Lansdowne officials at the USA soccer convention this year were, from left, William McGrory, Johan Mauritzan, Sean Kelly, Jim Kelly, Craig Purcell and Aiden Corr.
By Jay Mwamba
Lansdowne Yonkers, one of the most successful amateur soccer clubs States-side in recent times, are going semi-pro. The Bhoys, and the bulk of the CSL top flight, are joining the Eastern Premier Soccer League [EPSL], America’s first conventional football set-up with promotion and relegation, that Lansdowne has helped pioneer.
“It’s based on the European model and will operate with promotion/relegation back into state first division leagues,” said Lansdowne president William McGrory. “The hope is that [EPSL] will build a bridge to a professional league based on merit and not the broken system of ‘pay and you are in.’”
Lansdowne were big advocates and architects of EPSL and believe it can change the landscape of U.S. soccer for the good, added McGrory.
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“The board is very excited and it’s wonderful for the parents and kids in the club to see a path to [professionalism] developing within their own club. It will provide the club with more national exposure, and allow us to work closely with colleges in developing players and getting our own kids recognition and exposure also.”
Lansdowne are currently in pre-season training — albeit different to previous years, noted McGrory — under the experienced Jim Kelly, the club’s director of football, technical director Johan Mauritzan and ably assisted by coach Sean Kelly.
Lansdowne Director of Football Jim Kelly.
The club will likely develop an Under-23 side to support the first team in the EPSL and leave Lansdowne Yonkers FC Metro in Division Three as the only Lansdowne presence in the CSL.
“Lots of exciting times ahead,” declared McGrory. “All Lansdowne games will now be officiated by top referees, there will be music and refreshments for supporters, and all home games will be live streamed for supporters who can’t make it.”
The Bhoys will continue to use Tibbetts Brook Park as their home ground. It was upgraded during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We’ll also continue to play and train safe, and do everything possible in the fight against COVID-19,” said McGrory.
Hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, as well as social distancing markers, will be available at all home games.
U.S. amateur champions four year ago, the Bhoys leave the CSL having dominated the league over the past decade. Lansdowne’s haul included six CSL championships, two USASA Region I Werner Fricker Open Cups and numerous other regional and league honors, including consecutive Manning State Cups and the Walter Rapaglia Cup.
Formed in 2020, the EPSL is a 501(c) non-profit corporation, which is owned by the member clubs and the feeder leagues. Unlike other national and regional leagues, the clubs and feeder leagues will participate in governance including the establishing of fees, prize money, and schedule in order to keep costs down and minimize travel. The EPSL is looking to establish agreements with other local leagues as either a promotion/relegation feeder league or through a cooperative league agreement to preserve and maintain the relevancy of elite local leagues by marketing as members of the EPSL. Through either pro/rel or this association of leagues, local leagues can collectively market themselves as entry points to higher level playing opportunities and leagues of choice for competitive amateur soccer.
In July, EPSL reached historical feeder league agreements with two elite amateur soccer leagues in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League (CSL) in the New York metropolitan area and the Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC based Maryland Major Soccer League (MMSL) to establish the first regional based multi-league promotion and relegation system in the United States. The CSL and MMSL have produced US Open Cup and National Amateur champions and have some of the top amateur teams in the United States so reaching agreements with these elite leagues is an exciting milestone in the history of US Soccer.