Letter to supporters on USL League Two move

[ SUPPORT: FC Buffalo season tickets for 2023 ]

Dear FC Buffalo fans, players, alumni, and staff,

Whether you had heard rumblings of our accepting an invitation to join the United Soccer League’s League Two for the 2023 season or not, we know you’re just as excited as us when it comes to Thursday’s news. The opportunity to shine a brighter light on our players and supporters is one we could not pass up as we continue to build our club toward even bigger goals.

It’s nearly as certain, however, that seeing FC Buffalo in a new league for the first time since, well, ever also provides a lot of questions whether you’re a decade-long member of The Situation Room or readying for your first season at Robert Rich Sr. All-High Stadium. We’ll lay out as many of those as we can here, but do not hesitate to ask any questions by emailing club president nick@fcbuffalo.org. He’s going to first person from here:

I don’t remember when I struck up a friendship with Joel Nash at the USL, but I do know that I was immediately struck by his thoughtfulness, intelligence, and passion for the game. Lower-league soccer conversations in the United States often race to the money but with Joel it’s always been about ideas and timing. Our conversations with other leaders at the USL have resonated a similar tone.

If I’m being frank, the biggest draw here is that we as a club need our men’s program to take the next step. The dissolution of the men’s program at the University at Buffalo set our “local” pool back behind brother markets Pittsburgh and Cleveland with our Division I programs dropping to two in the immediate area, and the fractured, exclusive nature of soccer has provided other challenges for the big talent in Western New York.

As a club that’s housed exceptional out-of-town players, I can say that the amount of “recruits” we’ve lost to fellow non-League Two teams has been very low; We’ve done our best to build relationships with Division I, II, and III coaches that tells their players we can be a safe destination for their summers. However, the winning ratio goes down quite a bit when you throw in USL League Two. Just look at January’s MLS SuperDraft, which saw Buffalo’s Abdi Salim go in the first round to Orlando: Fifty-six percent (56%) of players selected had League Two experience.

The USL also gives us a chance to explore how our nascent development programs can take their first big strides through offerings like the USL Academy Cup. Some other incredible notes from the USL:

  • More than 70 USL League Two players have gone on to be capped by the United States men’s national team.
  • More than 700 USL League Two alumni have appeared in Major League Soccer or the USL Championship
  • Seventeen of 29 first-round picks in last month’s MLS SuperDraft had USL League Two experience.

It’s important not to look back for too long, but we want to both thank and wish the best to the many with which we’ve shared the pitch with over 13 years in the NPSL. The Erie Commodores are Erie County derby rivals on the field and owner John Melody is a trusted mentor off of it; Sam Seibert saved soccer at the level in Cleveland and is a brother; Tommo, Chrissy, and Marikaye in Pittsburgh have become siblings of a sort, too. Akron City, Rochester, Syracuse, Detroit, Lansing, Indiana, Zanesville… it’s been a ride. Thanks to Dina, Robin, Gary, Jeff, and all those who ran the league for many hours lending their talents to lower-league soccer.

Back to the business of now, this summer is going to be a huge test for our club and we need each and every one of you in our corner. From season ticket holders to fans being brought by a friend to their first game, this is very much the next step in the journey we’ve been discussing since TSR and friends helped elevate the name FC Buffalo early in our time. Your season tickets remain valid and our women’s team will look to defend its back-to-back division titles this summer in United Women’s Soccer.

But we’ll be bringing an unprecedented caliber of player to an unprecedented level of competition. Each week is going to be a fight, and we’ll need every wolf in the pack to push us forward. Our division alignment will be announced on Valentine’s Day — how romantic — and our schedule will come out a week later. Along the way we’ll announce new projects, new staffers, and new partners. Want to get behind Buffalo’s Buffalo club made in Buffalo as a sponsor or other? Email me, nick@fcbuffalo.org.

Come with us. It’s been a tremendous amount of work to get here, and it’s only going one direction.

Up, up, up for Buffalo,

Nick Mendola

Co-owner, FC Buffalo