In 2019 a new professional league in association with the National Premier Soccer League will rise. In the lead up to its inaugural Founders Cup, First Team Podcast will have full Q&As with the owners and management teams of all founding members.
Today we start with FC Arizona.
FC Arizona has played in the traditional NPSL "Summer Season" for the past two years, but plans to make its mark in the new, yet unnamed, league in the 2020 full season and in the Founders Cup tournament scheduled from August to November 2019.
Scott Taylor, FC Arizona owner was kind enough to find the time to speak with First Team Podcast and answer some questions.
How did you become a passionate supporter of the beautiful game?
I started coaching my 8 year old son at our local team here in Chandler, Arizona. I fell in love with the game from seeing things come together for those boys. Every opportunity I had after that, I went out of my way to see a match live. There is something special about being at the game.
After a trip to England and Scotland, I was hooked and started working on FC Arizona and launched it in 2017. I love seeing live matches, went to see a Xolos game down in TJ, Mexico a few years ago and loved it. You study the game, you are really studying the world, every city, state, country has a great story and tradition. It's linked to the people's cultural identity everywhere in the world.
Has FC Arizona been successful off of the field?
Yes, we have had great community support and attendance. We are working on more ways to really grow that. We ask the players to be involved in the community, and we hope to amplify that in 2019. We've done some charity work such as a toy drive at our game for a children hospital, Military nights, and we had an Adopt a rescue dog night at a game as well. We have great fans.
Can you please explain the Arizona Market?
Arizona is a great state, home to 7 million people, full of homegrown talented players, youth clubs and good weather. Lots of teams play their preseason matches here in February. We are a border state, so a there are a lot of footy fans in the Mexican community and we have tried to connect with them. Our leading goal scorer Cesar Mexia grew up in Sonora, which is south of Arizona.
We are trying to encourage everyone to come out and see our Men's and Women's games in 2019. To learn more about our state, be sure to checkout a series of videos we are doing that will highlight different cities and places around Arizona, with our players and staff talking about the cool aspects of our state. The new series will be released weekly, starting in February 2019.
Can you please take us through the process of taking a semi-pro club to a professional level on and off the field?
These 11 teams are all good because most of them have proven they are good brands in the NPSL. They have great fan bases, good owners and already had success off the field in the business metrics that are critical for stability.
For us, in the West, we already play 2 months longer from March. It's not too big of an adjustment for us. It's always best to stay humble and look at what other teams have done wrong and learn from them and benchmark constantly. A business plan, branding, merchandise, fan experience and logo really need to be thought out in a collaborative way. Most importantly get feedback and support from our local community. I could write a book on this. I'm certainly, not perfect and sometimes tough decisions need to be made. The key is to assure the club survives long term for the community and that was my commitment and still is.
Getting the club to a higher level on the field and every aspect like the facilities and stadium for the community to enjoy is satisfying. We had a fan bring their cute baby girl in a FC Arizona onies to a game wrapped in a club scarf and I carry that image in my mind. One day, I hope that baby will bring her kids to our games and it falls on me to make sure of that. You have to remember those things because things aren't always easy. There will always be doubters and haters. The love of the game, players and mostly our awesome fans motivate me.
When can we expect FC Arizona to build their roster for the 2019 NPSL Founders Cup?
We are building it right now. We just resigned our leading goal scorer and signed A - League Veteran from Sydney, Australia, Sydney Cole. I have 7 or 8 guys that we are currently talking to. We are really looking for guys that want to help build the club both on and off the field. We will be making more announcements before the end of the year. We also have a lot of local talent that can definitely compete . I'm really stoked about 2019. The fan experience will be great at the matches.
The New York Cosmos went from playing in the North American Soccer League, to joining a group of 10 other clubs in the NPSL Founders Cup and in 2020 participating in a full professional season. What are your thoughts on the New York Cosmos and what do you think the club means for the NPSL Founders Cup?
The New York Cosmos are an iconic brand that needs and deserves to continue playing. I'am really excited to play against them in this new league. I respect the 5 Points and other Cosmos Supporters. I've watched the club and all the good they've done for the game in the U.S and that needs to be recognized. Having the Cosmos involved with the Founders Cup will give us all credibility for sure. I've watched them the past 6 years and I'm certainly impressed with everything thats been done. I talked to Giovanni Savarese at the AGM in San Diego 3 years ago, he's a really cool guy. Rocco Commisso and Joe Barone deserve credit for all their hard work.
Is Rocco Commisso or Riccardo Silva investing in clubs other than their own until they find local investors?
No, we are looking at teams and owners that can do this on their own. It is our responsibility that it's done right. I believe we have a group of owners that share that vision. Make sure everyone understands to live within their means, with the team budgets. Things will be announced after the AGM. that will allow this new league to be sustainable. I'm sure their will be investors or investment down the road but doing this right for the first 3 or 4 years is the key and I believe we will. It's a good group.
FTP thanks Scott Taylor for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer questions that have been on the minds of followers and fans alike.
Adhering to the U.S Soccer Federation's Professional League Standards (PLS), other professional leagues are treading a well-used path that aims to maintain the system's stability at the expense of player compensation, community club support and a wider development pipeline more aligned with the global market. Nothing changing from year to year besides expansion sides collecting entrance fees is how USSF defines success. It should come to no surprise to even the most die-hard MLS fan that there are systemic issues no single individual or club can fix on their own.
The Founders Cup is a first step in a long-awaited change to the status quo. In sidestepping USSF barriers to professional play, many risks lie ahead - but also many rewards. It's a rare and special moment in the history of the sport in America. Every soccer fan in the United States should sit up and take notice of what's going on here. Supporting local, independent soccer is the first step in that long journey to a better place for the sport, its players and its fans. So many of us are frustrated, both by the seeming impossibility of change in our World Cup prospects and by the prospects of our domestic talent. It may seem impossible, but FTP urges you to seek out your closest local club and support them. It will not be easy or quick, but the future depends on a true club culture taking root, and true club supporters fighting for a sporting chance. There is pride and glory to be found in every community. NPSL's new professional league and the Founders Cup are creating a crack, but without you real change simply cannot happen. If you ever wished things to change, now is the time. From San Francisco to Brooklyn, from Bangor to Miami, be on the look out for future updates on the local independent soccer club nearest you.