Niagara United jumps to First Division pro soccer

Niagara Falls is building a reputation for something else. The Falls – and the Niagara Region – are becoming soccer country.

That message was delivered at a recent the press conference when Niagara United announced its professional status after being awarded a spot in the First Division of the Canadian Soccer League.

Niagara United Soccer Club entered the CSL in 2011 to play its first year in the Second Division and the results were impressive: The team won the Second Division-West, with head coach James McGillivray being voted the division’s coach of the year by all CSL member teams. The club showed strong organization in hosting Bedlington Terriers FC of England in an exhibition game last June 28 and at the end of the season Niagara United won the Fair Play and Respect Award which takes into account the discipline record and the team’s handling of match officials in a game environment.

The professional team will play in a First Division of 16 teams stretching from Windsor to Montreal. Kingston FC and SC Waterloo are also new entries in 2012. Niagara United will also field a reserve team in the CSL Second Division.

“I can’t wait,” McGillivray told the Niagara Falls Review at the press conference. “Last year was a good building block. The excitement level has grown tenfold.”

Niagara United Soccer Club was formed in 1973 to become one of the largest soccer clubs in the Niagara Region and the club recently added a $1.5 million FIFA-approved turf field and state of the art club house.

“This is a very exciting time for Niagara United and we are proud of our affiliation with the CSL,” said president Donna Mantesso who overseas a club with more than 1,300 players, coaches, staff and volunteers.

CSL chairman Vincent Ursini promised entertaining soccer at the First Division games. “It’s high-paced with good quality in Canadian soccer, a nice event for the family to come out and watch,” he assured the audience. CSL Administrator Pino Jazbec and Media, PR man Stan Adamson were also on hand.

Games will be played at the Kalar Park Sports Field with its new $600,000 clubhouse, change rooms, washrooms and a concession stand built in partnership with the City of Niagara Falls, the provincial and federal governments. The club will now install about 700 new seats.

The opener takes place on Saturday, May 26 when Niagara United takes on Brantford Galaxy, it’s a 7.30 p.m. kickoff at Kalar Park.