Detroit City FC has reached unparalleled heights during its eight-year run as a grassroots soccer organization through the myriad of achievements largely attained by its men’s team.
Now it will be the women’s turn.
DCFC plans to launch a team to begin play in the second-tier semi-professional United Women’s Soccer league next summer. CEO Sean Mann was to make the announcement during halftime of the team’s match against Napa Valley 1839 on Saturday at Keyworth Stadium.
The UWS season runs May to July. Le Rouge will be pitted against AFC Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids FC and Lansing United — all of whom were longtime rivals of the men’s team in the National Premier Soccer League.
Detroit Sun FC, which plays at Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, and Michigan Legends, which operate out of the Brighton Legacy Center, are also UWS members.
“We've always had an eye on starting a women's team, but the men's team just kept growing and growing,” said Mann, whose men’s team is joining the third-tier National Independent Soccer Association this spring. “We wanted to be in a place where we could do it properly.
“Actually, when the youth affiliates came on board, the number one thing we got pressed on was: ‘When are you going to have a women’s team for us to look up to?’ They make up half of our youth programming, so it really just seemed like that it was the right time.”
The club intends to have a technical staff in place by the holidays, Mann said.
The move comes as women’s soccer continues to soar in popularity.
About 20 million people in this country watched as the U.S. defeated Holland 2-0 Women’s World Cup Final in July, according to Fox Sports. That is 22 percent more than the 11 million people in the U.S. who viewed the 2018 men’s World Cup Final.
That coincides with the continual surge of girls playing the sport. This year, 394,105 girls were taking part in high school soccer, which is a 4.7 percent increase from 375,681 participants in 2014-15, according to data from Statista.
DCFC men team’s joining NISA will benefit the new women’s side as well, Mann said.
NISA will adhere to a traditional FIFA calendar, playing a spring-fall schedule. The DCFC women’s team will have the spotlight in June and July.
“One of the things that was really exciting for us is the women's team isn't going to be in the shadows of the men's team,” Mann said. “They are not going to play second fiddle.
“So when people are used to going to Keyworth in June and early July for matches, it's going to be the women's team out there — not the men's team.”
DCFC 2020 season tickets, which go on sale Monday, will include UWS regular season matches as well as the men’s team NISA regular season games and all friendly encounters.
The men’s team routinely draws crowds of 5,000 to 6,000 to 7,933-capacity Keyworth Stadium. Mann declined to set a specific attendance goal for the new venture.
“(It’s) hard to say at this point but hope to raise the bar at this level of the women’s game the same way we did with the men’s side,” he said.