Although sports at all levels in New Jersey are shut down due to the COVID-19 crisis, that won’t always be the case. And plans are now underway for pre-professional men’s and women’s soccer to be played in the Trenton area beginning May 2021, currently under the name Real Central New Jersey Soccer.
“When you look for teams at this pre-professional level around New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, they are either in North Jersey, near the Shore, or in Philadelphia,” Ira Jersey of Lawrenceville, founder of the club, said in a prepared statement. “Given the rich Central Jersey soccer landscape of players and fans, there’s a need for affordable, high-quality soccer entertainment in our community. Our vision is to build the club into a community resource and a point of pride for our region.”
The club plans on launching both women’s and men’s pre-professional teams simultaneously to play in local divisions of prominent national leagues. Jersey will be the general manager of the men’s program, while Ben Chrnelich of Hopewell Township will be the general manager of the women’s program.
“The women’s game has grown so much over the years,” Chrnelich said in the statement. “With Sky Blue moving to Red Bull Arena from their former home at Rutgers, high-level women’s soccer has moved further from Trenton. In fact, we’ll have the only high-level summer soccer teams easily accessible by mass transit from Mercer County.”
It has been 30 years since the last team played in the Trenton area at a similar level. In 1990 and 1991, the Penn-Jersey Spirit of the now-disbanded American Professional Soccer League used Lion’s Stadium as their home field, on the campus of what is now The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing, according to the statement. Centrally located and with the right mix of amenities, the new teams are planning to play in the same facility.
“The location and facilities are perfect,” Jersey said of the TCNJ facility, according to the statement. “It offers a full-size soccer pitch, has easy parking and bus access, and many amenities that will allow us to create an energetic and fun atmosphere for families, supporters, and businesses.”
As many sports leagues are delayed or canceled for the year, the club believes demand for local and outdoor events will climb in 2021.
With a seating capacity of over 6,000 at Lion’s Stadium, the club believes that even if some form of physical distancing continues into 2021 they could accommodate several thousand fans as long as leagues are allowed to play.
“The safety of our fans and participants will come first,” Jersey said in the statement.
The club will seek community and supporter input for its final branding. For now, the club is going by Real Central New Jersey Soccer until a final name is chosen.
Mercer U23 Soccer LLC plans to solicit input from local soccer fans and early club supporters as it develops a brand — including its name, team colors and logo. They are currently in discussions to join USL League Two and the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
Individuals, community organizations, and businesses interested in being involved are encouraged to contact the club with their interest and follow the club’s social media accounts: Facebook @RealCentralNJSoccer, Instagram @RealCentralNJ or Twitter @RealCentralNJ
Or, join the club’s mailing list at www.realcentralnj.soccer.