In case you missed it, Greenville is getting a professional soccer team. The exciting announcement came on November 27th and spread on social media like wild fire. Soccer fanatics, such as myself, are thrilled to have a hometown team to support. There’s a lot of details still to come before the season starts this upcoming Summer. In the meantime, I had the great privilege of sitting down with Greenville FC’s founder and creator, Marco Carrizales.
Marco grew up in Dallas, TX, where he spent most of his life before moving to Greenville. He grew up kicking a soccer ball before he was even walking. His older brother played, and his dad was a collegiate and professional soccer player. Marco’s athleticism allowed for him to be talented at just about every sport, but in the 4th grade his mom was tired of driving him from all of his sport practices and told him to pick a sport. He went all in on soccer.
From an early age, people took notice that he was growing into a very talented player. Dallas is a soccer hub, so several clubs reached out to him with hopes he would play for them. He joined one of the most prestigious youth soccer clubs in the entire world. It didn’t take long before he was noticed by the professional soccer team in the city, FC Dallas. They invited him to try out for their development academy league team when he was in the 8th grade. His scrawny stature made the 16 year olds around him seem like grown men. Despite being younger and smaller, he was invited back. He was constantly training and traveling around the world and was even invited to youth national team camps.
His schedule caused him to miss an incredible amount of classes, and the school he attended almost kicked him out. This put Marco in a predicament with life-altering decisions to make. He was on track to becoming a professional soccer player, and to stay on that track he had to make some sacrifices.
His commute to the soccer academy was 45 minutes one way. In order to keep up with his academics, he made the choice of joining a small academy school that catered to athletes with hectic schedules. At 15 years old, he left home to live in an apartment near the academy with another teammate.
“With soccer, if you want to be the best, you have to commit and make sacrifices,” Marco said. “I haven’t lived at home since I was 15. I had to leave all my friends and family only to see them on weekends. My team was now my family, and I was committed to the game I ultimately thought was going to set me up for the best success I could get. But, in the back of my mind, I was always wondering what I was missing. I was never sure if it was going to work out. ‘Is this all worth it?’ I asked myself. ‘Is it worth not having a normal high school experience for this dream?’”
Marco persevered. He finished the remainder of high school at the academy. When he graduated, he continued playing and training every day for the FC Dallas reserve team. He was scouted by colleges all across the country. Instead, he chose to play for SMU where he spent his first two years of college before transferring to Furman University.
He played injury free for most of his career until his junior year of high school when he tore his meniscus and needed surgery. Generally, you’re able to recover from this injury with proper rest and therapy. Unfortunately, he experienced complications that never really went away. The injury constantly nagged him, and Marco realized he had to change the way he played.
“It was a tough time of life to adjust how I played the game,” Marco said. “It happened while I was being recruited by colleges. My knee was just never the same. I don’t remember a training session where I felt good or felt fine when we were finished. My first season at Furman was so rough I could hardly walk after games. I ended up re-tearing my meniscus and had to have a second operation, and I still had lots of complications. My knee would swell up, and I was only a year from being able to attend a professional club and all this stuff is happening. Collegiate soccer can be brutal… we are constantly training and games are often scheduled very close together. My body was rejecting everything. But during this time it still hadn’t crossed my mind that I might not play professionally, even though it had been four years since I had not been in pain.”
Nonetheless, in January 2017 Marco was drafted by FC Dallas. He was brought in and played in their preseason matches. Unfortunately for Marco, the season prior had been FC Dallas’ most successful year in their history. Their roster was working, so they had a limited number of spots available.
He played his heart out and fought for a contract. Unfortunately, he didn’t receive one and they released him from the team.
“I could have pursued other clubs or gone into a lower division,“ Marco said. “But with the condition of my knee I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. I could have pursued that or try playing in another league in another country…maybe make a small salary and see where it took me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to make another sacrifice like that. I felt like a failure.”
For the first time he realized that, perhaps, he wasn’t going to be playing professional soccer.
