The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), the only league designated by USASA as a Tier 1 national league, is proud to announce that Columbus, GA will field a team in the league starting in 2024.
“We are pleased and excited to have the Columbus group join the NPSL,” NPSL Director of Membership Development Dina Case said. “This addition will further strengthen the South Region which has seen explosive growth over the last few seasons. The Columbus ownership brings a wealth of experience both on the business and soccer sides of the table. With the experience and vision of this group and their focus on community and supporter engagement, we expect them to have huge success in this market.”
Columbus Soccer Ventures is led by co-founders John Dale Hester and Michael Hitchcock.
John Dale (JD) Hester is a lifelong Columbus, GA resident. His love of soccer began at the age of seven when he first began to play the sport. JD played club soccer on one of the first travel soccer teams in the area, Columbus United. It was during eighth grade that he and Hitchcock first began playing together. The two would go on to play in the Olympic Development Program (ODP) in Georgia. After graduation from high school, JD played at Oglethorpe University and Hitchcock was a standout at VCU.
While in college, JD began working at TSYS where he enjoyed a 28-year career, retiring in 2020 as a Senior Vice President of TSYS and from the Board of Directors of TSYS de Mexico. Another of his passions is improving healthcare for the people of this community. He is the Chairman of the Board for Piedmont Columbus Regional and a former member of the Columbus Regional Foundation Board. He is also on the board of the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation (MEEF).
“The NPSL has a proven track record and a tremendous reputation with its club owners,” Hester said. “The leadership team is focused on advancing the sport of soccer in the United States one community at a time. The NPSL has a fantastic business model and provides a culture that enables its teams to compete fiercely on the field but partner with each other off the field to ensure success may be had by all.”
Hitchcock is a 27-year soccer management executive who spent over 12 years in Major League Soccer (MLS). He has won numerous awards during his MLS career, which started as entry-level ticket sales at D.C. United before moving to Colorado Rapids as Director of Sales. Then he served as Vice President of Sales for LA Galaxy before finishing as General Manager of FC Dallas.
Based in Dallas, Hitchcock owns a sports management company called Playbook Management International (PMI) who has worked with over 100 professional soccer teams, leagues, venues, and soccer events all over the world and has investments in multiple sports properties, including 14 soccer teams.
“Our initial focus for our first season is centered on our supporters,” Hitchcock said. “We are a community-oriented organization and want to deliver a memorable gameday experience for our fans. We will put a highly trained, competitive team on the field run by an energetic, professional organization.”
Columbus Soccer Ventures will take a community-first approach for their NPSL team. The community will help build the brand, including the name, logo, and colors for the new NPSL club and play a critical role in the club’s development. Fans can vote for their favorite name and logo through September 15th from five unique options by voting online at columbusnpsl.com. The winning name will be revealed at a brand kickoff party in late September. The organization is committed to building a club that everyone in the community will be proud to support. The club will provide opportunities for local players to pursue their dreams of playing at the highest level while giving back to the community as positive role models and ambassadors for the beautiful game.
More information about expansion opportunities in the NPSL can be found at npsl.com/expansion.
Photo Credit: Carl Gulbish/NPSL.com