Penn FC (formerly the Harrisburg City Islanders) was an American professional soccer team based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States. Founded in 2003, the team most recently played in the United Soccer League (since renamed the USL Championship), the second tier of the United States soccer league system. In October 2018, the club announced it will not participate in the 2019 season and will resume play in 2020 as a member of the new USL League One, a league in the third tier.
|Full name||Penn Football Club|
|Founded||September 24, 2003 (as Harrisburg City Islanders)|
On November 15, 2017 the team was rebranded as Penn FC. The rebrand served in conjunction with a partnership with Rush Soccer youth development program. Penn FC served Rush Soccer's professional team and the club's most important piece to their extensive network. The team plays its home games at FNB Field. The team's colors are blue, black and grey corresponding to Rush Soccer's branding established in 1997. In December 2019, ahead of the 2020 season, reports noted that the club had ceased operations and no longer had any employees on payroll.
USL Pro Soccer League – inaugural season (2004)
The Harrisburg City Islanders were announced as a new professional soccer team on September 24, 2003 as a member USL Pro Soccer League’s Atlantic Division on the third tier of the American soccer pyramid. As the team prepared for its inaugural season, Bill Becher was named the first head coach of the club and forward David Bascome was signed as the first player. The City Islanders won their first match 5–2 on the road against the Northern Virginia Royals with Steve Fisher scoring the club's first ever goal.
The City Islanders were powerful contenders in the USL second division, finishing second the Atlantic Division and fifth overall in their inaugural season and qualifying for the playoffs. They were eliminated in the Atlantic Division Finals by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
USL Second Division and USL Pro (2005–2014)
The 2005 season saw the City Islanders continue to be contenders in the league, now organized in a single table as the USL Second Division (USL-2), finishing third in the table and qualifying for the playoffs. They were eliminated in the Atlantic Division Finals by the eventual champions, Charlotte Eagles. The season's success was recognized as Bill Becher was named USL-2 Coach of the Year, while Chad Severs was named Rookie of the Year who led the scoring with 13 goals and 5 assists.
In 2006, the club failed to reach the playoffs, but regained form in 2007. The City Islanders would win their first championship in USL Second Division Championship, defeating the Richmond Kickers on penalty kicks. Dustin Bixler was named the match's Most Valuable Player.
The City Islanders qualified for the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 but were unable to recapture the title. Danny Cepero played for Harrisburg on loan from the New York Red Bulls in 2008, and upon returning to New York, became the first goalkeeper in Major League Soccer history to score from open play. In 2009, Ty Shipalane became the second City Islander to win Rookie of the Year and became the first City Islander to jump directly to Major League Soccer after signing with D.C. United at the conclusion of the season.
The 2010 season would be the second time in the club's history missing the playoffs. On March 1, 2010, the City Islanders entered into an agreement to become the official USL affiliate of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union. The affiliation would soon have City Islanders defender, Sheanon Williams sign with the Union and become an immediate insertion in the first tier club's starting eleven.
The 2011 season saw the USL Second Division be reorganized into the USL Pro with Harrisburg competing in the National Division. The City Islanders won the USL Pro National Division title over the Rochester Rhinos advancing to the first USL Pro final against the newly formed, and regular-season champion, Orlando City. Similar to the last championship appearance, the City Islanders would play to a draw (2–2) in regulation time, only this time falling on penalty kicks 3–2.
The City Islanders would have successful seasons in 2012 and 2013, but would earn a spot in the USL Pro final during the 2014 season after a dark horse run through the playoffs, having finished in the last remaining qualifier spot. The final was, again, played at a newly formed club, and regular-season champion, Sacramento Republic FC. Sacramento would win the title 2–0, with Harrisburg earning their second runner-up in four seasons.
