The sport of soccer looks to continue to grow in the Pine Belt as the Southern States Soccer club has not only expanded its soccer facility, but will also be bringing in a minor league team to Hattiesburg.
The Southern States Soccer Club was founded in 2015 as a way to expand the interest of soccer and develop local youth players in Mississippi from the ages of four to 19 years old.
For former William Carey, men’s soccer coach Nigel Boulton and general manager of the club explained that the owners’ goal for the Southern States Soccer Club is to develop the organization for the local soccer community.
“Soccer is growing in most places,” Boulton said. “We are trying to bring professional [soccer], but it’s professional in terms of how it is run. It’s a professional organization, but we run just bonafide recreational programs as well as our academy program that doesn’t cost any more than it does to play for any other club.
“Nobody is in this to make a profit. We are trying to cover our costs and not lose any money. You can look at the facility and think about how long it would take to recover all the money that has been spent on it. They love soccer, they love kids and they love their community. They just saw this as something they could help achieve.”
Since 2015, the Southern States Soccer Club now has 350 kids involved with the organization, has built three outdoor soccer fields and has an indoor facility. In addition, the club is expanding its indoor facility and is creating another outdoor field.
The club recently decided to add the minor league team to not only convey more interest in soccer, but also to give its own kids that are part of the organization to have something aspire to.
“When we looked at what is missing, and you look at what the rest of the world does with soccer the best youth clubs are with professional teams,” Boulton said. “We’ll probably never have a Major League Soccer team here in Hattiesburg, so the closest we can get is to offer something of the minor league level and attach it to the club so the kids playing with us can have something to look forward too.”
The team, which does not have a name yet, will join the Gulf Coast Conference of the 94-team National Premier Soccer League. The Southern States club will join a seven-team conference that includes teams from Biloxi, New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida. Players will range from current college players, former professionals and players looking to gain professional attention.
The inaugural season is scheduled to begin May 2021 and end in August. The season will consist of a 20-game schedule that will also include national playoffs.
“When I left William Carey, I thought I was going into retirement or semiretirement (but then) this project came along as ‘Can you help out with some teams?’ and it just grew from there,” Boulton said. “Then the idea of putting an NPSL team arrived, and I have plenty of experience with that as well. I’m excited. It’s not something that I expected to see in 2015, but in 2020 the sky is the limit with this.”