Maryland Bobcats F.C.’s Evan Raimist on Becoming a Pro Club
While MLS expansion teams delay their launch due to the impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland Bobcats join the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) and make the jump to pro club status.
“Our goal has always been to bring pro soccer to Maryland, it was not a question if, but when.”Evan Raimist, Maryland Bobcats F.C. GM/Director of Operations
The Maryland Bobcats Football Club announced today, July 27, that the club will join the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA). This move will make Maryland Bobcats FC the only men’s professional outdoor soccer team in the state. The club is tentatively slated to play home games at Maureen Hendricks Field at the SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland, and expects to begin playing after the spring 2021 season.
While MLS expansion teams are delaying their launch, Maryland Bobcats feel that this is the right time to announce their commitment to becoming a professional team.
“It was more of a 3-to-5-year plan and we didn’t want to rush things and make the jump before we were ready,” said Evan Raimist, Maryland Bobcats F.C.’s GM/Director of Operations.
“NISA wants to make sure all the clubs are set up to last.”Evan Raimist, Maryland Bobcats F.C.’s GM/Director of Operations
“The team is coming off a great year as the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) Champions and working with our fantastic ownership group and NISA — the time is right.”
According to Raimist, NISA provides a financially viable pathway to becoming a professional club. “We do not know how long the Coronavirus COVID-19 will last and Maryland is a mixed bag regarding Return To Play protocols. Although we are slated to host the NISA Independent Cup soon, there will be no fans in the stadium,” said Raimist.
The reward and prestige of becoming a professional soccer club fit the momentum the team created becoming national champions in an amateur league, and the Bobcats will maintain a reserve team in the UPSL moving forward.
“We have fantastic support in the community, and making this jump to becoming pro team will allow us to make a greater impact,” said Raimist who acknowledges that although the players and front office staff will be the same, the new professional tier will help the organization make an impact.
“We are 100% minority-owned club,” said Raimist. “It is our duty and our job to speak out.”Evan Raimist, Maryland Bobcats F.C.’s GM/Director of Operations
“Our club tagline ‘For All‘ and this pro jump will allow us to use our voice more,” said Raimist. The goal of Maryland Bobcats FC has always been to elevate soccer in the local community and the state of Maryland while working to bring men’s professional outdoor soccer to the state.
“We at Maryland Bobcats FC are grateful for the opportunity we have been given,” Maryland Bobcats FC President Jide Saba said. “This organization didn’t start today. To finally be able to give the people of Maryland a team they can actually call their own is fantastic. We are blessed to be able to also give the children of this great state a path to professional soccer. We know we have a lot of work to do, but we are ready to get down to it and get the community involved.”
“The Maryland Bobcats are a quality organization, headed by a fantastic ownership group. I look forward to working with them through the approval process and welcoming them to the NISA family” said John Prutch, Commissioner of NISA.
“The Bobcats are the reigning National Champions of the UPSL, now it’s time to test themselves at the professional level. I’ve really enjoyed working with ownership and management in this process and look forward to them taking the pitch as part of NISA,” said Joshua Prutch, Executive VP of Expansion. “Their first challenge is this week in the NISA Independent Cup against FC Baltimore Christos, New Amsterdam FC and New York Cosmos, some tough competition … may the best club win.”
In late 2018, the Bobcats announced their intentions to start to play in the UPSL, a national amateur league. A successful spring 2019 season earned the club a spot in the UPSL National Quarterfinals, which ended with a loss to the eventual champion. After an undefeated fall 2019 season, in January 2020 the Bobcats traveled to Miami, FL, to participate in the UPSL National Final Four. After two comeback wins in two days, Maryland Bobcats FC were crowned the 2020 UPSL National Champions.
“NISA is the league for us, and its vision aligns with our club’s vision and values,” said Saba. “Our path from starting as a Sunday league team to where we are now is unbelievable.”
In late 2019, the Bobcats also were accepted into the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), and had plans to kick off in summer 2020, but, due to COVID, the season was canceled.
“We thank our sponsors and the leadership team of Maryland Bobcats FC for their hard work and dedication to this project. We are grateful that a group of people chose to believe in this project even when others didn’t,” said Saba.
“Most said we wouldn’t last long simply because of our race.”Jide Saba, President Maryland Bobcats FC
NISA was founded in June 2017 and received provisional professional sanctioning from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in early 2019. Then in February of 2020, NISA became a full member of the Pro League Council of US Soccer. NISA clubs include New York Cosmos, New Amsterdam FC, California United Strikers FC, Chattanooga FC, Detroit City FC, Oakland Roots, Michigan Stars, Los Angeles Force and others. NISA is owned and governed by its member clubs.