Tonawanda News — Buffalo’s highest-level men’s amateur soccer club, FC Buffalo, opens its 2014 season tonight with several local natives and players connected to local college programs ready to play, as the team’s official slogan goes, “For Our City.”
Only this year, the team has modified its slogan to “Five Our City” to mark the organization’s fifth year of membership in the National Premier Soccer League. That’s a longer run than Buffalo’s two previous NPSL entries combined.
“I wouldn’t say I didn’t expect it,” said team president and co-owner Nick Mendola. “But there was just so much uncertainty and the financial climate had made it even harder. I think it’s a testament to our fans and our players and the demand for soccer in this city that we are still around.”
Soccer has slowly, but progressively, cemented its place as part of the Western New York sports fan base. Though the local fan base is not yet at the level of football, hockey or baseball, the world’s most popular sport has its fiercely loyal local following. The NBC network reported earlier this week that Buffalo was the nation’s second-largest television viewing audience of the English Premier League’s season finale last Sunday, when Manchester City emerged the winner of a three-way race with Liverpool and Chelsea to clinch the league’s title.
FC Buffalo, who have averaged about one thousand fans at home games, opens tonight on the road against its biggest rivals, the Erie Admirals, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Penn State Behrend campus. Last year, FC Buffalo defeated the Admirals for the very first time, touching off celebrations including a fans’ “pitch invasion.”
It was the same Erie Admirals squad which later eliminated Buffalo from the 2013 NPSL playoffs. While FC Buffalo head coach Brendan Murphy felt his team competed well against Erie in three of their four matches last season, both he and his players learned a lot from those experiences and are ready to set their sights higher.