Detroit City Football Club had mixed results on the pitch in 2018. After winning the National Premier Soccer League regional championship in 2017, Le Rouge finished fourth in their division this season, lost twice to rival AFC Ann Arbor, and missed the NPSL playoffs. On the plus, City advanced to the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament, beating Michigan Bucks on penalty kicks before falling in extra time to Major League Soccer-bound FC Cincinnati.
Win, lose, or draw, fan interest in DCFC remains strong and passionate. The team finished the season with a 10-0 loss to Frosinone Calcio, which play in Serie A, Italy’s first soccer tier. 7,887 people attended the international friendly match at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, the largest crowd in City’s history. Two other high-profile clubs came to play in 2018, FC St. Pauli from Germany and Club Necaxa from Mexico. DCFC co-owner Sean Mann says the world is taking notice of the club’s growing profile and popularity.
“I’m getting pretty regular calls from other clubs from across Europe, from Mexico, that want to come to Detroit.”—Sean Mann
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
Much of City’s notoriety comes from its fans, the Northern Guard Supporters. On match days, they march to Keyworth Stadium and fill the stands, rain or shine. They sing, chant, wave flags, taunt the other side, and—when Le Rouge score—light smoke flares. While a few of the chants are laced with profanities, NGS and DCFC do their best to make the game day experience entertaining and fun. Sean Mann says corporate support helps keep costs low and game tickets affordable. Controlling costs is vital because City’s owners eventually want to make it a professional club. That’s easier said than done.
“The whole professional structure of American soccer is tied up in court cases, and it has always hampered our growth,” Mann says. “The rest of the world’s soccer structure is where teams can actually grow from one level to another based on their performance. Here in the U.S., it’s really a franchise model. It comes down to you being able to write a bigger check.”
“Right now, we’re just a group of guys in Detroit that’s outperforming pretty much every other team outside of MLS.”—Sean Mann.
Mann says DCFC is working with other clubs to find opportunities to grow, which could include forming a league of their own. That would allow them to play a longer season and schedule more matches.
Building a community
Detroit City FC raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate Hamtramck’s historic Keyworth Stadium. More recently, it acquired the former City Sports Center hockey rink on East Lafayette in Detroit and turned it into Detroit City Fieldhouse. Mann says the 75,000 square-foot facility will accommodate local youth and adult soccer leagues, as well as other amateur sports.
“We’re converting it into an indoor athletic complex for soccer, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, you name it,” Mann says. It will also feature a bar and a restaurant where fans can watch international soccer games on television. Mann says the fieldhouse should be open by October 1. And the club is already taking orders for 2019 season tickets.
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