joined Gotham played in other leagues first. It’s been very validating to see teams jump from their current leagues into ours. Clearly we’re doing something right!


NLA:  What’s the greatest success story of the league?


GSL:  As the person who runs our NYC divisions (which are our biggest both in teams and revenue), my answer is always going to be biased. But I’m quite proud of the growth we’ve experienced in the last two years in New York because we didn’t think it was possible. Still, we pulled it off, and we’ve grown revenue 73% in two years, and we did that without adding field time! We grew because more teams wanted to join, and we found ways to fit them in.


NLA:  Who is the most interesting player that you’ve encountered?


GSL:  I’ve met a LOT of talented players and great people in our league. But one of my favorite stories revolves around a guy named Tom. Tom moved to New York City in the spring of 2015. He joined one of our coed divisions by himself, and I quickly recognized that he was a leader and he was organized. I made him captain of his team almost instantly. The next season, he joined another one of our coed divisions, and he again excelled as a captain. The following season, he took the guys from his two former coed teams and formed a men’s team in our small-sided division. After a strong season there, he recruited some guys yet again and joined our 11v11 division. The first season was rough, but by the end of fall 2016, his team had won five games in a row by a ridiculous margin (I believe around 30 goals scored vs 3 conceded) and they won their first silverware. So in 15 months, he went from the new kid in town who knew NO ONE to the captain of one of our strongest 11v11 teams. It’s remarkable!  Tom’s one of many great player stories. And it’s really all about the players—that’s why we do this. Every smiling player reminds us why we run the league in the first place.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 4.19.39 PM

Bearfight FC of Wilmington: Punk Football

In association with Peace Living Films, Non League America Presents…

Punk Football by Bearfight FC.

Supporter Owned independent club Bearfight FC has started a grassroots football movement in the unlikeliest of places.  Wilmington, Delaware.  The guys prove that despite numerous obstacles, independent clubs can still find their way by engaging with the communities that support them and growing together.  This is their story.


Contact Us

Non League America is

Steve Bayley & Chris Reid