If you’re sick of the Washington Football Team dominating headlines, perhaps a Maryland fútbol team is the change of pace your fandom needs. Luckily, the state is getting a professional outdoor soccer team to call it’s own, the Maryland Bobcats. No official matches have been scheduled for the official season, but the team will play at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, the former home of the Washington Spirit.
The Bobcats have been competing as a professional development team in the United Premier Soccer League, winning the national championship in February. Now the club is leveling up to the major leagues and joining the National Independent Soccer Association, which means they will not face off against neighboring Major League Soccer team DC United.
Organized in a similar structure to European and South American federations, the club features a series of boys and girls youth squads playing underneath the banner of the professional team. Gifted players on those rosters will have an opportunity to practice and potentially even travel with the pro team, creating a pipeline of homegrown talent.
“Our goal is to hopefully build a roster of primarily players from this area,” says general manager Evan Raimist. “I think first and foremost showing what the DMV area has in terms of talents is what we hope to do.”
After all, the seeds of the team were planted in Maryland around 20 years ago. Bobcat owners Peter Mwanti, Sam Oluleye, Ankur Patel, and Jide Saba met at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where they dreamed of one day owning a soccer team together. The club adopted the university’s colors and mascots in homage to the past, along with the slogan “For All” — a mission for the future.
The Bobcats are hosting the NISA Independent Cup in August, bringing together teams from the region for a series of live streamed matches. Tournament dates and venues have not been announced. Tickets for the official season are likely to be less than Audi Field: Pro-soccer tickets at the 5,000-seat Maureen Hendricks Field typically cost around $30.