There is still no definitive news on the future of Bethlehem Steel FC. A current 40% off all Steel FC Merchandise Sale does seem be the writing on the wall though. Good news however, there is a new game in the Valley! The Allentown United FC will have their UPSL home opener at Cedar Crest College Stadium on Sunday at 7pm. Many Bethlehem Steel FC faithful will be taking their talents to A-town in support of the new People's Team! The Bethlehem Futbol Factory caught up with its founder Emmanuel Ntow-Mensah and here is the interview. Sounds like the demise of the Steel FC was just a happy coincidence for these guys. Even more reason for Bethlehem to give the AUFC all the support we can!
BFF nterview with:
Allentown United Football Club
What are your ties to the Lehigh Valley?
I’m originally from New Jersey. I moved to the Lehigh Valley 3 years ago and struggled to find a scene of soccer. Eventually I got involved in coaching when my nephew joined Parkland Area Soccer Club. I was fortunate to have met my partner Algenis, who is a local of the Lehigh Valley having lived here for over 20 years. I am now heavily involved in soccer in the Valley.
When did you know the time was right to start this team?
The realization to start a team came in two parts. Firstly, while coaching my Parkland team, I realized the level of talent there. I knew most of my players would make it on their respective high school teams but what would happen after? For those who don’t get recruited to play in college, they give up on the sport. Secondly, I played quite a bit of pickup with some of the young locals and again began thinking the same thing; why are these guys not playing in college? Why are they not playing at a high level organized team. There just didn’t seem to be a notable in between option for players in this area. There didn’t seem to be something they could look forward to that would aid in their development and help them reach a higher level in they game. That was when I knew it was necessary to create Allentown United FC. The need was there and it needed to be filled.
Did the Bethlehem Steel FC leaving the area effect your decision at all?
Bethlehem Steel leaving to play down in Chester was certainly devastating for the local supporters why attended each home match to cheer on the team! The decision to start AUFC was to supplement the existing professional team in the area. Many of the locals I played with mentioned their tryouts with Bethlehem Steel and how none of them made the roster. We were to be a stepping stone. A semi-pro club where players can develop, improve their skills and make the leap either into college soccer or into the professional game. The departure of Bethlehem Steel did not directly effect that mission we had. There are plenty of other pro clubs our players can one day play for. We are a club for the people, by the people. And we are a club with aspirations to grow even larger to the likes of Chattanooga FC and Detroit City FC. We intend to be a permanent staple in our community. With the entire Valley behind us, the sky is the limit as to what we can achieve.
Why the UPSL?
The original plan to create a team was to place the team in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). My partner and I reviewed the details of the league and soon realized it could be slightly out of reach for the timeframe we were looking to field the team. Researched continued and we came across a very similar league, in the same tier of the US soccer Pyramid, the United Premier Soccer League. The league would offer the same level of competition but for a much longer term and it was a much more financially feasible option. The idea of playing a spring and a fall season would allow for more playing time thus allowing the players to continue to develop. The UPSL is also the only league with an active pro/eel model within its conferences. That immediately won us over. We wanted to help trailblaze a new identity for US Soccer. An affordable option and a model the reflected what the rest of the soccer world is already doing. We are excited to begin playing in the UPSL, however, the plan for an NPSL or NISA team is not lost.
Lastly here are a couple more articles containing more great info on the team: