The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
by David Falk
The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL, nationalpremiersoccerleague.com) announced today that it has entered into a management agreement with Playbook Management International (PMI). As part of the agreement, former Major League Soccer (MLS) club executive and PMI Founding Partner Michael Hitchcock will serve as the league’s new commissioner.
“We are very excited to announce that Michael Hitchcock will serve as the new NPSL Commissioner and feel that with the addition of Michael and his company, the NPSL is on the verge of great times ahead,” NPSL Chairman Andy Zorovich commented.
Hitchcock is a MLS success story, starting as an entry-level sales representative and finishing his 12+ year career in the league as a club president and general manager. His time includes work with D.C. United, the Colorado Rapids, the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, and the San Antonio Scorpions (NASL).
A quick look at the national imprint of the NPSL shows that the northwest region of the country has no teams yet. Hitchcock is very aware of this.
“The Northwest is one of the hotbeds of American soccer,” he tells goalWA.net. “With the success of the Sounders and Timbers, and overall passion for soccer there, we know that that the area is an important soccer market. We know we can fill a niche there.”
Bringing the fourth division league to a new region can’t happen overnight. Hitchcock says it will take “the right owners, and the right markets,” and could include Washington, Oregon and even Idaho.
“In conferences ideally we’d like to have eight teams,” he says. “To get started you’d want a minimum of five.”
Different than the PDL
Hitchcock is quick to point out what he sees as the differences between the NPSL and the PDL, a league that does already have a strong Northwest presence.
“Our business model is club-focused and based on sustainability. Our expansion fees are lower, our yearly fees are lower (than the PDL), because we believe in keeping the money local, where owners can use it to help grown their clubs and markets.”
The expansion fee this year to join the NPSL was $10,000. The yearly fees were $3,500.
Hitchcock can picture a Northwest Conference with clubs in towns that might not be good fits for the PDL. “Every kid should have a home town team to go see, with home town players to look up to. That’s a dream we believe in at the NPSL.”
The league is an open one, with owners, clubs and players of all cultures encouraged to join. “It’s as simple as starting with a phone call,” Hitchcock says of getting the ball rolling to establish a franchise. “We can point prospective owners to our expansion presentation. Eventually the decision on accepting a new club is made by the other owners in that club’s conference. We like to see it as a simple, open process.”
goalWA.net Local Soccer News is sponsored by Pro Roofing Northwest, Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle, Redmond, Woodinville, Federal Way, Everett, Snohomish, Issaquah, Renton, Kent, Bothell, Edmonds Washington roofing company.
Experience at the top
“Michael Hitchcock is well respected inside soccer circles,” NPSL Secretary and Brooklyn Italians Vice President Joe Barone stated in a league press release. “Michael will work with the existing teams to further stabilize them and create a model to further understand their unique markets.
The growth of the NPSL will be very strategic. Michael will play a critical part in the future of the NPSL.”
PMI to enhance league management
PMI, based in Frisco (TX), is one of North America’s most respected sports management companies. They boast a worldwide client list and their executives have a combined 75 years of professional sports management experience. They also maintain offices in Gaithersburg (MD), Atlanta (GA), and Ft. Lauderdale (FL).
“On behalf of PMI, I’m looking forward to working with the leadership of NPSL and the passionate, committed owners in developing a model of sustainability, strategically building the league and growing the beautiful game in every NPSL market,” Hitchcock continued. “I believe in the incredible potential of the NPSL and know that it plays a critical role in the continued growth of the sport of soccer in the United States.”
About the NPSL
The NPSL is a national league that operates in the 4 th Division of the U.S. Soccer pyramid, which also includes the Premier Development League (PDL) operated by the United Soccer Leagues (USL). NPSL teams are eligible to participate in the U.S. Open Cup through their affiliation with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) and the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA). The NPSL operates in 60+ markets from across the country and is currently one of the fastest- growing soccer leagues in the U.S. Two MLS clubs, D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls, operate U-23 squads in the NPSL.