By Austin Chastain – Collegiate Staff
The best kept secret of the Grand Rapids sports market is closer than you think, Grand Rapids Football Club is an up-and-coming professional soccer team that plays its home games at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids.
GRFC was founded in 2014 by Matt Roberts and has become an excellent source of entertainment and solidarity in the community of Grand Rapids. The team currently plays in the National Premier Soccer League in the Great Lakes West Conference in the Midwest Region.
The Club is coached by George Moni, of Grand Rapids, and he is excited about the upcoming season, saying that he wants to, “prepare the team” and “get it organized” to repeat as Great Lakes West Conference Regular Season Champions. Moni went on to describe the NPSL and its other clubs as “competitive” and reflected on how incredible last season and the conference title was for his team.
“The achievement of the team and the supporters were outstanding,” Moni said.
The Club has had a positive impact on the community, as well as gained popularity around the area. GRFC played a match at Fifth Third Ballpark last October with an eruption to the tune of a 10-1 victory over Aurora United.
“The players and the coaching staff really enjoyed it,” Moni said.
Many of the players that are on the GRFC side are former college, or even professional players. Moni discussed signing players of the best quality to bring the best quality squad possible to each match. The higher quality of players GRFC brings onto their team signifies to the coaching staff and the other players that they are for real and have a good chance at advancing themselves forward to higher leagues in U.S. Soccer.
The Club announced on Nov. 1 that it would field a women’s side for the 2017 season. The team will compete in the Midwest Division of the United Women’s Soccer League. Moni said that the popularity that the men’s team brought to Grand Rapids is, “a good ground to build a women’s team on.”
The Club has already signed a handful of players, the first being Michaela Kovacs who played for the United States Women’s National Team at the U19 (under 19) level this past season. The women’s team is looking to make a quick impact on the city and their league. The women’s team kicks off this summer.
Houseman Field can seat 8,000 people at its maximum capacity and the average attendance for GRFC home matches is about 4,400 people. Moni expects that there will be higher attendance based on last year’s success.
“It was truly a phenomenal season,” Moni said. “We won the league in our first year playing in it.”
The success that the team has had since it was founded has helped it grow more popular in the community.
With more success and higher attendance, brings concern that their current venue of Houseman Field might not be the forever home of GRFC.
“Higher leagues demand stadiums,” Moni said. “They have an expectation that we must meet in order to play in that league.”
As the direction of GRFC goes up and forward, the need for a new home venue may be in order to keep the team in Grand Rapids.
GRFC officially opens practice in April, with training beginning in February for returning players looking to return to form and prepare themselves for the season. The team’s schedule on their website can be found here.