Getting to Know Med City FC’s GM Frank Spaeth
The growth of the beautiful game in the USA — and the success of the MLS — proves soccer is woven into the fabric of American sports. Soccer has matured, and its infrastructure has spiraled into a pipeline of youth leagues with millions of kids playing the game. Even commercials now use soccer as a powerful backdrop for selling the American Dream.
2017 will be a triumphant year for soccer and the NPSL — America’s thriving men’s league — is gearing up with a financially sound model that is helping to expand the game throughout the country. As new teams join the NPSL, SoccerToday interviews the people behind the scenes — here is a look at Med City FC General Manager Frank Spaeth.
NPSL Soccer News: The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) latest expansion team is Med City FC joining the Midwest Region’s North Conference. Frank Spaeth is the club’s general manager. Spaeth has worked in the front office of the Rochester Thunder, a soccer team that played two seasons in the PDL in 2009 and 2010, as well as serving as the assistant general manager for Minnesota Chill, a professional volleyball team based in Rochester, Minnesota in 2001 and 2002. In addition, Spaeth is a soccer player and a coach who has worked and played at various levels of the beautiful game.
SoccerToday spoke with Spaeth on the club’s inaugural season in the NPSL and the decision to join the growing league.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did the Med City FC team form?
Frank Spaeth: Our team has literally formed over the course of the last four to six weeks! At this point, we don’t officially have any players on the roster. We’re reaching out to college players from the area and to the youth clubs — to have them help us inform former players.
Diane Scavuzzo: As GM of the new Med City FC, why did you choose the NPSL?
Frank Spaeth: I was originally approached by a good friend and former college teammate, Greg Saliaras, who owns and runs the NPSL team in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I met with him and Wesley Costa, who works with some of the youth clubs in the Rochester area. We all talked about the opportunity and the great things happening in the NPSL and thought Rochester would be a great fit.
Due to other commitments, neither of them were able to take the lead on getting a team up and running, but they knew that I had a good sense of the soccer landscape in the Rochester area. That was really how it all got started.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your greatest challenge as a new NPSL team?
Frank Spaeth: Where do I start? Having literally started all this a little more than a month ago. I think there are several challenges.
First, there’s the infrastructure, and getting good people involved with the team in key positions. We’re still finalizing our coaching staff and looking at expanding our volunteer base in terms of front office duties.
Then there is the team building aspect — we officially have no players yet, although I would anticipate that changing in the very near future. We are going to create not only a team with cohesion on the field but a culture.
And, finally, it is making sure we get the support we need to make this club a success.
This team isn’t some hobby started by a bunch of wealthy guys looking for something fun to do with their money.
Our leadership group is a handful of normal, average guys who love soccer and want to offer something in the community that it has been lacking. We’ve taken the lead and we are going to encourage the rest of the area’s soccer community to join our crusade!
Diane Scavuzzo: When are you holding tryouts? What type of players are you looking for?
Frank Spaeth: We’re working to schedule two open tryout sessions for early February.
We want to build the best team we possibly can, so that we can be competitive in what looks to be a tough conference.
We want players who are good performers on the field and good citizens off the field.
We want young men who can connect with the community and help us build a great rapport with all the youth players and clubs in the area.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did you become in involved in soccer?
Frank Spaeth: I started playing youth soccer back when I was 6-years-old, in Colorado and Utah. I played all the way up until high school when, for some unexplainable reason, I decided to play the other “football” instead. I played American football in high school and my first year of college, but I made friends with several of the soccer players at the college and they asked me to play indoor soccer with them. I did and remembered how much I enjoyed it and ended up playing soccer the rest of my college days.
Diane Scavuzzo: Where did you coach soccer? Where did you play?
Frank Spaeth: I have coached at the club, high school and collegiate levels, as both a head coach and an assistant coach, including working with the girl’s program at Northfield High School in Northfield, Minnesota, the boy’s program at John Marshall High School in Rochester and the women’s program at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota.
