Northbound: North County Battalion rebrands itself

The future of competitive soccer in North County is looking bright for 2017.

This week, the North County Battalion, an adult soccer team established in 2015, announced a team rebranding to the “SoCal Surf,” and a new home venue in downtown Carlsbad. Matches in the 2017 spring season will now be played in the Army & Navy Academy’s Maffucci Field, at the western edge of Carlsbad Village, just a couple blocks away from pubs, bars and restaurants. Previously, they were held in 4S Ranch.

This news follows a November announcement that the team is partnering with San Diego Surf, a top youth soccer club, to join the Premier Development League (PDL) as the latest “Path to Pro” soccer franchise in the United States.

In a release, team founder and CEO Jason Barbato expressed enthusiasm for the next development phase of his soccer club.

“By rebranding as SoCal Surf, joining the PDL, and relocating our home matches to beautiful downtown Carlsbad, we are further fulfilling this promise and ensuring that we provide the entire San Diego community with the soccer club they deserve, a soccer club with deep roots, proud tradition, and a bright future,” Barbato said in the release.

Kudos to the SoCal Surf. In my prior interviews with Barbato, there was always a strong sense of vision, optimism, and hard work driving his efforts and building the franchise. Combined with talented players, coaches and wins on the field, So Cal Surf has in short order made the most of their opportunities.

While I preferred the original team name and logo, I imagine there will probably be a broader brand appeal and more sponsorship opportunities as the SoCal Surf.

I’m particularly excited about the move to downtown Carlsbad, The Carlsbad Village Transit Station is less than a five minute walk from the home venue, allowing fans from as far away as Los Angeles and Orange County to take public transit (Coaster, Amtrak) to games.

As a Carlsbad resident, I’ve seen new dining concepts and activity emerge in the Village in just the last six months — I know my town will be happy to host fans before and after matches.

In a post-Chargers sports world, I’m eager to see where soccer takes us as a community.

There’s a new proposal from private investors for a new Major League Soccer team expansion franchise in San Diego, along with a new soccer stadium within the old Qualcomm Stadium footprint.

There are a lot of steps and “ifs” to make this dream a reality, and even if all goes well, that first MLS home opener would take place years from now. In the meantime, there are competitive soccer athletes playing their hearts out in North County that need our support.

We’re still a few months away from the start of the season, but we’ll have more details soon. SoCal Surf’s season schedule will be released Feb. 4, and the first game is already set for the first weekend in May. I hope you’ll join me and attend the season opener in Carlsbad this spring — circle the date on your calendar!

Vince Vasquez is an avid soccer fan and a Carlsbad resident. Go Surf!

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