Stars from all fields get a kick out of Pier 40


By Judith Stiles

Every sports aficionado in Lower Manhattan knows that Pier 40 is a mecca for youth soccer, but it is also an international magnet for avid adult footballers who move to New York City. When they arrive in the Big Apple they find almost no grass fields, just a smattering of apple trees, and a few turf fields, which are insufficient for nurturing budding athletes. Basketball star Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns’ star point guard, chooses to live in N.Y.C. in the off-season, largely because of soccer and the chance to play recreationally with players from all over the world.

N.B.A. Most Valuable Player Nash’s good court vision transfers to soccer, and he scores many goals, says Keith Miller, the league’s founder. Nash grew up in a soccer family and the game was his favorite sport growing up. His father played professionally in South Africa and England, and his brother was on Canada’s national team.

“The Metro Soccer League at Pier 40 is a regular United Nations of players,” says Miller, a 24/7 soccer guy. Actor Anthony LaPaglia (goalie), and Claudio Reyna, who was captain of America’s 2006 World Cup team, also play on Pier 40.

But it is not just the superstars that make this the most exciting adult soccer league in town. It is the cross-pollination of different styles of play that men and women bring to the game from all over the world. The team names reflect the global nature of the sport, with tags such as Azurri, Nachistas, Zum Schneider, O’Shea’s Candles, Hibernians, and Bangu. And of course there are the teams with cheeky names such as Working Poor, Lactic Acid, Lazy Boys, Dead Rabbits, Homewreckers, and We Rather Be Drinkin.

Since its inception in 1989, Metro Soccer has grown rapidly, and is now home to over 100 teams, including a co-ed division and an 8-on-a-side division that boasts a skill level comparable to Division I college teams, as well as retired pro players.

Any soccer novice, average or advanced player can mix it up from the office pool, combining all skill levels on one team. This means the high heels and neckties are cast off at five o’clock as the motley office crew morphs into a powerhouse soccer team, such as Deloitte and ESPN Magazine, as they head up to Pier 40 for a glorious evening of soccer under a beautiful canopy of stars.

As a bonus, Metro Soccer hosts coaching license courses where players can get certified, which is often a must to be hired as a coach in the Big Apple.

For the youth player, Metro Soccer has launched a junior travel team, and in partnership with the public school system, they have brought free soccer clinics to over 275 schools in the area.

“In New York, schools rarely get organized sports programs with qualified coaches during the school day,” says Ian Walker in a British accent. Walker is the director of operations who oversees the nuts and bolts of making the games run on time with tip-top referees officiating.

Metro Soccer also has a Winter Warrior team in their outdoor program, where players in hats and gloves have been spotted in lively games at Pier 40, even in frigid temperatures.

The beauty of Metro Soccer is that there is a team for everyone — not just kids, but even those aging footballers who think they can still run and kick the ball. Yes, there are a variety of teams but not enough fields, which is why when you read the registration page at metrosoccerny.com, every fall group is “CLOSED OUT” due to lack of field space and permits. Why even Team Bloomberg — which represents the company founded by the mayor — plays at Pier 40 on Monday nights and runs the risk of losing field time with the growing demand for space to play ball in the city. Metro hopes with a little luck, the team’s chief team sponsor will step in for a few kicks and a plug for more ball fields.