Heading into the 2019-2020 season, the entire structure of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League has changed. A new Division III and Metro Division, with possibilities to seek promotion and risks of relegation becoming more imminent, with be the focal point of these changes as teams new and old play out the year. However, for some clubs the new season also brings a new identity.
Enter New York International F.C., previously known as Beyond FC Metro, who are looking to use their new name and attitude to make an impact in the Metro Division (previously the Metro Division 2, fourth tier of the league). After finishing last season with an 8-3-5 record, only losing one of their seven spring games, and finishing fourth place in the Metro 2 South Division, it’s best finish ever under the previous name, the group has high hopes which range from another upper half finish, to winning a game in a league tournament, to possibly even reaching the Metro Division Championship game.
So far in the pre-season the group has gone 1-3, avoiding getting clean sheeted in any of the losses. Despite losing the game 3-1, striker Rufus Holmes scored the first ever goal for NYIFC in the team’s first ever match under the new name against Central Park Rangers Reds Reserves on August 4. Only a week later he doubled that goal total when the group won its first ever game against New York Shamrocks SC 1960, 6-5, in which midfielder Abdel Manahf Idrissou also scored twice while forwards Nick Platt and Simon Czaplinsk rounded out the scoring.
The new name, according to Platt, who also serves as the club’s president, comes from the identity the unit has built up over the years. Beyond just being Beyond FC’s former Metro Division team, the group has grown and expanded to become a multicultural force with each player bringing something new to the group dynamic.
“We chose 'NY International F.C.' as we are extremely proud of the incredibly diverse group of players we have,” Platt said in an interview. “Last year we had 22 regular players from 15 (different) nations! It is a part of our core values as a team to be open and accepting of all, which is reflected in our club motto (coined by one of our own, Simon Czaplinski), 'Rise, Together as Champions.'”
“It’s a huge part of our identity and we love the fact that we’re all different backgrounds and ethnicities,” he continued, speaking on the rebranding process and how the club came to decisions on key identifying factors. “We put a huge amount of thought into how we wanted to create this club and we’re really happy with how it’s ended up.”
Platt himself is one of these different backgrounds. The midfielder found the club right after he moved to the city which was not far from the team’s old playing grounds near Prospect Park. Since then he’s helped bring his own experiences of soccer, with his background in the English system and styles, into the fold.
Further still, Platt explained that the team is currently in the early stages of developing a partnership with English side “Tiptree Engaine FC,” which plays out of the Essex & Suffolk Border Football League Premier Division with teams in other lower community leagues as well. He hopes both his former and current clubs can become twin teams, setting challenges for one another to complete in training that can help better the play on the pitch, with the possibility of one of the clubs hosting the other down the line.
Despite the new name, colors, and badge, the team itself is actually nearing a decade of continuous operation.
The club originally started as “New Amsterdam United FC” in 2011 and competed with two seperate teams that earned mixed results in both CSL and league tournament play. Starting in the summer of 2015, however, the team was approached by Beyond FC to become their squad in the Metro Division. The higher division team already had to field a reserve team since it was in Division 2 but more talent and a direct line to potential players made the pairing seem great for both sides.
The first head coach of the BFC Metro, Ali Reza, spent the first few seasons at the helm of the team working it as both a stand-alone operation while also working closely with the upper division team. The player manager had previous CSL experience with the NY Shamrock SC Over-30 and was eager to help build a new team.
"Ali built Metro from scratch, with their first season being a tough learning experience but the building blocks were solidly laid,” Platt said. “The following season saw much improvement, some outstanding football, but with a run for promotion stalling in the last few weeks. After 3.5 seasons at the helm, Ali Reza handed over the management baton to a new team ready to inject some new ideas and energy."
The team began to build better results, going from lower finishes in the Metro 2 and steadily jumping the number of wins each season to finish mid table, finishing 2018-19 with an 8-3-5 record including 27 total points. Towards the end of the season, a few of the core players and management team met to discuss the future of the team. The group met a few more times over the course of a few weeks before deciding the best next step would be to rebrand. The idea of being a first team in their own right while also controlling their own vision, goals, and direction were all key factors Platt explained. Though he also explained the group still has a huge amount of love and respect for Beyond FC and their management, who were very supportive and still remain in contact.
With a new landscape to play in the definition of ‘success’ can be hard to judge. Some teams in Division 1 would only see winning the league title or possible qualifying for the U.S. Open Cup as the sole way to having a successful season. For teams in lower divisions, advancement or finishes in the top half of the league table would show growth in it’s own right. Platt believes he and the rest of NYIFC know they want to win but it has to be a slow, gradual climb to reach the gold.
“Certainly for the manager, Gary (Philpott), his aim is to win the league this year. I share that ambition and harbor that hope… That’s our hope for the season; to win the new Metro Division and go up to D3. From there, the idea is to grow as much as we can. We don’t want to (be a team) that expects to grow too much too soon.
“From there, it’s about growing on the ifrastruce, the squad that we have, so sometime in the next few years we might find ourselves in Division 2.”
Success will be a priority for the 10 teams in the new Metro Division as it gets worn in. The former Metro Division 2 has been reduced from the 19 teams it had last year giving new teams a chance to rise to the top. Last year’s champion, Missile FC , which lead the entire CSL with 85 goals scored through 18 games, is now in Division 3 along with the runner-up, FC Sandzak, which swept the season series against then-Beyond FC Metro in the South Region regular season with two 3-1 wins.
New York International and the rest of the Cosmopolitan Soccer League will continue to wrap up training as the new season, including a probable appearance in the Harry J. Saunders Cup for the team, inches closer everyday.