AKRON, Ohio — Less than a year ago, Nick Turchan and a group of sports enthusiasts had the idea to start a minor league soccer team.
"About nine or 10 months ago, there was a group of us that started kicking around the idea of bringing a Minor League Soccer team to Akron, Ohio. I call it a bit of a pandemic project because other things have slowed down a little bit," Turchan explained. "I was asked to look into it from a business prospective and see if there is some viability. I looked into it and said, 'yes, I think there is a real opportunity here to bring a minor league soccer team to Akron.'”
That's how the Akron City Football Club was born. The organization is still in its infancy, but we do know that the ACFC will be competing in the National Premier Soccer League.
This league has more than 90 different teams across the country.
“So this league, for those who kind of understand baseball, it's kind of a cross between the Cape League and the Independent League," Turchan explained. "So it is a great league between kids who are in college and who are looking for additional training and games to be played over the summer. It also is an opportunity for those who have graduated college and maybe want to keep the dream alive and still continue to play soccer."
The National Premier Soccer League runs from early May until the middle of July.
The Akron City Football Club expects to be ready to compete for the first time in this upcoming 2022 season.
“Over the next few months, we will start the process of reaching out, finding fans and selling tickets. We will have tryouts for the team come December, dates to be announced," Turchan said. "So, come May, we will play a 12-game season between May and July. We will play six home games and six away games."
Although the team doesn't have its players yet, they have a strong supporting cast of mentors, like former professional soccer player Kia Zolgharnain.
Zolgharnain has decades of soccer experience under his belt as both a player and a coach.
“I was lucky enough that at 17, I became the youngest player to sign a professional contract in America. I was straight out of high school,” Zolgharnain said. “The day I turned pro, I also started coaching, so that was just a voice inside of me saying go teach it. So, I’ve been a coach also for 37 years.”
Zolgharnain hopes to use his experience to help the team succeed.
“Bringing the good coaching staff together, bringing the players together and creating a culture because winning is a culture,” Zolgharnain said.
Most importantly, Turchan emphasized that the team will be heavily involved in the northeast Ohio community, from hosting camps to attending events during the summer months.
"We are doing this primarily for the community, Akron, Summit County (and) the kids who play soccer within this area," Turchan said. "Not only do we want to give them a game and some high-level soccer to come see, we want to try every possible way to make them feel a part of the team."
Editor's Note - Oct. 14, 2021: A previous version of this article identified the National Premier Soccer League as a professional league. The NPSL is a minor league.