Northbound: Fall soccer season preview

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with the NC Battalion, North County’s premier soccer team, which just held its inaugural season this spring.

In an interview this week with team owner Jason Barbato, I learned the team capped their season with a strong finish (7-2-3), and led their conference in goals scored, averaging three goals a game.

The Battalion reached the second round of national-level playoffs before being eliminated by the Sonoma County Sol in July. More than 80 teams play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). “Not too shabby” for a first season, Barbato acknowledged.

Barbato’s vision for his team and the community is, in a word, ambitious.  In short order, he’s built a competitive organization, found sponsors, and cultivated a fan base with its own official booster club (“Doom & Gloom”).

The NC Battalion is also one of three NPSL teams that livestreams all of their home and away games, complete with a broadcaster doing play-by-play for fans.

Live games have even been broadcasted at Señor Grubby’s in Carlsbad Village, Kelly’s Pub in Rancho Bernardo, and Bay City Brewing near the Sports Arena. With a focus on greater success, the off-season for the NC Battalion has been short. The team has been busy making adjustments to coaching, adding front office personnel, and retooling its business structure. While league play doesn’t start until spring 2017, the Battalion took the initiative and organized its own six-game fall development season, an effort Barbato says will help keep the team fit, competitive, and “in the consciousness of the community.”

While the fall matches are technically “friendlies” and exhibitions, expect the Battalion’s fall season to be high-level play. The team just finished their second round of open tryouts, and has brought in about a dozen new players, who are now competing for a spot on the spring roster. Guys will be playing their hearts out to make the cut.

Kudos to the NC Battalion. They’ve been strong supporters of the community, and have worked hard on and off the field to bring exciting, family-friendly soccer action to North County. My take? Skip NFL Sunday, take your family out for a fun Sunday afternoon and support your local soccer team this fall.

The special fall Battalion season begins Oct. 2 versus Temecula FC. All games are played on Sundays at Del Norte High School in 4S Ranch (16601 Nighthawk Lane, San Diego), with kick off at 12:20 p.m. Ticket bundles for all home games are available for purchase on the team’s website, and individual tickets can be purchased at matches.

For more information, visit ncbattalion.com.

Vince Vasquez is an economist based in Torrey Pines. He is a Carlsbad resident.

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