“I realized the time had come for me step away from the game. My knee injury helped me reach that conclusion and get past the ‘I’m a total failure’ mentality. Even though it was tough and lonely sometimes, I realized that I had the privilege of traveling the world and playing for one of the best youth clubs in the world. I had incredible experiences and met amazing people. Soccer helped me with my school expenses. Soccer gave me so much…it raised me as a person.”
His decision became easier when he realized how much he gained from the sport. He earned tools to utilize in his now post-soccer life. He’d learned how to take care of his body by eating healthy, he’d learned how to work with people who may not view life the same was as he did, he learned how to do small things like be on time. All of that, he contributed to his life as a soccer player.
“I decided I wanted to give back to the sport that gave me so much,” Marco mentioned. “I never considered myself as anything other than a soccer player. My brother always tells people that I am the most ‘productive bored person’ ever. I was never into video games, and in my free time I liked learning and teaching myself different skills. I enjoyed business plans and liked coming up with app ideas even though I never followed through with them.”
During his time at Furman, he fell in love with the city of Greenville. He saw the opportunities for young adults and decided to call it home after he graduated Furman in December 2016. Around this time, he was hired by COPA Indoor Soccer as their general manager. For the first time, he began experiencing Greenville as a young professional and not as a soccer player.
In April of 2017, he attended an event with a speaker named Fabio. Fabio is the director of global digital brand of soccer for Nike. He deals with Nike video productions involving the likes of Ronaldo and Messi. Similar to Marco, He played soccer in college and tried to play professional, but it didn’t work out. When Marco saw that he was coming to town, they ended up having breakfast together.
Marco learned the story of Dennis Crowley, the founder of Foursquare. Dennis, who lives in Kingston, New York, is a soccer fanatic. He wasn’t a player, but he simply loved the sport. There is a huge urban soccer culture in Kingston and the surrounding areas. Since it was about a 2 hour drive for residents to see a high level soccer team, Dennis wanted to bring soccer to his community.
From scratch, Dennis built a soccer club in his community. Eventually, the club joined the National Premiere Soccer League (NPSL) and, using his experiences, Dennis wrote two manifestos on how to build a soccer club from scratch. These manifestos were written to inspire people to build soccer clubs in their community.
Marco went home after his breakfast with Fabio and read those manifestos. The idea of Greenville FC was born.
“I was immediately attracted to Crowley’s concept,” Marco said. “I’m the kind of guy who gets stuck on ideas. From reading those manifestos I got inspired. I had just stopped playing soccer and my mindset was changing. I was in a position where I could make this happen. So, I reached out to Dennis. I told him that I’m in a city which doesn’t have a club and I want to change that. Much to my surprise, he messaged me right back and we started a dialogue.”
As their conversation continued, Marco reached out to the founders of Asheville’s club, which was also a product of Dennis’ manifestos. They immediately jumped at the idea of helping Marco get a club launched in Greenville. Marco took the time to go up to games to experience them as a fan and see how they operated. His experience further inspired him, and he has sought out various connections since April.
“The great thing about the NPSL is that everyone is for each other,” Marco said. “One person’s success makes others successful. We immediately got excited while discussing our potential rivalry and derby match.”
Eventually, Marco began communication with the leaders of the NPSL.
“At this point I realized there was no going back. This was the first time I had ever followed through with an idea. The league quickly realized that this 22 year old kid knows what he is doing. It didn’t feel real until that point. I plugged away and crafted what I could. I couldn’t be public with it… I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want it to get out and people get their hopes up. Finally, the NPSL gave us formal approval to join the league, and that’s when I finally made the announcement.”
He continued, “Before, I was focused on being the best player and best leader for my team. Now I’m focused on providing a platform for someone else to be the best player and the best leader. This sport has been my life, and now I want to give back to it. Greenville FC can’t be successful without the help of of the community. I’ve been in Greenville for awhile and I’ve seen its soccer community. Although I know that it’s in infant stages, I’m confident that this will grow into something incredible. This isn’t just my team. This isn’t just an NPSL club. It’s Greenville’s team. It belongs to this city and its people.”
Greenville FC begins its first season in the Summer of 2018. Be sure to follow GVLFC on social media to stay up to date on the release of venue, kit release, special events, and more!