USL and rebrand (2015–2018)
Undergoing massive expansion and vying for second division status in the American soccer pyramid, the USL Pro was rebranded as simply "USL." The re-branding and additional teams intended to increase the quality of play and infrastructure throughout the league, as well as provide better player development in cooperation with Major League Soccer. Since the league restructured, the City Islanders have struggled to keep pace, missing out on the playoffs for both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
On January 5, 2017, the United States Soccer Federation granted USL provisional Division II status; making the 2017 season the first time the City Islanders would compete as a Division II team. Shortly before the 2017 season, George Altirs was announced as new majority owner of the club so as to "stay in Harrisburg and build an international developmental base that is unique and exciting." As majority owner, Altirs "will oversee the technical side of the club, including player and staff selections, transfers, and outside, non-local partnerships for the Harrisburg City Islanders." The ownership addition was intended to allow the City Islanders to keep pace with the growth of the USL.
On November 15, 2017, it was announced that the City Islanders would be rebranded as Penn FC starting with the 2018 season. The rebrand was announced as a focus on player and product development, situating the team as the top of a development pyramid for the existing Rush Soccer program. The rebranding saw wholesale changes with the team's personnel, retaining only five players from the 2017 roster. Bill Becher was appointed technical director, leaving his role as the club's first and only head coach. In February 2017, Raoul Voss was announced as the first head coach for Penn FC. Ahead of the 2018 season, Penn FC made some key signings including the return of former City Islander standouts Ken Tribbett and Lucky Mkosana, and forward Tommy Heinemann.
Penn FC's inaugural season started off with mixed results, going 6-4-7 through their first 17 matches. Conflicts with baseball operations and schedule at FNB Field required the team to have an to have long away stints until a final 9-match home stand. The team's poor away form mid-season carried into the home-stand with Penn FC going 1-2-6 in their remaining 9 matches. The team finished 13th in the Eastern Conference, their lowest position since joining the USL.
Hiatus and Ceasing Operations
Prior to the conclusion to the 2018 season, the Penn FC officially announced the team would be on hiatus for the 2019 season and return play in 2020 as part of the newly formed USL League One in the third tier of American soccer. After months of speculation, there had been minimal announcements regarding the team's preparations for entering League One. In December 2019, during the USL Winter Meetings, reports noted that the club had ceased operations and no longer had any employees on payroll after 16 years of competitive soccer.
U.S. Open Cup
Penn FC also competes in the U.S. Open Cup, where they developed a reputation as "giant killers" for defeating several teams from Major League Soccer. Harrisburg boasts an overall record of 12–5–3 in the competition, including a perfect 5–0 mark against teams from the Premier Development League and 5–6 record against MLS clubs. The City Islanders first competed in the U.S. Open Cup in 2007, defeating two amateur squads before upsetting D.C. United 1–0 to reach the quarterfinals. They subsequently lost to the New England Revolution 1–2, but in 2009 exacted revenge by beating the Revolution 2–1 before losing to D.C. United 1–2 in the quarterfinals. The City Islanders repeated the feat in 2010, knocking off Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls 1–0 in the round of 16 and claiming a cash prize for advancing furthest of any USL Pro team in the tournament. The City Islanders again dispatched the New England Revolution in the 2012 edition of the U.S. Open Cup, prevailing on penalty kicks after a 3–3 draw in the round of 32. Harrisburg next defeated the Red Bulls 3–1 to advance to the quarterfinals, where they lost to the Philadelphia Union by a 5–2 scoreline. In 2012, the City Islanders again won the cash prize for advancing further than any USL Pro team in the tournament by virtue of a tie-breaker.
The City Islanders hosted several exhibition matches, or friendlies, against international and top-flight competition. A partnership with D.C. United of Major League Soccer created the "Clash of the Capitals," annual matches between the two capital cities held in 2005–06. In the inaugural edition of the competition in 2005, D.C. United won 1–0 in front of over 4,000 fans at the Skyline Sports Complex. The following year's matchup was staged at Cumberland Valley High School, where 5,133 fans turned out to witness Freddy Adu and United prevail 2–1. That same year included the City Islanders' first international exhibition, as the club defeated Jamaica's Village United F.C. 5–1 at Hersheypark Stadium.
In 2009, the City Islanders played Crystal Palace F.C. of the Football League Championship, England's second division, at Lancaster's Clipper Magazine Stadium. A crowd of 5,099 witnessed the match, a 3–1 Crystal Palace win that included goals by Palace stars Darren Ambrose, Neil Danns, and Freddie Sears. Brandon Swartzendruber scored the lone goal for the City Islanders.
