When a new football club opens its doors, wherever in the world they may be, the first thing you do is look at the sporting competition. Who else is in the area? Who are they competing with for fans?
In Atlantic City, New Jersey, there are no sports teams representing the local area. It once thrived with basketball, hockey, baseball, indoor football games but lately there has been little for the residents to get behind outside of collegiate teams.
Atlantic City FC are a new football club formed in late 2017 by co-owners Andrew Weilgus and Nick Bilotta. This partnership ran GetLiveMusic.com and QuizzoTrivia.com together, before turning their attention to bringing a football club into an area primed for one.
Having considered the merits of joining both the United Soccer League and United Premier Soccer League, Atlantic City will compete in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) starting in just two months’ time. The NPSL houses a massive 98 teams split into 14 conferences across 4 regions. Competition is tough, especially for an expansion team.
What Atlantic City does have is experienced personnel at their disposal. In addition to the entrepreneurial success of co-owners Andrew Weilgus and Nick Bilotta, they have brought in former Swansea City player and coach, Kristian O’Leary to act as head coach. In a 15-year career with the Swans, he amassed 281 appearances and ended his career in his native Wales with Neath before taking up a management role. Technical director is Jeremiah White, a former United States international and a footballer with stints in Serbia, France, Denmark and Greece before ending his playing career in 2012 with New England Revolution.
Backing Atlantic City as its main sponsor is Tropicana. As reported by NPSL themselves, Tropicana Atlantic City was instrumental in the team’s creation, “Soccer is the fastest growing sport in the country. We are happy to bring more fun and excitement to the local community and our guests as a proud sponsor of the Atlantic City FC,” said Tropicana Atlantic City General Manager Steve Callender. Tropicana will house the players in the resort’s newly acquired Chelsea Tower.
Even Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian has got in on the action, “Since 2009 we have been without a sports team of our own…until now. I can tell you from personal experience that soccer really has become a popular sport here in Atlantic City, and it’s a great move by Tropicana to be fully supporting this new sports team. The Atlantic City FC will bring national recognition and economic infusion to the area. We’re thrilled to be able to root for the home team once again.”
Home games will be played at Stockton University, located in Galloway Township in Atlantic County, New Jersey. Atlantic City considered playing home games at the Sandcastle, but it was too costly to renovate and Atlantic City High School’s artificial turf field was eliminated from contention as the team wants to play games on grass. If you like distant links, former Real Madrid and Inter Milan footballer, not to mention current Real Madrid Castilla manager Santiago Solari, attended Stockton University.
This isn’t a pipe dream, it’s happening and the people involved are serious about promoting a club that not only represents its community but supports it. In an interview with American Pyramid, Andrew Weilgus laid out his vision: “Any local team is worth supporting IF that team supports the community. What I mean by that is the team needs to do things in the communities best interests. That means being selfless, not profiteering and focusing on ways they can inspire young kids who look up to them. When that happens, a bond is formed and there is legitimate magic in that relationship.”
Weilgus and Bilotta have looked as far afield as Scotland to recruit Chris Ross, who has taken up a position as development director. Chris has responsibility for club development, brand awareness and community relations. Chris has previously led and consulted with football clubs including Ross County and Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League. Chris told us;
“I’m delighted to be given this responsibility by Andrew and the team here at Atlantic City as well as the chance to be involved in the development of the Club during its first year in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). The ambition shown by the Club and the impact it wants to have, not only on the pitch as a competitive NPSL side, but also the wider community impact and spirit that we are looking to create in Atlantic City is what makes our project so unique and exciting. We’ve been hard at work for the past couple of months now since my appointment in January finalising the last of our player recruitment and logistics for the season and with pre-season kicking off for us in April, it’s getting to that exciting time!”
MLSFootball.com wishes Chris Ross and Atlantic City FC all the best for the upcoming National Premier Soccer League season beginning on May with a visit by FC Monmouth. We’re adopting Atlantic City as our favourite NPSL team and will feature monthly updates. For more information about the Atlantic City Football Club visit AtlanticCityFC.com or follow the club on Instagram (@AtlanticCityFC), Facebook (http://www.Facebook.com/AtlanticCityFC) and Twitter (@AtlanticCityFC).