You may not peg Greater Cleveland as the nation’s sixth-largest soccer market. But our sports-soaked minds know this: If there’s a game the rest of the world is playing, we’d better play it too.
Cleveland City Stars general manager Mark Geissbauer says local love for the sport, a lack of professional outdoor soccer and that sixth-largest stat is what led him to launch his new USL Second Division club here (the team’s inaugural season kicks off 7 p.m. May 19 at Cleveland State University’s Krenzler Field).
Between now and Aug. 3, the team will host 10 homes games with tickets around $9 for kids and $11 for adults. Players each earn $3,000 for the season, and you can expect to see some expert play from the City Stars’ roster.
“With our connections overseas, we’ve got players we can call upon,” Giessbauer says. “There are guys we’ve coached and played with before, as well as a couple of guys who’ve got major-league soccer experience.”
A native of Germany, Giessbauer brought Salem, Ore.’s USL team, Cascade Surge, its best record in club history as well as two consecutive titles during his stint as general manger. He was later named the USL’s Premier Development League executive of the year in recognition of his successes with the team. And while winning is certainly on the City Stars’ agenda, so is giving back. The team will be working with community organizations to provide soccer coaching to underprivileged kids.
“If you can make them a better person, you can often make your team a lot stronger,” says head coach Martin Rennie. “We are trying to teach guys to be positive role models and have unity together.”