By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
A veteran team that has dominated south New Jersey is set to join the collection of strong East Region NPSL clubs this upcoming season.
Immediately, the goals for incoming Jackson Lions Football Club are simple:
“We want to win,” said Jackson Lions FC co-founder and owner Mike Durazzo. “We want to give [our] players as close to a professional experience as possible, and we want to win.”
Since the club’s founding in 2014, it has seen immense success on the pitch, capturing 40 trophies from a range of state and regional tournaments. With a strong foundation of winning, Durazzo says that everything else will follow after that, including community buzz and interest, matchday atmosphere, and the opportunity to provide professional experience to high-level players.
Durazzo, who took over his local family business in the Jackson and Toms River area, said that his soccer playing days began indoors over 20 years ago, competing alongside friends who were soccer student-athletes in college. The teams entered local and state tournaments, starting their run of success.
In the years since the club’s founding, many of its own players have played with other Jersey NPSL clubs in the summer. Durazzo knew that his players wanted to stay together in the south Jersey area, which inspired his move to finally establish his own NPSL side, keeping his stronghold on the local talent pool.
“The player pool is so huge and full of talent in north Jersey, but we have been able to gather the best players in our area, as the numbers are slimmer, and they want to play together,” said Durazzo. “Our team is a veteran team — they’re all former pros and a lot of them are former [NCAA] Division One guys.”
As the soccer market in south Jersey and the entire state continues to expand at a quick rate, Durazzo knows that now is the time to capitalize on tapping-in to the talent and helping grow the sport through NPSL play. As an official affiliate of Jackson Soccer Club, the hope is for NPSL competition to continually strengthen the youth soccer community.
“It’s great because this opportunity to join NPSL gives these kids and former college players the stage to showcase what they have,” said Durazzo.
Durazzo said that Jackson Lions FC can become a way for players, who have strong talent and a continuing desire to compete at a high level for championship trophies, to simply play and do what they have loved for so long. He noted that many of his players may not be choosing to pursue the highest level of soccer, choosing different career paths post-college, but knows this outlet of NPSL competition provides them with something great.
“They [Durazzo’s players] still have some place where they can play, they can compete and showcase their talents at a very high level,” said Durazzo. “Even our coaches have that same ability, while growing and learning to maybe also climb up the ranks on that end.”
Circling back to the goals of Jackson Lions FC for their inaugural season in NPSL, it is clear to see how the passion and love for the sport drives the desire to compete and capture titles. With that desire and determination, Durazzo said that the club aims to then provide that opportunity for the south Jersey players that wish to do so.
Photos Courtesy of Jackson Lions FC