The Milwaukee Torrent knew they’d be playing soccer games as a professional outdoor team this spring.
Now they officially have a league.
Andreas Davi, the owner and head coach of the fledgling Torrent, confirmed Friday that his club has accepted an offer to join the National Premier Soccer League, competing in the Midwest Region for the 2016 season. The NPSL is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body, and is considered to be at the fourth tier of competition in the American soccer pyramid.
Davi said he’s thrilled to be part of the league.
"For the Milwaukee Torrent, it is the best fit," he said.
The NPSL has existed in its current form since 2003. It comprises 80 teams in four regions, which are subdivided into 12 conferences. The Torrent will be one of four teams in the Midwest Region’s Central Conference. The league is planning to add at least two more clubs next year and restructure that conference, Davi said.
Though the NPSL is below Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer League in terms of quality, it is recognized as being well above the amateur-level American Soccer League and ASL2 – where many people thought the Torrent would land.
"From an advertising and marketing point of view, we don’t need to talk about the NPSL; everybody knows what the NPSL is," Davi said, perhaps overestimating casual fans. "It’s much, much easier to sell people on the NPSL."
One aspect of the league, in particular, was very appealing.
"In the NPSL, you can play as a pro and as an amateur," Davi said. "So in the NPSL, I am allowed to pay my players and be a professional team."
The fastidious German, whose approach since founding the Torrent a little more than a year ago has been painstaking planning and gradual, tangible progress – even while fans clamored for greater zeal – said he was always aiming for a fourth-division, semipro league. But he wanted one that at least conducted itself professionally.
According to Davi, the NPSL approached him multiple times about joining. After they called again in mid-December, asking if he’d take on a leadership role in the Central Conference and help with its reorganization, he agreed.
Since the league was already familiar with his style of disciplined (and, to some, domineering) due diligence from his past days running the Bavarians’ NPSL program and his two years as Midwest Region Commissioner, Davi's team was quickly accepted. Though it wasn’t as quickly as he would have liked; Davi was bothered by local doubters grumbling that he wasn't able to find a league.
With a carefully crafted budget – "we are secure financially with sponsors for the first two seasons," he said – Davi was confident his club would be a desirable one to the league. "One of the biggest things in the NPSL," he said, is it wants teams that are well-run and financially viable. When asked what the process was like to join, Davi laughed. "Money, money, money," he said of paying the five-figure franchise fee. "No, seriously."
It helped, he added, that the league understood how by-the-books he operated, though he insisted he didn’t get any special treatment.
"The rules are the same. It’s not that they gave me something that was easier, but it was obviously because the people knew me," Davi said. "And again, the NPSL approached me to come into the league with a team. Because they know when I am in, I bring a solid program. Whoever I bring in, it will be a solid program that will be run by the rules."
When the spring season starts – "I am actually in charge of that league schedule," Davi said – the Torrent will play eight NPSL games, plus four scrimmages. Besides the four league home games at Uihlein Soccer Park, Milwaukee will scrimmage Marquette at Valley Fields, Wisconsin-Green Bay at Whitefish Bay High School, F.C. Wisconsin in Germantown and a to-be-determined exhibition against Cardinal Stritch.
"For us it was important to do some community games around Milwaukee, not just all at Uihlein," Davi said. "But there will be, for sure, eight games that are 100 percent here."
The first game is the scrimmage against Marquette, on April 23.
As for who is on the Torrent, Davi said the roster currently consists of 18 players, though he wants to add one or two more. All of the guys are paid, Davi said, noting that he pays taxes and unemployment insurance for them and they are registered with the State as professional soccer players.
"If you see the names, it’s the top players in Wisconsin," Davi said, specifically mentioning Wave stars Ian Bennett and James Weber. "I mean, so much quality, and now I have to make out of those players a team."
One benefit is that most of the players already know each other from playing in school and on clubs in the area.
"We have a really strong group of players," said Davi, whose Bavarian squad won the NPSL Midwest Region when he was its coach several years ago. "I know with this team, I can compete in the nation, with no doubt."
But for all his early accomplishments launching and leading the club, there's one problem Davi brings up again and again in conversations: the perceived opposition to the Torrent, in the local soccer community and among sports fans generally.
"Instead of people being happy that now this is really happening with the NPSL and supporting me, now they even try to throw more hurdles in my way," Davi said of rival clubs’ opposition to the Torrent. "And there is still no public support. There is still way not enough public support.
"Maybe with the NPSL now, but the public interest is … I don’t get it. I really do not get it."
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.