The Sports Mirage, Our Northstar, and Redefining Promotion and Relegation



“Every year, FC Davis releases a season recap keeping our community of fans up to date with progress behind the scenes as we build our towns semi-pro soccer club"


Part I. Our Northstar


In 2014, I got consumed by the idea of starting a D4 soccer club.


It all began with one question: Why doesn’t Davis have a team we can call our own?


At its core, FC Davis was created to make our community a more inspiring and vibrant place to live. The club was built to provide a home for our local soccer fanatics, convert non-fans to new-fans, galvanize a new wave of young fans, and increase the probability of towns around us spurning clubs of their own.


With a concept in mind, it was time to put pen to paper and create an outline of what “could be” for our local community.


The “could be” list for FC Davis was fairly simple:


  • Create a men's team that could be…

  • Leveraged to start a women's team to create…

  • New collegiate programming which will…

  • Do good in the community and…

  • Support learning opportunities for local students.


Based on this “could be” list, a more refined set of goals were created to give the organization tangible aspirations. These goals included:



After a two year test run, FC Davis was ready to host our towns first ever NPSL semi-pro match in spring of 2018. By 2019 we won our first conference title, hosted a national playoff match, qualified for the US Open Cup, and were accepted into the WPSL. In 2021 (post-covid) we won our second NPSL conference title, kicked off our inaugural WPSL season and launched FCD U for aspiring local collegiate players (more to come!). We also connected with over 30 amazing high school and college interns over the past 5 seasons. These interns are essential to making the club come to life each year.


Pretty good accomplishments for our town of 65,000 people.


Success….yes?


The Sports Mirage


In sports, success on the outside can be a bit misleading. Big trophies, individual awards, national TV headlines, and creative marketing can paint a picture of a thriving organization, while behind the scenes it's a complete mess.


Just look at the history of soccer in the US. It’s littered with teams going belly up.


How bad are the sharky waters of American soccer?


Well…


For clubs at our level (D4), the median lifespan is only two years.


Yes, you read that right. Twenty four months.


Due to almost every reason imaginable, clubs fold. Hundreds, if not thousands of them to date. As a result, towns lose their teams and the landscape turns chaotic.


USL, who plays David in the battle with Goliath (MLS), has gone through constant earthquakes since the modern era of the league was launched. Partly due to top teams abandoning the league for MLS. Partly due to teams folding. Since 2015, at least 22 USL Championship teams have either rebranded, relocated, gone on hiatus, folded, or left the USL entirely.


MLS, which is viewed as the fail-proof option for professional clubs, saw a couple teams ride off into the sunset. Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion, and Chivas USA (LA market) all closed shop.


We’ve even had entire leagues collapse.


The A-League lost a trove of teams when it disappeared in the 1990s. NASL, who were home to Pele and the New York Cosmos, went kaput…twice!


Women’s professional leagues haven’t fared any better, with WUSA and WPS vanishing quickly, lasting three years each.


A little known fact, in 2001 MLS folded, as told by FC Dallas president Dan Hunt. The paperwork was ready and the league was finished. If not for a last ditch effort by Lamar Hunt, MLS would have been another statistic in the boom-and-bust landscape of American soccer.


So where does that leave us in our tiny cutout of Davis?


The Most Important Goal