New York’s newest profesional sports franchise has not yet scored any goals, been on the pitch for one second of action and hasn’t even signed any players yet. But Queensboro FC, a new soccer club that will debut in 2022 has already begun to plant roots in their community. The club has announced an initiative called “For Our Heroes, By Our Heroes: Community Kit”, a limited-edition jersey that will help raise awareness and financial support for hospitals in Queens, the epicenter borough of New York during the coronavirus pandemic.
Queensboro FC’s Academy team will hit the pitch first this coming spring and they will wear the jersey, to be designed by the club with help from a creative committee consisting of doctors, surgeons, nurses, practitioners, paramedics and other healthcare workers, for the 2021 season. Proceeds sales of the jersey, to be unveiled in February, will go towards supporting Queens hospitals and its healthcare heroes.
“We’re so excited because it really just speaks to everything that we want to be as a club,” said Queensboro FC Chief Business Officer Adam Behnke during a phone interview with New York Sports Day. “We want to be all about the community. We want our anchor to be deeply rooted in our community in everything that we do. We see our platform, as the newest club in town, to provide support and help them in any way that we possibly can.”
Launching the academy, a year ahead of the start for the USL club, is a major milestone for Queensboro FC as they will not only be developing players for the senior team but they will also be grooming the next generation of homegrown players in the United States. The QBFC Academy team will play in the Northeast Division of the USL Academy League along with other local clubs like the Long Island Rough Riders and Westchester Flames. Front of jersey branding is generally the most coveted asset in soccer in terms of sponsorships, but as part of a planned partnership with NYU Langone Health’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Medisys Health Network, the club is donating the front of jersey branding to NYU Langone for the QBFC Academy’s inaugural 2021 season.
“We looked at this and we said okay we could get X amount of dollars for the front of our jersey,” said Behnke. “We really wanted to reinvest that opportunity back into the community so in talking with a lot of our local healthcare workers, we decided that this is going to be the right thing to do and we’re going to selectively create a unique logo that represents the healthcare workers.”
Queensboro FC Is Forging Ahead During A Pandemic:
Starting a new sports franchise can be challenging during normal times, but trying to build a franchise and getting it off the ground in the middle of a pandemic is certainly something that QBFC never could have anticipated happening. The original plan was to have the USL club begin play in 2021 and start the academy at a later date, but the pandemic forced the club to pivot and change the way they were going to get things started.
“At first it was a little alarming and startling,” said Behnke. “But we stepped back and it allowed us to re-evaluate our strategy and the way we were approaching the market. For the betterment of not only the club and the community, we have enough time now to build out that foundation of the academy. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise.”
Queensboro FC, owned by Jonathan Krane, the Founder and CEO of the asset management firm KraneShares, and former international soccer star David Villa, will begin play in 2022 pas part of the USL Championship league, the second division of the soccer pyramid in the United States and one level below Major League Soccer.
QBFC joins a crowded local professional soccer scene that includes Major League Soccer clubs NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls, as well as the legendary New York Cosmos who are currently based on Long Island and play in the National Independent Soccer Association. Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Cosmos drew huge crowds to Giants Stadium in the original North American Soccer League and then returned to the pitch in 2013 after a 29-year hiatus. The Red Bulls play at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey while NYCFC calls Yankee Stadium in the Bronx their home.
But Queens has historically been a soccer hotbed in the New York area with thousands of kids and adults playing “the beautiful game” at fields over the community. You’ll be hard-pressed to drive on the Grand Central Parkway on weekends and pass Flushing Meadow Park without seeing soccer matches taking place.
So, putting a pro soccer team in Queens made all the sense in the world and having a club in the borough is long overdue.
“It’s a match made in heaven,” said Behnke. “I think for all of us within the club, we do take a lot of pride in what this means for Queens. It’s the most deserving market in the country. So many people represent so many different countries within this borough and soccer is life, it’s religion, it’s culture in many other parts of the world and I think with a team in Queens, it gives us the opportunity to drive the sport forward and continue to push what is already happening in our sport right now with this rapid growth.”
Queensboro FC Is Building A Strong Franchise:
Queensboro FC is expected to play their home matches at a new 7,500 seat soccer stadium to be built at York College in Jamaica, a venue that will be easily accessible for fans either by driving or by taking mass transit. The pandemic certainly slowed down the organization’s plans to build out the front office, but there are already some important people in place including Behnke who previously was Chief Operating Officer for the Loudoun United FC of the USL Championship. The team also brought on board P.J. Davidson as Vice-President of Sales after he spent seven years working for the New York Yankees.
As far as the technical staff is concerned, QBFC hired Josep Gombau as Head Coach and Sporting Director. His coaching resume includes 24 years of experience over four continents, most recently as Head Coach of Odisha FC of the Indian Super League. They also filled their Technical Director position with Luis Gutierrez who was part of the coaching staff with the Cosmos for a pair of NASL Championships in 2015 and 2016.
But before the team ever steps foot on a pitch, New York’s newest soccer team is already beginning to be an important part of the Queens community and the special jersey to honor a group of heroes including frontline workers is just an example of that. Queensboro FC would certainly love to be getting ready for an inaugural season in 2021, but COVD-19 changed those plans and now they will turn their attention to launching the Academy and helping those in need.
“It gives us the opportunity to really just focus on the community, plant our roots in the community, get to know as many people as we possibly can as the new guys in town, help out at local food pantries and help out wherever we can to lend a hand to help support our community which is very much in need,” said Behnke.
There is certainly a lot of excitement when it comes to sports in Queens these days. The New York Mets are under new ownership and there is a feeling among the fan base that the team can soon become a World Series contender. And now, Queens is ready to welcome a new sports franchise as Queensboro FC will soon bring professional soccer to the area, initially with their academy and then in 2022 with a USL Championship club.
There hasn’t been a goal, a shot, a pass, a sliding tackle, a save or a corner kick just yet, but Queensboro FC is already making an impact in the community.