DCFC is leaving the league it helped form to play in the second-highest level of pro soccer.

Detroit City Football Club began playing soccer in 2012, mostly against local and regional squads. Enthusiastic supporters filled the stands to watch home matches at Cass Technical High School, then followed “Le Rouge” as they moved to Hamtramck’s historic Keyworth Stadium.

It has come a long way in a decade.

“We have built — out of nothing — a professional soccer team in a city where most people thought that was impossible.” — Detroit City FC co-owner Alex Wright

In 2019, DCFC turned professional as one of the founding members of the National Independent Soccer Association. Since then, City has dominated NISA, winning back-to-back championships and posting an impressive record of 18 wins, 3 draws and 4 losses. 

Now, club owners have decided it’s time to up their game.

They’re asking permission to leave NISA to join the United Soccer League’s top professional level in 2022, the USL Championship division.

Co-owner Alex Wright says it’s a big step.

“The USL Championship is the second level of American soccer, below only Major League Soccer,” he says. “So the quality of play is higher.”

Wright says supporters should be proud of what DCFC has accomplished.

“We have built — out of nothing — a professional soccer team in a city where most people thought that was impossible,” he says. “We did it by living our values, making it community-focused and supporter-driven.”

Wright says many people had already bought 2022 season tickets before the announcement and adds that anyone who buys tickets online now will not pay higher prices.

“Professional sports are far too expensive,” he says. “We need to get back to a moment where a family of four can teach a love and passion for our game without breaking the bank.”

The move to USL Championship will also expose more people to DCFC nationwide through ESPN’s linear channels and streaming platforms.

“We will have home and away matches on ESPN,” Wright says.

City’s move to USL is a surprise to many, including the league it helped form in 2019. Since it started, the club has championed the growth of independent soccer leagues that are fan-based and community-based. And unlike most of the rest of the world, the U.S. soccer system does not promote or relegate teams between leagues based on their performance. DCFC supporters despise (to put it mildly) “closed” leagues in general and MLS specifically. 

NISA issued the following statement after City’s announcement:

“Announcing the jump before the season’s end, and not fulfilling its commitment to the 2022 season, brings into question sporting integrity. It is surprising that Detroit City — a historically stalwart supporter of the open system — has chosen ‘franchise’ over ‘club;’ ‘closed’ over ‘open.'”

NISA says it does wish City well as long as it “respects the legal agreements and obligations the league and the member clubs have forged together.”

The league says it remains committed to building an open system and is adding four new clubs in 2022.

DCFC has one NISA match left on its schedule against Michigan Stars FC on Nov. 20 at Romeo High School. Its match against Los Angeles Force on Nov. 13 has been canceled due to a handful of breakthrough COVID-19 cases among L.A. players.


Listen: Detroit City is moving on up to United Soccer League’s top professional level in 2022.


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Author

  • Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.