BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — FC Buffalo will be representing the Queen City on a bigger stage starting this upcoming season.
Buffalo’s top soccer club will make the jump to USL League Two, a semi-professional soccer league widely accepted to be in the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid, the team announced Thursday during a press conference at Banshee Irish Pub.
“It’s an extremely exciting time and next step for us – we’ve been discussing with the USL for some time,” FC Buffalo co-owner Nick Mendola said. “We started from very little. … Our goal has been to amplify soccer in Western New York. We’ve spoken for a long time about wanting to have the best men’s and women’s players and for them to take the next step from their youth to the next level.”
The switch to USL2 comes after FC Buffalo has played 12 seasons in the semi-professional National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), which is also in the fourth tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid, three levels below Major League Soccer.
FC Buffalo is made up of college-aged and slightly older players, and plays its home matches at All-High Stadium on Main Street. Many players go on to compete for colleges across the U.S. outside of FC Buffalo’s season, and dozens have gone on to professional careers both in North America and abroad.
USL2 presents a new opportunity for the club to continue to grow and attract more talent – while staying semi-professional and not sacrificing college eligibility for their players.
The next step in the club’s growth would be to reach the professional ranks, the next tier in the pyramid, which Mendola is confident can be achieved.
“I believe in this sport and I believe in this city,” Mendola said. “Whether we get there [professionally], it puts a lot of onus on me to give back to our supporters what they’ve given to us. But I have zero doubt whatsoever that this was possible and frankly that the next steps are possible.”
FC Buffalo was founded in 2009 and began play in the NPSL in 2010. It took on the role of Buffalo’s soccer team after the dissolution of its predecessor, Queen City FC. They adopted the nickname “Blitzers,” an homage to Buffalo native and CNN commentator Wolf Blitzer.
In 2021, the club announced the formation of FC Buffalo Women, with the team playing its first two seasons in the pro-am league United Women’s Soccer (UWS) — winning their conference in both campaigns. The team made a run to the league’s national semifinals in 2022.
While FC Buffalo Women will remain in UWS, the men’s team’s jump to USL2 still provides a boost for the club as a whole.
“We’re super excited to bring the club forward, the community forward in the world of soccer,” said FC Buffalo Women coach Nikki Bartholomew.
Mendola mentioned that a large number of players drafted in this past MLS Supedraft have spent time in USL2 at some point in their careers, which helps bolster FC Buffalo’s already strong pipeline of sending players to the pros.
Notably, former Blitzer Abdi Salim was drafted in the first round of this past MLS Superdraft to Orlando City SC. Another example is ex-FC Buffalo Women player Kelsey Araujo, who currently plays abroad for French club Le Havre AC Feminin while also representing the Portuguese Women’s National Team.
According to a release from FC Buffalo, more than 70 former USL2 players have been capped by the United States Men’s National Team, meaning the switch will ideally present FC Buffalo as an even more appealing spot for players to play, and continue to grow the game around Western New York.
“As a kid growing up in Buffalo, I always wanted to play for FC Buffalo,” said current midfielder Derek Bartlo. “Now, with the opportunity to bridge the gap from college to semi-pro to professional, I think it’s become really a good opportunity … I think soccer is just growing, everyone loves it in Buffalo and I think it’s going to reach some great highs.”
FC Buffalo’s USL2 schedule and division alignment is slated to come out in the coming weeks.
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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.