AFC Ann Arbor kicks off fourth season at Skyline April 15

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Courtesy: AFC Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR - The Mighty Oak will be back on the turf on Sunday for a friendly match against Carpathia FC.

The match will take place at 5 p.m. at Skyline High School at 2552 N. Maple Rd., the club's new home. Previously they had played at Pioneer High School's Hollway field, but its turf is being resurfaced this spring.

A portion of the proceeds from the match will benefit Skyline's men's soccer program. (Scroll to the end for a chance to win tickets to Sunday's game!)


(Courtesy: AFC Ann Arbor)

Background

AFC Ann Arbor was founded in 2014 as a way for the Ann Arborites to engage with soccer.

Co-founder Jamey Amrine, along with his wife and some friends, raised more than $10,000 on crowdfunding site, Indiegogo, for the startup.

While that was all positive, the team's application to join Detroit City FC's National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) was declined.

That didn't stop Amrine.

He reached out to Rishi Narayan, owner of Underground Printing, about team t-shirts. Narayan was intrigued and quickly became an investor. Word spread and more investors came on board, including Rohit Narayan, Pakmode Media and Marketing's Bilal Saeed, Big Ten Burrito's Adam Lowenstein and Justin Herrick, Tree Town Sound's Matthew Altruda, AFC player Knox Cameron and Google's Michal Lorenc.

"We started the club for the community. I just didn’t know we would be received so well," said club chairman and co-owner, Bilal Saeed. 


(Courtesy: AFC Ann Arbor)

The community-minded aspect is evident through all the activities surrounding any given match.

"We have a little kids zone where kids can play," said Saeed. "For mom and dad and the younger adults, we’ve got four to five different local food trucks. We’ve got a pre-match get-together at HOMES Brewery."

HOMES has partnered with AFC Ann Arbor and is the official pre-match brewery for the 2018 season. 

Finding success

After their first season, they were accepted into the NPSL and have performed well over two seasons.

"This is our third season in this league," said Saeed. "Our first year, in 2016, there were 96 teams in the league. We made it to the final 16. We were really proud but we also felt like we had some unfinished business. So the next season, we finished top eight. Our regular season record was 12-1-1.


(Courtesy: AFC Ann Arbor)

"We haven’t lost at home since July 2016. We have a strong home record. We are, without a doubt, one of the best teams – I think – in the country. I think that’s 100 percent due to our head coach and sporting director, Eric Rudland. He’s just top-level."

Rudland came on board as head coach in 2015 after coaching Lansing United. 

A world-class roster

"Eric recruits from all over the world," said Saeed. "The most interesting thing, from a player’s perspective, is that you’ll have players from all over the world. (We have players from) twelve different countries. 

This year, we’re looking at Kenya, Brazil, England, Jamaica and then you’ve got Ann Arbor guys. And the cool thing is you’ve got the best players in Ann Arbor and they’re playing with the best players from around the world."


(Courtesy: AFC Ann Arbor)

Like most soccer clubs, AFC Ann Arbor has a supporter group called the Main Street Hooligans.

"They formed independently, so they're not officially part of our club," said Saeed. "We don’t really have any say in what they do. But they are the main reason for our success, I think. They help get the word out, they care, they’re at all the events and games and they’re cheering and encouraging people to get involved and cheer louder."

Community impact

On Thursday, the players paid a visit to Eberwhite and Dicken elementary schools to donate balls to each classroom and meet the kids. 

"They kicked the ball around with the kids, and that stuff, to me, just makes it super worth it," said Saeed. "I don’t know if we realize how big of an impact we can have on the kids in this area and how quickly."


(Courtesy: AFC Ann Arbor)

Want to learn more? Visit AFC Ann Arbor's website for this season's game schedule, tickets and events around town.

Win Tickets to Sunday's game! 

Enter below to win two tickets to Sunday's game vs Carpathia FC. We have two sets of tickets to giveaway. The contest closes at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and we'll be in contact with the winner. Good luck and go Mighty Oaks! 

 

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