I was born in Salem, MA, but I was raised in Tallahassee, FL. I was five years old when my mother and I moved to northern Florida, and as we settled in one thing quickly became apparent: Tallahassee was a breeding ground for some of the state’s and nation’s greatest footballing talent. That’s why I find it fitting that the capital city of the sunshine state is finally getting a team of its own: Tallahassee Soccer Club.
I was fortunate to grow up and play soccer in Tallahassee. The talent pool in the city is immense, and includes budding stars from Florida State University’s club team, Tallahassee Community College, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tottenham-sponsored Tallahassee youth teams, and scores of legitimate high school programs. The parks are constantly filled with a diverse collection of players, happily scrimmaging whenever and wherever they can.
The (locally) famous Meadows Soccer Complex, also home to the renowned Red Horse Trials, is a sprawling fortress of fields where the city’s players almost religiously come to practice and play. The youth programs are top notch, developing some of the nation’s brightest prospects. The casual leagues are fun and friendly, allowing new players to experience the sport without the fear of embarrassment or ridicule. The competitive leagues, on the other hand, are borderline collegiate-level play.
What I’m getting at here is that Tallahassee Soccer Club and the Battle Lion can be a surprising addition to the soccer landscape in Florida...in time. The club will be focused on the strong community that already exists in Tallahassee, and will be run by a committed collection of volunteers. Club president Chris Petley stated:
“In our community where we embrace everything local, that’s our message – we’re supporting local. It’s a local team run by a volunteer board of local people in our community that love this city and love soccer. We want to make sure we provide an atmosphere and a culture,” Petley said. “That’s why that location is vital to our success. People can go get some beers beforehand, families can go get food nearby, and a do a ‘march to the match’ down Madison Street – everything you associate with soccer in our country right now.”
I’m looking forward to seeing Tallahassee SC grow into a semi-professional powerhouse. First, it’ll have to decide which league it’ll be participating in next year; the Gulf Coast Premier League or the United Premier Soccer League. Regardless of which league it chooses, it’ll have a constant direct pipeline to some of the region’s best players.
“We have success coming from Maclay and its state championship, and Lincoln, Chiles, Leon at the high school level,” Petley said. “You have the legacy of Andy Warner and everything he has built. And then you obviously have the FSU women’s program. I don’t want to say we’ve been slept on, but the community exists.”
From my personal experience growing up in the region, the level of play was consistently phenomenal at all ages. I was lucky enough to play club ball for the U-18 Top of Florida Soccer Club side, just one of many elite traveling club teams in the area (including Tallahassee United F.C., ASG, and eventually Tallahassee Tottenham). The fact that these clubs existed, and still do in a different iteration, signify the commitment to the sport in the area.
The high schools in the area are also at a very high level, constantly competing for state championships. Tallahassee will develop talent even further now with the addition of this elite amateur club, and I can’t wait to watch it grow.
This capital city club is ascending, and that’s something we should all be keeping an eye on.