I have also coached with the Rochester Youth Soccer Association, including last summer with my son’s U9 team.
I played collegiately at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, back when it was Concordia College and they still had a men’s program. One of my teammates in college was Saliaras, who runs the NPSL team LC Aris FC in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
Diane Scavuzzo: What influences you?
Frank Spaeth: One of my big influences is my family, and especially my kids. They’re growing up learning to love and appreciate the game. I see Med City FC providing an opportunity for my kids, especially my 9-year-old son and his friends, to have the chance to play at a level that we just didn’t have when I was in my early-20s.
Diane Scavuzzo: Has soccer really changed since you first started playing?
Frank Spaeth: Wow! I’m not sure there is enough space to answer this question! I think soccer has changed in so many ways, on so many levels, since I started playing and even just in the last 10 years.
More and more youth are playing and I see the talent level improving all the time. Youth soccer players are starting younger now. When I was a kid, you started in kindergarten or first grade. Now, there are programs for 2 and 3-year-olds to get out and start kicking a soccer ball in a purposeful way.
The game has become more sophisticated — in terms of formations and tactics. And, those changes are trickling down to lower levels of soccer more quickly.
On a professional level, there have been some profound changes in the structure of U.S. Soccer at the highest levels and the rise in the number of teams playing in the top amateur leagues, including the NPSL.
Diane Scavuzzo: If you could, what is the one moment you would like to turn back the clock and change?
Frank Spaeth: That’s a good question, and interesting because I think there are any number of decisions in a person’s life that alter the course of their life.
I think one decision I would change if I could happened when I was studying over in England for a semester in college. I was playing for the college soccer team over there and a few of the guys on the team were ex-professionals who offered to arrange for me to tryout for Grimsby Town, a local team playing in 4th division I think. I didn’t really take it seriously, so I never really pursued it. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken them up on their offer. Maybe I would have made the team and maybe I wouldn’t have made it. But at least I would have given it a try.
Diane Scavuzzo: If you could pick any super power, what would it be and why?
Frank Spaeth: I think I would want to have the speed of the Flash! Think of how much more I could get done on any given day if I could cut all my travel time down to nothing!
Diane Scavuzzo: How do you plan on promoting your NPSL team to drive fans into seats?
Frank Spaeth: We’re going to rely on a real grassroots approach. Working with the youth clubs to engage their support and have them help us get the word out is going to be vital.
Once we have the team set up, we’ll be getting our players out into the community, helping and volunteering to build a connection with our city.
We’re a volunteer-led and run organization, from the GM on down, and we’re going to need the entire community to embrace this to make a real go of it.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who do you think will be your greatest competition?
Frank Spaeth: I expect good competition from all the teams in our conference. Obviously, with the personal history I have with LC Aris FC’s owner, I know that will become a big rivalry quickly! Teams like Minneapolis City SC and the Minnesota Twinstars already have strong histories and a great pool of Twin Cities talent to select from.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who is your favorite soccer team or player? Who do you root for behind closed doors?
Frank Spaeth: I watch and follow a lot of teams all over the world. My favorite team is Arsenal. I like their style of play and I think Arsene Wenger is a very good coach. It is amazing the success he has had, despite the ever-increasing competition of the EPL.
I also like Liverpool. I have always admired the way Steven Gerrard went about his business on the field and the loyalty he showed to Liverpool. I think Jurgen Klopp is another great coach and I enjoy the style of soccer his teams play. I enjoyed Borussia Dortmund when he coached there, too.
I’ve been watching the Australian A-league on ESPN 3 quite a bit lately and I really like the Central Coast Mariners. They aren’t a strong team in terms of the standings, and they are young and prone to make mistakes at inopportune times, but I enjoy the heart and desire that their team plays with and I like their style of play. They go out and give their opponents a game every time they get on the field.
As far as players go, I like those guys who just go out and do their business. Mezut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are great examples. I have enjoyed watching Jamie Vardy at Leicester City too.