Expansion 2020

BRIAN O’CONNELL PREVIEWS THE NORTHEAST REGION

A sure sign of spring will bloom this weekend as Northeast Region action kicks off on Saturday in the Empire State.

The 19-team region will feature a 12-game schedule in 2015, and boasts a footprint that stretches as far north as Portland, Me., and as far south as Virginia Beach, Va. Similar to last year, the Northeast Region will be comprised of three conferences (Mid-Atlantic, North Atlantic, and Keystone) – each of which will continue to foster rivalries, both new and old.

In the North Atlantic Conference, the field is led by the formidable Brooklyn Italians, a perennial contender that claimed second-place on 24 points.  New York Athletic Club will rely on a mix of experience and new talent in the hopes of climb up the conference after last year’s third-place finish.  Much is expected of New York Cosmos B, which will serve as a reserve side for the internationally-renowned Cosmos of the NASL. While Tri-State contingent will duke it out for conference supremacy, don’t overlook their neighbors in New England. The Rhode Island Reds, Seacoast United Mariners and Seacoast United Phantoms have all made changes which they believe will lead to stronger campaigns, while last year’s new kid on the block, Greater Lowell United FC, will look to build upon its first season in NPSL play.

Venturing west, Greater Binghamton FC Thunder is hoping to claim its third-straight Keystone Conference championship. Buxmont Torch FC will attempt to knock the Thunder off the throne with an offense that scored 21 goals, second-best in the conference. But don’t expect it to be a two-horse race. Clarkstown SC Eagles is eyeing a top-two finish in order to make the playoffs for the first time in club history, while Hershey FC will attempt to patch up its defense and challenge for a spot in the top-three. There’s nowhere to go but up for Electric City Shock, who’ll boast an improved backline this year and are aiming to finish above .500 after an inconsistent 2014. Not to be overlooked are the Morris County Colonials, who’ll return to NPSL competition after a brief hiatus.

Down south, Virginia Beach City FC is the early favorite to claim the Mid-Atlantic Conference crown following a strong inaugural campaign that saw them drop only one match and collect 21 points. Legacy 76 is hoping to find more consistency this year after last year’s inaugural campaign, which saw them claim a respectable fourth-place finish. Chesterfield United is hoping to patch up a defense that conceded 27 goals, while ASA Charge will be looking for more offense after collecting only six goals in 2014. The conference will welcome a pair of newcomers in FC Frederick, which is intent on cultivating and developing homegrown talent, and Fredericksburg FC, a program which has already built a strong academy program.

While conference success is the name of the game for every club, a trio of Northeast Region sides will also be eyeing triumphs in U.S. Open Cup play, as well. Greater Binghamton FC Thunder, Virginia Beach City FC and Brooklyn Italians will all begin their tournament runs in first round action on May 13.

Every new season brings its own unique set of storylines. Whether it’s the debutant that makes an immediate impression, a longtime contender boasting another talent crop, or the unheralded player that turns heads everywhere he goes, there’s always something to watch for when it comes to NPSL action. The 2015 campaign will be no different, which should set up for another year of exciting soccer in the Northeast Region.

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