Detroit finally gets its pro soccer team

Detroit City FC soccer club logo. Photo from Detroit City FC official website.

It isn’t Major League Soccer, but soccer fans in Detroit and Windsor-Essex finally have their professional team.

Detroit City FC, which has developed a fervent following in the Motor City, will turn professional next season when it joins the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA). The club, known to its fans as Le Rouge or The Wolfpack, previously played in the amateur National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).

The club joins Oakland Roots SC and Chattanooga FC as the new members of the NISA, which began league play last year. Oakland Roots is due to start league play at the end of this month, while the other two will begin in 2020. The expansion is subject to final approval by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).

Sean Mann, Detroit City FC owner, hails the designation as a new dawn for professional soccer in Detroit.

“Being accepted into NISA represents an exciting new chapter for Detroit City FC,” said Mann in a media release. “What started as a community organizing project nearly ten years ago has evolved into the city’s first professional soccer team in generations. As a member of NISA, we look to continue growing the sport of soccer in Detroit.”

In an open letter posted on the club’s official website, Detroit City FC assured its fans that behind-the-scenes business would not change.

“While we’ve been one of the most well-attended and best-supported soccer clubs in the country outside of Major League Soccer, we were required to restructure our existing ownership group to meet USSF’s professional requirements,” the letter read. “Those adjustments have been made with the leadership of the club remaining the same as it has been.”

Detroit City FC began in 2009 as a community outreach project, but it began competitive play in 2012. Since that time, they won two Great Lakes Conference titles, including this season, and have been to the NPSL playoffs five times. The manager is English-born retired player Trevor James and they play their home games at Keyworth Stadium in the enclave of Hamtramck.

Nine of the players on the current roster are from the US or its commonwealth of Guam. Other countries represented are England, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, Jamaica, Liberia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana and Spain.

Detroit put in an unsuccessful bid in 2017 for an MLS expansion team that was backed in part by billionaire Dan Gilbert, Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, with Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford and president Rod Wood, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.