There will be a new generation of Clevelanders who never have to experience their hometown being referred to as,”The mistake on the lake”. The nickname, which historically references back to many embarrassments of the rustbelt city (Cuyahoga River fire, Lake Erie’s almost death, 1996 Municipal Stadium demolition), has long been a backdrop for ridicule for locals of Northeast Ohio.
While Clevelanders are historically boisterous in response to such mocking, 2016 has been good to the town.
The successful RNC convention after LeBron James and the Cavaliers won Cleveland’s first professional sports title since 1964 has marked what many who hail from the city have known for years: The curse of “the mistake on the lake” is gone. And, if you’re being technical, this really all started with the Lake Erie Monsters winning the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup days before the Cavs bested the Warriors.
But Cleveland’s rise to the top isn’t over. Not even close.
Many people know Cleveland for their sports teams. Baseball, basketball, football, even hockey. But, possibly unknown to people outside the region, Northern Ohio is one of the largest soccer hubs in the country. This soccer fanaticism spans from a large club soccer scene to dominant high school teams, and even further up the US soccer pyramid.
AFC Cleveland, who play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), America’s fourth tier, has been competing a semi-pro club since 2012.
The team, which has played its last season at Independence High School, not only plays in the NPSL’s Midwest Region, but they were very recently just crowned champions. In a nail-biting match against Grand Rapids FC, AFC Cleveland won 3-1 in penalties after playing to a 0-0 draw.
Another Cleveland championship? Not quite yet.
Although AFC Cleveland won the Midwest Championship they had to play the other league’s other regional champions to determine the true NPSL champion.
So what does that mean?
Well on July 30th the Cleveland Royals (a nickname to match their white and blue colors) matched up in the NPSL semi-finals against the Northeast champions, the Clarkstown SC Eagles in the NPSL semi-finals.
Now AFC Cleveland will host the Sonoma County Sol on Saturday, August 6 at 7:00 pm ET for the 2016 NPSL title.
Cleveland fans, prove that you’re the greatest fans in the country and come out to support this squad, if not for your love of soccer, for the love of your town.
This is a team that has worked tirelessly to make it where they are and deserve full support from Cleveland’s diehard fans.
I’ll be there, will you?
— AFC Cleveland (@AFCCleveland) July 24, 2016