Affiliation with Philadelphia Union
On March 1, 2010, the City Islanders entered into an agreement to become the official USL affiliate of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union. As part of their affiliation, the City Islanders host annual friendly matches against the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer. As of the 2014 season, the Islanders have only won one match against their top flight affiliate.
In 2010, the teams played to a 1–1 draw, with Danny Mwanga giving the Union a lead in the 30th minute before an own goal allowed Harrisburg to equalize a minute later. J.T. Noone appeared for both clubs in the match, playing the first half for the City Islanders before switching jerseys and completing the second half for Philadelphia.
The Union prevailed in the 2011 edition by a 5–3 scoreline. The City Islanders carried a 2–0 lead into halftime behind goals by Nelson Becerra and Andrew Welker, but heavy substitutions allowed the Union to demonstrate their superior depth, and they scored five times in thirty minutes before Jose Angulo pegged one back.
With both teams fielding numerous reserves, the City Islanders won the 2012 rematch, which was played at Hersheypark Stadium. Jorge Perlaza and Kai Herdling scored for the Union, while a brace by Garret Pettis and goal by Yann Ekra carried the USL-PRO outfit to the 3–2 victory.
After five years of cooperation, it was announced on August 19, 2015 that the affiliation would dissolve at the conclusion of the 2015 season as the Union would develop their own USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC, in the Lehigh Valley starting in 2016. The final friendly between the two teams as affiliates took place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in front of a record crowd of 6,546 attendees. The Union won the match 3–1.
The table below summarizes the results of the annual contests between the Islanders and Union.
|July 27, 2010 Friendly||Harrisburg City Islanders||1–1||Philadelphia Union||Harrisburg, Pennsylvania|
||Stadium: Skyline Sports Complex|
|August 24, 2011 Friendly||Harrisburg City Islanders||3–5||Philadelphia Union||Harrisburg, Pennsylvania|
|Stadium: Skyline Sports Complex|
|June 12, 2012 Friendly||Harrisburg City Islanders||3–2||Philadelphia Union||Hershey, Pennsylvania|
|7:00 pm ET||Pettis
|Stadium: Hersheypark Stadium|
|June 18, 2013 Friendly||Harrisburg City Islanders||2–4||Philadelphia Union||Harrisburg, Pennsylvania|
|7:00 pm ET||Basso
|Stadium: Skyline Sports Complex|
|August 28, 2014 Friendly||Harrisburg City Islanders||2–3||Philadelphia Union||Harrisburg, Pennsylvania|
|7:00 p.m. EDT||Barril
|Stadium: Skyline Sports Complex|
Colors and badge
The team's colors are blue and white. The logo can also be adorned with a gold star above it, representing the USL Championship the team won in 2007. The team has since issued two anniversary crests for their 10th and 12th seasons.
In 2016, the City Islanders alternatively dropped "Harrisburg" from the team's title in an attempt to increase the club's footprint in central Pennsylvania.
For the first 12 seasons, the City Islanders competed at the Skyline Sports Complex. Since the 2016 season at FNB Field on City Island in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The stadium has a capacity of 6,187 spectators. The City Islanders also compete at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania which serves as an alternate home ground during the 2016 season.
Recognizing the need to modernize the facilities with the growth of the USL, in 2015 the parent company of the Harrisburg City Islanders, the Harrisburg Capital Soccer, Inc. have begun applying for grant funding to facilitate upgrades to the existing complex. The proposed upgrades are anticipated to include increasing capacity to 5,000 seats, dedicated VIP areas, entrance plaza, upgraded concessions, restrooms, indoor locker rooms, state-of-the-art broadcasting booth, and a new scoreboard. New seating is intended to be an upgrade from existing bleachers with a mix of individual bucket seats, ten luxury suites, a VIP deck with seating, and bleacher seats with back supports. This expansion is intended to meet the minimum capacity required by the USSF for a league to compete as Division 2 in the American soccer pyramid.
