The Tipping Point

Saturday, July 13th, 2013 – Detroit City FC 3, AFC Cleveland 1

Sunday, July 14th, 2013 – Detroit City FC 1, Erie 4


I’ve mentioned a few times that, early on, one of my worries about Detroit City FC was that it would suffer the same fate as many lower division clubs in America: play for a year or two and then fold. This concern was justified – before DCFC came along, the area’s most recent outdoor team was Detroit Arsenal, which won the NPSL Championship in 2005 and… folded after 2006.*

Over the course of City’s first two seasons, one could sense a growing level of support with each passing game. Although this hadn’t yet translated into financial success, the wins that piled up helped to lessen my foldophobia. The events of the second weekend of July 2013 cured me for good.

*Detroit Arsenal played its games at Hurley Field in Berkley, as did FC Sparta. Both folded after brief runs. Coincidence? #CurseofHurley

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By winning the Great Lakes Midwest regular season title, DCFC earned the right to host said division’s tournament, the winner of which would move on to the NPSL’s confusing, ad hoc national playoffs.

What stood out most at the games was the atmosphere – the stadium was at near capacity on both days and the whole thing just felt… BIG. It was a spectacle.


The semi-final, played against Cleveland before a record-crowd of 2634, went the way each of City’s home games had gone in 2013. They controlled possession, produced more chances, and eventually overwhelmed their opponent, 3-1.


Less than 24 hours later, City suffered its only defeat of the season. They fell behind early, equalized just before the half, then fell behind again and conceded two late goals after throwing everybody forward. The loss came exactly a year to the day after their last loss in a competitive game (7/14/12, 2-1 to Cleveland).

Being unbeaten and losing a final at home was obviously disappointing, but the silver lining was that in just over two years’ time, DCFC had gone from nonexistent to a source of pride that people live and die with.

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Several of its former players have broken into MLS, and it has become arguably the NPSL’s most well-known franchise. Its supporters have gained national recognition, drawing attention to a 4th-tier league that many were unaware of just a short time ago.

Note the Northern Guard scarf on the table and the DCFC Supporters' Section in the background of the banner.
Note the Northern Guard scarf on the table and the DCFC Supporters’ Section in the background of the banner.

Most important of all, the point has been reached where, for the foreseeable future, folding is no longer a real danger. At this level, clubs and even leagues seem to come and go, and though Detroit City is not yet profitable, the support it has fostered has made it a stable, sustainable organization.

This success comes with downsides – increased scrutiny on crowd behavior at games, more and more local clubs trying to copy the City formula and gain fans for themselves, and for the first time, expectations. After such an incredible 2013 season, and with a large portion of the team returning, winning the division and making a serious push for the NPSL title is not just hoped for, but expected.

Worrying about Detroit City FC’s short term existence has been replaced by worrying about wins and losses. This shows that the club has truly arrived.

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P.S. – Brand new hype video that I can’t possibly leave out:


6 thoughts on “The Tipping Point”

  1. It’s been great watching the organization flourish and the supporters really get behind their club. Definitely a formula worth copying, and credit to DCFC for pioneering it. And though its fair to be critical of the Duggan move, lumping Grand Rapids into the same category doesn’t seem quite right. GR is 2 hours away and certainly a large enough area to support its own club. As a new GR resident, I don’t see myself driving 2 hrs to Detroit every match day, especially without any existing ties to Detroit club or area. It seems to me like a successful GR club would be beneficial to DCFC.

    1. That’s a fair point. It just seems that because of DCFC’s success, the NPSL thinks the same thing will happen if they put a team in every city in Michigan. I think GR and Lansing will actually do well, but teams like Sparta and Mich. Stars are getting tiresome.

      1. I do agree with you about the expansion concerns. Though I am aware of at least one potential MI team that was turned down this last go round – so seems like the Great Lakes team owners at least are starting to be a little more discriminating. Which eventually will hopefully strengthen the conference. Of course, there are the Sparta teams that are already in to deal with…

        1. In 1999, The then Mid Michigan Bucks competed against 4 other in state clubs. GR has had 3 different clubs that have folded. Too soon? Too dependent on the orange slices/soccer mom crowd? I would like to see a West MI club. One more home/away travel support to invade. Beer to drink. Memories to savor when the “No shit I was there..” stories start.
          Won’t lump GR supporter club in with the seriously delusional Daggan. You deserve better. Or at least a chance. So Good Luck getting a new club going in GR. By the way, That’s my Back Piece. Lettering is next. CTID.

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