Soccer has long been a staple in Baltimore and a new team is looking to add to that tradition with FC Baltimore joining the National Professional Soccer League for the 2018 season.
The club, which will be coached by Brandon Quaranta and mostly made up of college players who played their youth and high school ball in the area, will start its season in May and could run through July depending on the team’s success. The semipro club is taking a look at a number of area colleges to find its home field.
The NPSL is unofficially considered to fall in the fourth tier of the country’s professional soccer umbrella, under Major League Soccer, North America Soccer League and United Soccer League. Roughly 100 teams compete in the league covering four regions, which are further divided into conferences.
FC Baltimore will compete in the five-team Mid-Atlantic Conference in the league’s Northeast region, joining FC Frederick and three Virginia-based clubs.
Quaranta, who coaches Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champion McDonogh and with youth national club power Baltimore Celtic SC, expects upwards of 90 percent of the roster being college players who are from the area. Among the standout players who have verbally committed to playing are Mike DeShields (McDonogh, now playing at Wake Forest), Tyler Gabarra (Broadneck, N.C. State), Cale Thorne (McDonogh, Clemson), Sean Clarke (Loyola Blakefield, Cincinnati) and UMBC standouts Tre Pulliam (Archbishop Curley) and Colin Weyant (Perry Hall).
“I think it’s a group that local soccer people are going to really be able to get behind because it’s names they are familiar with, guys they’ve seen play within the last three, four, five years that were the best players coming out of the area,” Quaranta said. “So getting those guys back and giving them an option to play here in Baltimore, and be home for the summer while still developing and playing high-level soccer is the whole point of the league and whole point of what we’re trying to do with FC Baltimore.”
Open tryouts will take place in February and Quaranta is still finalizing his coaching staff. Baltimore Blast forward Vini Dantas and goalkeeper William Vanzela – two of the team’s biggest stars – are already on board as assistants.
Expectations will be high from the start.
“Baltimore has as rich a soccer tradition as anywhere in the country. I think with 80, 90 percent of the roster being Baltimore-area kids, we can compete with some of the other better NPSL teams in the country – that’s our goal,” Quaranta said. “I want to have players and staff who know Baltimore, have been around Baltimore and understand that tradition and are proud of that tradition, and we want to represent Baltimore the right way.”
The NPSL was formed in 2003, originally named the Men’s Premier Soccer League.