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Hello again and welcome AP readers! Today you get to read about one of America's oldest and most prestigious soccer leagues. The Cosmopolitan Soccer League of NYC> Bill Marth took some time over a couple of days to answer questions and talk about not just the league, but the soccer club of which he is a member and GM, Hoboken FC. Check it out.
,Let’s start simple. Who you, where you're from, and what your role is with the Cosmopolitan Soccer League.
I am Bill Marth, and I am the general secretary of the CSL. I was born and raised in NJ and am also the general manager of a CSL club, Hoboken FC 1912.
How did you come to be involved with Hoboken FC 1912, and the CSL?
I grew up as a member of Hoboken FC as my Dad and grandmother had also been members. Hoboken FC was founded in 1912, making it one of the oldest (if not the oldest) club in the country. Many close family friends were and are members of Hoboken FC. With the CSL, my Dad was also the general secretary of the league and knew much about it growing up. I went to CSL matches and meetings while growing up.
What do you mean when you say that you're a member of Hoboken FC?
Hoboken FC is a member based club. All players are members and non-players can be members by paying an annual registration fee. The membership elects a board, which appoints coaches and managers. In that sense we are like Bayern Munich, just on a smaller scale.
Okay. So it would be possible for someone reading this interview to decide to become a member, even if they aren't a player or live in Hoboken?
Yes, anyone can be become a member of Hoboken FC. We currently have members living throughout the world.
That's really cool. Are there many member teams like that in the CSL?
Many of the older clubs in our league are member based clubs. Some of the newer clubs are like that also, but we currently have about 60 clubs in our league and while some have strong memberships, others are basically just the players
Alright. What are the five oldest clubs in the CSL? I don't believe a lot of people realize just how old soccer in the States really is.
The CSL was founded in 1923. Hoboken FC is the oldest club founded in 1912. SC Gjoa were formed in 1911 but did not play soccer until the early 1920's. SC Eintracht was formed in 1933. Greek Americans were formed in 1941. NY Ukrainians in 1947. BW Gottschee in 1951.
Before there was a national professional league, the CSL was one of the top leagues in the country. The CSL is one of only three active amateur leagues where players can enter the national soccer Hall of Fame by having played in the league prior to the formation of professional leagues in the 1960's.
Really? That's pretty impressive, both the longevity of Hoboken FC and the strength of the CSL. Who are some of the top players to have plied their trade in the league?
I don't know that much about all of the former players. I know some players from the US national team that beat England in 1950 played in the CSL. Also the first NY Cosmos in 1971 team had 17 or 18 players which played in the CSL.
Please also note that the CSL was known as the German-American Football Association (GAFA) until 1977 so if you do any research that name might come up
German-American Football Association doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Let's go back to Hoboken FC real quick. What's the team's origin story, and has it always been member driven?
Hoboken FC was formed in 1912 by German immigrants who had settled in the Hoboken, NJ area. I assume that the original members were all players, but after the players stopped playing they remained active with the club as non-playing members. it is similar to many European soccer clubs. The clubs are more than a bunch of guys kicking the ball around. The club hosts parties and has taken team/club trips.
Since we don't really have much in the way of member clubs in the US, what does being a member club actually look like? I mean, how is it different from the teams we traditionally see in American sports?
Basically, Hoboken FC is a nonprofit corporation similar to the Elks club or a singing society. All of the players as well as the non-playing members are members of the club. There is no club owner. The club has meetings and the membership decides on policy.
Okay, I like the comparison to the Elks, that makes a lot of sense. Let's get back to the CSL now that we have that cleared up. How is the league structured currently? It's got a lot of ground to cover since it's in the world's second largest city.
The CSL is organized into 4 open divisions. The first 2 divisions also require every team to have a reserve team. Additionally there is an over-30 division and an over-37 division. So there are a total of 8 divisions.
How many teams are in each division?
The 1st division has 10 teams (plus 10 in the 1st division reserve); the 2nd division has 18 teams (plus 18 teams in the 2nd division reserves); 3rd division has 10 teams; 4th division has 19 teams; O-30 division has 15 teams; and O-37 division has 12 teams.
Wow. Quite a few teams there. Is it much of hassle to keep track of them all?
I know most of the teams. Plus the CSL has an office staff of 4 part time workers.
4 Part Time staff members? That's not bad. If I were looking to enter my team into the CSL, what would that process look like for me?
You will fill out an application and have a short interview with a few board members. We usually accept most new teams who want to join at the lowest division as long as they do not have disciplinary problems in another league. There is an application and admission fee.
What other leagues currently operate in NYC? And would the CSL be considered the top of the pyramid, so to speak?
In NYC itself, the CSL is really the only US Soccer affiliated league. There are other leagues in the area, that have a few NYC teams.
Awesome. Would the other leagues in NYC be more of what you might call pub leagues then?
The CSL is the only US Soccer affiliated league based primarily in NYC. As a US Soccer affiliated league, all players must be registered and have player passes. In other words, you can't just pick up a friend and have him play on a given day. The other leagues are move recreational as players do not need to be formally registered.
I see. And that probably helps keep the standard of play much higher, doesn't it?
Cool. Let's do a left field question. You had mentioned the teams at the top of the CSL are crazy talented compared to the rest. In your ideal world, how would you change things to make the top of the league more competitive and give the other teams a chance?
Currently there is no real way to do that as some of the top teams sign professional players. A possible answer is to take the top 4-6 teams and spin them off as a regional league with other top teams in the NY, NJ, CT & PA are. The regional league would be affiliated with the remaining CSL through relegation and promotion. We would need to find 4-5 other teams though, and travel may be an issue.
Where do you hope to see the CSL in 5 years?
Hopefully we can add a few more teams and have an even better match day experience with better referees and an online player pass system.
Nice. What kind of things would improve the match day experience right now?
Most of our fields have great turf pitches, but some fields do need better turf and better line markings. Also, things such as player and coaches benches and rest room facilities would be nice
Anything for fan experience, or is that more of a long term thing?
Right now most teams do not have a huge fan following. While some matches may get 100 to 300 fans, many matches just get 10-30 fans, usually family, friends, significant others. With so many teams in such a small geographical area, it would hard to have a real fan base.
Really? I didn't realize teams in the CSL were doing that well when it comes to attendance. What kind of challenges do you run into when it comes to marketing the league and raising awareness of the teams?
Potential players, which are mostly younger guys moving into NYC after college, do not know the difference between the CSL and other recreational leagues.
Yeah, most college guys aren't going to know about those kind of things. Ready to do some more rapid fire questions to wrap things up?
What is your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
Well my team is obviously Hoboken FC. If Hoboken FC is playing, then the CSL. If not, the Bundesliga.
I really dig the Bundesliga quite a bit. Favorite players. One past, one present?
Past would have to Franz Beckenbauer, as I grew up hearing about him and watching him to a degree.
Present would be some of the young talent at Dortmund. Players such as Weigl and Durm and of course Pulisic. The problem is that Dortmund always loses its talent down the road.
Yeah, that makes being a Dortmund fan really hard sometimes. Who knows though, after Gotze came back, maybe some of these guys will stay, or at least stick around longer. Would you rather attend the Euros, AFC Nations Cup, or World Cup?
What would you tell someone asking why they should get out and support lower league soccer, like the CSL?
If you are a fan of soccer, I think it is cool to support a club at the ground level. You could have a certain kinship with that club. You could be a member and get to know the coaches and players. That type of relationship is one you'll never have with a professional club.
That's a great way to wrap it up. Bill, thanks again for taking the time to help make this happen. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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