The story of Cleveland SC began just over three weeks ago with two former players in a Chipotle parking lot.
Coletun Long and Chris Cvecko finished their meals inside the popular Mexican grill and adjourned to Long’s car, where they called everyone they could think of that could assist in bringing National Premier League Soccer back to Cleveland. Both were defenders on the since-folded AFC Cleveland Royals, and in danger of being without a landing spot for the upcoming summer.
Long and Cvecko contacted potential owners, investors, players, organizers, media members, the NPSL, and even trainers and doctors. After an unsuccessful two days of calls, they were put in touch with longtime Northeast Ohio resident and former AFC Cleveland media relations staff member Sam Seibert.
“It’s really cool that players from AFC Cleveland were willing to help to stay an entity, to stay in the NPSL, to stay in Cleveland,” Seibert, the now owner of Cleveland SC said. “That ambition from people that will be on the field is unique, and amazing. Once I knew that was there, I was like, this has to happen.”
Long assured Seibert that he had players and coaches that were interested, and Seibert assured Long that he would take care of everything else. Three weeks later, it was announced in a press release that Cleveland SC would be the final expansion team for the upcoming 2018 season.
AFC Cleveland ceased operations following the 2017 season, despite winning a national championship as recently as 2016. It is believed by Long and Seibert that many of the players from that 2016 team will join Cleveland SC, in an area that produces a wealth of NPSL talent.
“That’s why I went through all this trouble and doing all of this,” Long said. “There’s not a lot out there besides this. We wanted it to happen. We have talent in Northeast Ohio and we can put together a very competitive team that can compete throughout the nation.”
Cleveland SC is still without a coach. What the team does have is a partial roster recruited ahead of time. Long, who has taken on more responsibility than a typical center back, has a roster that lists 20 to 23 players who have already committed to play. Seibert believes the concrete numbers to be less at the moment, but the owner has been flooded with calls from interested players from both the area and abroad.
Seibert plans to be diligent in his search for a new head coach. He will do interviews, accept resumes, and possibly take input from the players. If does indeed involve them, Long says they have their choice in mind already.
Current Mount Union head soccer coach Carter Poe coached AFC Cleveland to that national championship in 2016, and Long and other returning players would like Poe back.
“I will tell you that from a Cleveland SC standpoint, yes, it is a possibility,” Seibert said. “We would love to have further discussion with Carter Poe on coaching the team.”
Poe is unsure of his availability to coach the team for the upcoming season but did say that he has spoken with Seibert and members of the team about possibly taking the position. He reflects fondly on his time with the previous regime but wants to take a harder look at the new organization. He would also need an offer, of course.
“It’s something I’m interested in,” Poe said. “I’d have to see what the infrastructure and everything was before committing.”
Cleveland SC’s owner shortened his to-do list on Wednesday as he announced that the club will be playing its home games at John Carroll University.
Officially the last team to announce NPSL membership for 2018, Cleveland SC will be crunched for time for now. The work ethic that put an entire club together in three weeks will have to persist until the club opens the season in May. Seibert’s email, voicemail, and calendar have started to fill up. His fiancé, Chelsea Anderson, has assisted him in club business.
Seibert said that he will be the sole investor for the foreseeable future until things are more stable for Cleveland SC. It was always his dream to be involved in leading a team in the area, however, he never thought he’d be an owner. Advancing from a staff member with AFC Cleveland, this new club is his to mold and lead.
“From a standpoint of where we’re going to play, how we’re going to market to our target audience, how we’re going to approach the talent on the field, that will all be different,” Seibert said. “We will focus on success from both a revenue and an on-field perspective. We need to have success at both. If we’re not, we’ll need to change things.”
From parking lot phone calls to revenue and business plans, it’s been an eventful three weeks for Cleveland SC. Long still just wants to be on the field, and he’ll get that chance come May. His outlook has changed since Chipotle.
“We didn’t think there was a shot in hell,” Long said.