Sacramento, California. (April 9, 2012): The Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) has announced the addition of Empire United for the 2012 season. The new team will compete in the East – Mid-Atlantic Division against such teams as Long Island Fury, New York Athletic Club, Chelsea Metro and fellow rookie team United FC Binghamton. Although two of the division’s dominant teams from 2011, New York Fury and ASA Chesapeake Charge, have moved up to the WPSL Elite League this season, the field continues to be competitive.
Empire United Soccer Academy (Empire USA) was created in 2007 when Western New York soccer clubs Rochester Junior Rhinos, Syracuse FC and Buffalo United SC joined together. In 2009 Crown City FC was added to the growing organization. The club, with its goal of creating an organization that would provide players at all levels with the opportunity to reach their individual goals and their maximum potential, became one of the first members of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2007. Now Empire United-Syracuse will add to that when they field their WPSL team for the 2012 season.
With fifteen girls’ US Youth New York State West State Cup Championships since 2009, joining the WPSL was a natural next step for the 2000-player-strong Empire USA club. As Empire United-Syracuse Director of Soccer Operations Mike Paolini explained, “Syracuse is an area that has become known for producing very high level women soccer players. It has been a recruiting feeding ground for many colleges across the country. Our area will now be home to a WPSL team and will further provide opportunities for our young female soccer players to get exposed to the highest level of college and universities across the nation.”
Empire USA will benefit from becoming a part of the WPSL, as the club’s WPSL Technical Director Kevin Perrigo, Jr., pointed out. “The local players no longer have to travel to play at a high level daily. Local players would rather stop playing at a high level than travel close to two hours to play every day. Putting a WPSL team in Syracuse will put our accomplished players in a position to continue their careers and to give back and mentor the younger players. This is something we never had.”
Paolini agreed, saying, “For Empire United SA to have a team in the WPSL means we now have a place for our elite women soccer players to play before, during and after college. This is a great honor to our club. We take great pride in our program on player development and this is another way we can better our women's program. We are now on the map in every aspect of the women’s game: youth, collegiate and U.S. Soccer.”
Empire United will be led by head coach Thomas “Tommy” Tanner, a former professional player who spent time with Cleveland Crunch of the MISL and NPSL and the Rochester Rhinos of the then-USISL A-League. As a youth, Tanner was a 1985 Parade Magazine High School All-American player and was named to the NSCAA High School All-American Third Team in 1984 and Fourth Team in 1985. He is also a member of the New York State West Youth Soccer Association Hall of Fame.
Tanner, who holds a USSF ‘B’ License, is currently the owner and head coach of the MISL Syracuse Silver Knights. He previously played with and was assistant coach of the Syracuse Salty Dogs of the USL A-League.
“Joining the WPSL is such a great opportunity for female players to continue to develop their game in a competitive atmosphere,” Tanner said. “This will give both Empire United players and upstate New York players an opportunity to continue to excel on the field.”
With a strong and loyal fan base, Empire United has as much to offer the WPSL as the league has to offer the new team. “Syracuse is a great soccer city with fans that have a high soccer IQ,” said Perrigo. “The support from the surrounding clubs would be a huge advantage for attendance and for something to give the younger players to look up to.”
“We plan on fielding the best team possible to compete at this level and to challenge the best teams in the country,” said Paolini. “We are not just throwing a team together; we are selecting an elite team that will be vying to win a Championship in the WPSL.”
As an early step in that direction, Empire United has signed four-year Colgate University starter Jillian Arnault. Among Arnault’s distinctions are Patriot League Tournament MVP in 2009, All-Patriot League First Team in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and ESPN The Magazine All-District Third Team in 2008. In 2009 Arnault helped lead Colgate to the Patriot League Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.