Editor's Note: Tryouts for the Tulip City United Soccer Club originally planned for March 12 were postponed due to weather. Tryouts will now be March 19. The location and time will remain the same.
After two years of patiently waiting, Tulip City United Soccer Club is kicking off its inaugural season in June.
The club initially planned to launch as a semi-pro team in the summer of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic shattered the sporting world at all competition levels. But club founder Matt Davis was determined to see the dream of a unified soccer team in Holland succeed.
“It’s a passion project,” Davis says. “It’s a bunch of people from Holland who want to make this happen, who think that Holland would be a great place to have a team, and who want that team to root for.”
There are open tryouts for the club from 1-4 p.m. on March 12 at the Holland High School soccer field. The tryout fee is $50, but the club is offering scholarships to players funded by supporters and community members. Davis says that the club will cover as many out-of-pocket costs for players as possible so the roster is “merit-based.”
“It’s not based on money. It’s based on passion and drive,” Davis says. “And that’s what’s going to help us succeed and keep us around for a long time.”
Soccer growing in popularity
Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, with English Premier League matches drawing millions of viewers every weekend. Soccer is most popular with the 18-to-34-year-old U.S. demographic, indicating its appeal for a younger, up-and-coming audience.
While the popularity of “The Beautiful Game” has grown exponentially on TV screens and social media feeds, the national infrastructure of professional soccer hasn’t experienced a seamless evolution.
There’s a convoluted history of failed clubs and league projects across the country, even here in West Michigan. Grand Rapids Football Club, which began in 2015 as a semi-pro team, closed its doors in 2021 after two seasons altered by the pandemic.
What could make Tulip City succeed where other clubs have failed? Davis says the grassroots nature of the club and its focus on the community will keep costs low and its identity strong. In addition, Tulip City is registered as a 501(c)(7) nonprofit social club, emphasizing the transparent nature of the project.
“We’re looking forward to Tulip City being a proud Holland tradition for many years to come,” Davis says.
Elsewhere in Michigan, Detroit City FC has gained global acclaim for its fan-owned model and club culture that propelled them up the American soccer pyramid from semi-pro to professional.
Similarly, Lansing Common FC, which kicked off its first season in 2021, emerged out of two failed clubs in the state capital, with an identity based on community investment and a supporter-led model.
“This is a manageable and small start to what we are trying to make into a professional group,” Davis says. “This is going to be something that the community can get involved in on a much deeper level than a for-profit organization.”
Tulip City will host their home matches at the Holland High soccer field, the same venue head coach Greg Ceithaml spends the school year coaching the Holland boys’ varsity team. With 26 years of coaching experience at Holland, Ceithaml says he’s excited to have a soccer club that the community can rally around.
“I’ve been very impressed by the community’s willingness to support this endeavor, and I know that the team will be successful from that standpoint,” he says.
Ceithaml says that there are two main goals for the upcoming season: to put together the most competitive team possible and have a roster that represents every part of the greater Holland area.
“There are many excellent players in the Holland community and West Michigan in general, and I hope Tulip City will provide strong competition and training opportunities for continuous improvement.”
Tulip City is classified as an amateur club and will play its inaugural season in the
Midwest Premier League (MWPL) East Division, which is composed of clubs across
Michigan, including Lansing Common.
Davis says the matchday experience will feel like a mix between a carnival and a Hope basketball game. Supporters will have a section in the stands where fans can chant, wave flags, and celebrate goals. The rest of the stadium will offer family-friendly seating, and there are plans for additional activities for kids, like face painting.
Supporters will also be encouraged to gather at Tulip City Brewstillery (one of the team’s sponsors) before the match for a tailgate atmosphere, followed by a mile march to the stadium, all while cheering and singing.
“You’re going to be accepted here, and we’re going to have a great time supporting
local soccer,” Davis says.
Davis grew up in a small Southern Indiana community. He remembers Friday nights when the entire town gathered to cheer on their sole high school basketball team.
Although the Holland area has a rich tradition of high school and Hope College sporting events, Davis says there isn’t a universal team that brings the entire community under one common banner. He hopes the club’s inclusive experience and values of passion, unity, and growth will encourage the community to adopt Tulip City as “Holland’s team.”
Tulip City is currently organized by an all-volunteer four-member board of directors, including Davis, and encourages anyone 18 or older who’s passionate about soccer to get involved.
“If you love soccer and you love our city, then this is the place for you,” Davis says.
The season will kick off in June, with match dates announced soon. If you’re interested in trying out for the team, becoming a sponsor, or otherwise getting involved, visit www.tulipcityunited.com