There are plenty of weekends in Conyers when the competition is fierce on the fields of the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association as local and youth teams from across the state meet on the pitch.
However, it will get a little more intense on at least five Saturdays starting this summer as the goals, passes, slide tackles and free kicks will count on the professional level.
RYSA and its Director of Coaching Rafe Mauran are set to bring a professional soccer team to the area for the first time in Rockdale’s history. The RYSA Board of Directors recently approved the creation of a franchise with the National Premier Soccer League.
The NPSL currently has 33 teams in seven conferences spanning the country in cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee and Sacramento. The RYSA team will be joining the five-member Southeast Conference, which consists of the Atlanta FC, the Rocket City United in Huntsville, Ala., Chattanooga FC, FC Tulsa and Pumas FC in Birmingham, Ala.
The teams can either be made up of amateurs such as current collegiate players or some players who are paid per game. RYSA is looking to go the former route, giving collegiate players another outlet.
“”No one will be making a quarter million dollars or anything like that, they may make a couple a hundred a game,” Mauran said. “We’re interested in keeping the team amateur so we can use NCAA players.
“The feedback has been really good. It’s all been positive.”
When Mauran started at RYSA in the spring of 2009, his daydream was to one day attach a professional team to the youth club, providing inspiration to the league members.
“We thought it was important at the club level to provide our younger players with a team that they can go watch and support,” Mauran said. “And hopefully in the future thy can say, ‘Hey, if I really work hard at this and do it, this could be an opportunity for me as well.’
“When you look at the structure of clubs in Europe they have teams all the way from little kids playing to professional.”
Earlier this year that dream came closer to reality when he decided to research different leagues. The first to peak his interest was the Premier Development Leagues (PDL) of the United Soccer League (USL). However, upon further research that turned out to be cost prohibitive.
The PDL would require roughly $50,000 in franchise fees, followed by $15-20,000 in annual fees. After looking around some more Mauran discovered the NPSL, which is run by the franchise owners and requires a much more reasonable fee schedule.
To join the NPSL, RYSA will need to pay a $5,000 franchise fee, a $3,500 annual fee and $35 to $45 per player.
Mauran is looking to cover the fees with sponsorships, and will have a minimal cost for spectators to games. Admission will cost $7 for adults, $5 for students 13-and-up, $3 for youth 12-and-under and free for children under 4. Sponsorship fees range from $10,000 for title sponsor down to $350 for business sponsor and $250 for player sponsor.
“We don’t really imagine this being a big money making venture,” Mauran said. “But we feel in the long run it will help us draw more players to play soccer here.”
Mauran feels the franchise will get RYSA more exposure and allow visitors to view the league and its facilities, leading to more enrollments.
The future franchise also may bring benefits of exposure and to the economy for the city of Conyers. Mauran presented his proposal at a city council meeting months ago, and was received with positive responses and support.
“Besides helping RYSA it will be an economic boost to the community,” Conyers Mayor Randy Mills said. “If you look at it compared to the tournaments RYSA hosts on weekends where you’ll have every hotel filled up and all the eating places, the economic benefits would be incredible. Something like this would be driving the economy to another level.”
The franchise is currently 90% finalized with the final deal and cost due to the NPSL the first week of January.
Mauran and his staff are still trying to find a location for the future team. RYSA reached out to the Rockdale Board of Education to play at Rockdale High School, but was not able to reach an agreement. Now the league is talking about using their own fields and making changes to fit into the rules of the NPSL.
RYSA will need to have a lit field, seating for at least 1,000 spectators, a locker room, press box and public address system.
“We’re running into a little hiccup there, and are researching the possibilities of playing here,” Mauran said.
Along with where the team plays there is still also the issue of who will be playing there. RYSA is conducting a vote on the teams name, logo and colors this weekend. As of Friday the favorites were the Revolution, Storm, Fury, Blast, Vortex and Kickers.
After this weekend’s vote, RYSA will finalize their home field plans and then finalize the deal shortly after the New Year, making 2010 the last year Rockdale will be without a professional sports franchise.
“We’re hoping by the beginning of the year to make a big announcement, that we’re definitely going to do it this summer,” Mauran said.