By: Hunter Ellis, Managing Multimedia Editor
Xavier is set to be the home of Kings Hammer Football Club, a new pre-professional soccer club, beginning in 2021.
As the U.S. soccer landscape continues to grow, Kings Hammer FC is one of many new expansion teams competing in United Soccer League, League Two (USL2).
USL2 is a part of the fourth tier in the U.S. Soccer Pyramid, below professional leagues such as Major League Soccer (MLS), United Soccer League Championship (USL) and United Soccer League, League 1 (USL1).
Despite the fact that Kings Hammer is a new team in USL2, they are not the first Cincinnati team to play in the division. The Cincinnati Dutch Lions, who played their games at Northern Kentucky University, formerly played in USL2, but folded after the onset of the pandemic.
Kings Hammer FC shares a few similarities with the now-defunct Cincinnati Dutch Lions. The club hired former Cincinnati Dutch Lions general manager Brandon Ponchak and former coach Paul Nicholson after their club halted operations last year.
Nicholson, now the technical director and coach of Kings Hammer FC, said that the team will begin training for their 14-game season in early May.
Kings Hammer kicks off the season away against Dayton Dutch Lions FC on May 15, followed by the team’s home opener against Kalamazoo FC on May 19.
The team will play all of their home games at Corcoran Field, Xavier’s 1,600-seat soccer stadium.
“I think the stadium is unbelievable, and pretty unique.” Nicholson said.
Nicholson, who also played as a defender and midfielder with FC Cincinnati from 2016-2017, recalled scrimmaging against the Xavier men’s team at the venue in 2016.
“I remember that game vividly… there was a huge crowd, and I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is pretty special,’” Nicholson said. “Hopefully we can emulate an atmosphere like that.”
Details on securing tickets for Kings Hammer FC games will be released on the team’s website in the next few weeks. While the price of these tickets has not been revealed, Nicholson explained that one of the team’s goals is to provide the entertainment and atmosphere of live soccer to the local community at a price which will not break the bank.
“If you enjoy going to FC Cincinnati or Xavier soccer games, this is just another opportunity to watch live soccer and see the game being played at a high level in your home city at an affordable rate,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson also noted that there will be opportunities in the future for Xavier players to work with Kings Hammer on their pathways to becoming professionals.
“I have a lot of respect for what Coach Fleming has been able to produce, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with Xavier players in the past,” Nicholson said.
“One name that comes to mind for me is Jacob Goodall. It was a difficult time coming out of college and trying to go pro with (COVID-19) going on, so he was in limbo when he played with our OVPL (Ohio Valley Premier League) team this past fall. But he was able to get picked up by Greenville Triumph in USL1,” Nicholson added.
While the team has no formal affiliation with Cincinnati’s MLS side FC Cincinnati, Nicholson noted his desire for Kings Hammer to have a good relationship with the team.
“If we can help (FC Cincinnati) by bringing in some college prospects that they could potentially be interested in, that’s fantastic,” Nicholson said. “And obviously for us it’s a draw to be in this environment where there is an MLS team and there’s two big USL teams in the area.”
Kings Hammer FC will play in the Great Lakes Division of the Central Conference in USL2, against local rivals such as the Dayton Dutch Lions, fellow expansion side Toledo Villa FC, and the champions of the league from 2019, the Flint City Bucks.
“We play in a very, very tough conference, but our aim is to compete for the USL2 championship each year,” Nicholson said.
For Kings Hammer, which has a well-known academy structure for players as young as four years old, the new teams in USL2, OVPL and the recently announced USL Academy division are just the next step in the development of local youth soccer talent.
“USL2 is basically a bridge for our academy players, as well as local college players, to go on and play at the next level. The league gives players an added level of exposure for certain players… to get into the spotlight for other USL or MLS teams,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson noted that Cincinnati is a soccer town, and hopes that the new Kings Hammer side will fit well into the soccer landscape in the community.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play in a lot of different cities across the country, and there’s nothing that compares to the atmosphere that’s generated around soccer here in Cincinnati… there just isn’t a comparison in the country,’ Nicholson said. “The new team is a Kings Hammer USL2 side, but I think it’s something that will better the region and will continue the excitement that’s already here for soccer.”
Tryouts for the Kings Hammer USL2 and Academy teams are open to interested Xavier students, and will be held on April 11.