FARGO – Fresh off last week’s news that Minnesota will get a Major League Soccer franchise, 59 young men tried out here Sunday in hopes of landing a roster spot on what organizers hope will be Fargo’s first semi-pro soccer team.
FC Fargo has 11 scheduled games this summer, five of which will be played in the FM metro area, said team founder Timothy Singleton, a Twin Cities teacher and former employee of the Minnesota Stars soccer team who plans to move to the Fargo area this summer.
FC Fargo’s inaugural game will be at 7 p.m. on June 27 at Moorhead High School. The opponent is FC Minneapolis.
The Fargo team will play an all-exhibition schedule this summer, but hopes to join the National Premier Soccer League next year, said Singleton. The NPSL is a fourth-tier semi-pro league consisting of more than 80 teams throughout the United States.
FC Fargo (FC is for football club) would presumably be in the Midwest Region, consisting of 13 teams, the closest being in Minneapolis and Madison, Wis.
Players are not paid a salary, but the team covers their transportation, food and lodging, Singleton said.
Players trying out Sunday morning at a blustery, damp and chilly Shanley High School Sid Cichy Stadium were mostly just-graduated college players, current college players and some stand-out high school players.
They came mostly from eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota, but one came from as far as Des Moines, Iowa.
Singleton, whose wife Sarah graduated from Concordia College, urged him to look at the Fargo-Moorhead market for a place to land his dream of starting a semi-pro soccer team.
He came up last fall to scout around and was pleased by what he saw in soccer talent, game venues and community support for minor-league sports.
He pointed to strong attendance numbers for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and the Fargo Force and said he hopes his team could garner 1,000 fans in the stands for games this summer.
Singleton took a second job at Mystic Lake Casino to help fund his dream. He said he saved up $40,000 to help fund this first season, knowing corporate partnerships – an area he helped foster with the Minnesota Stars – won’t be easy to land until games are played and a fan base grows.
“The love of soccer is powering me,” he said. “We’re all about forming relationships this year.”
Game ticket prices will be $8 for adults, $6 for college students and $4 for kids. FC Fargo plans to work with youth soccer clubs to help drive attendance. The first game coincides with the huge TriCity Storm Youth Soccer Tournament held annually in Fargo-Moorhead.
Tommy Nienhaus, coach of the competitive Jamestown College men’s soccer team, is FC Fargo’s coach.
Nienhaus is among 12 employees or volunteers getting the club up and running this season, which runs from June 27 through Aug. 1. There is no home field. Games will be played at Shanley, Moorhead High and West Fargo’s Lodoen Community Center soccer stadium.
Singleton said he fell in love with soccer while living in Germany in the mid-1990s. His favorite team is FC Bayern Munich, and he incorporated that team’s logo into FC Fargo’s logo. He also used NDSU’s Bison colors of green and yellow in hopes that casual fans might sport those colors when first coming to the games.
Having a higher-level of soccer in Fargo-Moorhead is important for youth who play the game here, Singleton said.
“We want to be a team that local kids can aspire to,” he said. “It’s possible for players playing at this level to be seen by bigger clubs and then move up.”
Singleton said he’s close to lining up a game this summer with the reserve team for Minnesota United FC, the main team of which will be moving to MLS by 2018.
“Being able to play the United FC reserves will give us instant credibility,” he said.