The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

April 5, 2014

Soccer: City Islanders open season tonight

HARRISBURG — Now in their 10th anniversary season, the Harrisburg City Islanders officially kick off the season tonight at 7:30 with a game at Wilmington (N.C.).

The Islanders play in the USL Professional Division, which is below MLS and the North American Soccer League in U.S. Soccer’s pyramid of professionalism.

The USL Pro regular season lasts until early September, followed by the playoffs.

In all, the City Islanders will play 28 regular-season games; their home opener is two weeks from tonight against Dayton at Skyline Sports Complex on City Island. Their home stadium is just a foul pop away from Metro Bank Park, the home of the Harrisburg Senators.

All of the Islanders’ away games can be viewed on the team’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/cityislanders

They could conceivably play more games this year if they qualify for the US Open Cup, an annual season-long tournament that includes all levels of professional teams and amateur sides. The City Islanders have qualified for the Open Cup in seven of their previous 10 seasons. One of the biggest victories in club history came at the expense of MLS side D.C. United in 2007, when the Islanders pulled out a 1-0 victory in the Open Cup.

Since that seminal victory, the Islanders have beaten other MLS teams in the Open Cup: two wins each over New England and New York.

This year’s 20-man roster features six native Pennsylvanians. But overseas countries like Ivory Coast, Brazil and Portugal are also represented.

The team will be led again by head coach Bill Becher. Now just five victories away from 100 for his career, Becher is the only head coach in City Islanders history. The team has gone 95-66-53 during his tenure, including a league title in 2007 and an appearance in the league championship game in 2011. Becher was named the USL-2 Coach of the Year in 2005.

The biggest news for the Islanders during this past offseason came in March: Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced the results of a city study on plans to build a new stadium for the team.

Scheduled to open in 2016, the new stadium will be on the current site of Skyline Sports Complex. It will seat 4,500 — roughly 1,500 more than the capacity of the current stadium.

“The players and the fans absolutely love our home field location here on City Island,” Islanders President Eric Pettis said in a statement. “But it’s important for us to plan for the future and lay out a strategy for building a newer and more modern facility that meets the standards of our rapidly expanding USL Pro Soccer League.”

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