Relocation to FNB Field
The 2016 season marked the City Islanders transition from Skyline Sports Complex to FNB Field on City Island in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The transition was a result of the collaboration with the current tenants, the Harrisburg Senators, and to keep pace with the stadium standards being implemented by the USL. The team will also share home matches with Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania as an effort to expand the Islanders fanbase throughout south central Pennsylvania. From the 2017 season, the Penn FC plays all of their home matches at FNB Field to focus on the Harrisburg area.
|2004–2015||Skyline Sports Complex||City Island, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania||4,000|
|2016||Clipper Magazine Stadium||Lancaster, Pennsylvania||6,000|
|2017–2018||FNB Field||City Island, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania||6,187|
When Penn FC announced their hiatus for the 2019 season, the decision was largely cited as looking for a more permanent stadium solution. Sharing FNB Field with the Harrisburg Senators proved to be difficult with scheduling and poor playing conditions because of the transitions between soccer and baseball fields.
As the City Islanders, The City Islanders Academy system fielded both boys and girls teams U-9 through U-17, and U20 and U23 adult men's teams. The club also fielded teams that competed in the Super-20 League, a league for players 17 to 20 years of age, operated by the United Soccer Leagues. The academy has also established partnerships with 17 youth soccer clubs across Central Pennsylvania.
The re-branding of the club to Penn FC has also begun the club's partnership with Rush Soccer, an established youth academy system based in Littleton, Colorado representing over 32,000 youth soccer players from 85 clubs around the world. The goal of the partnership was to provide the academy with a professional team to be at the pinnacle of the Rush Soccer development program, drawing from large player pools and international affiliations. Rush soccer became a pioneer by reverse-engineering the pathway from youth soccer to the professional level.
As the City Islanders, two supporters groups had formed: the City Island Hecklers (founded by "Them Hecklerz"), and the Sons of the Susquehanna (founded by Tyler Knupp, Kris Ortega, Ian Goldinger, and Raymond Stellhorn former Cedar Cliff High School Students). The both groups would position themselves behind opposing goals on matchdays. During the City Islanders affiliation with the Philadelphia Union, members of the Sons of Ben (supporters of the Philadelphia Union) also provided support.
Capital City Crew
Ahead of the 2017 season, the newly formed Capital City Crew became the recognized supporters group of the team.
Broadcasting and media coverage
Most Penn FC home matches are broadcast live on Invica, with tape delay feeds on ABC 27 Weather Channel, Comcast channel 245 and Verizon Fios channel 462. Additionally, many road games are broadcast through USLLive. Michael Bullock covers the team for the Patriot-News, while Derek Meluzio provides commentary and videos from his Upper 90 blog. The column "Confessions of a Soccer Nobody" appears regularly in the Sports' Burger, offering additional coverage and insight.
As of the 2014 season, USL began regularly broadcasting all league matches on the USL YouTube channel. Home match broadcasting is provided live by Inivca where play-by-play announcing covered by Brian Keyser with color commentary by Charlie Gerow.
|Period||Kit Manufacturer||Shirt Sponsor|
|2007–2014||Adidas||Capital Blue Cross|
|2015–2016||Capital Blue Cross|
Select Physical Therapy
|2017–2018||Capelli Sport||Capelli Sport|
Select Physical Therapy
|Technical advisor1||Bill Becher|
|General manager2||Tim Schulz|
|Head coach||Raoul Voss|
|Assistant coach||Rodolfo Correia|
|Goalkeeping coach||Steve Widdowson|
|Strength and conditioning coach||Denis Clarke|
|Club president||Tiago Lopes|
|Academy coordinator||Dave Kern|
Notable former players
- See also: All-time Penn FC roster
The following detail individual achievements earn by Penn FC players over the club's history.
- USL All-League First Team
- 2005: Shane Crawford, Sumed Ibrahim
- 2007: Matt Nelson, Mike Lookingland, Mo Oduor, Brian Ombiji
- 2009: Dustin Bixler, Ty Shipalane
- 2010: Dustin Bixler
- 2013: Sainey Touray
|Year||Division||League||Regular Season||Playoffs||U.S. Open Cup||Avg. Attendance||Leading Goal Scorer|
|Harrisburg City Islanders|
|2004||3||USL Pro Soccer League||2nd, Atlantic||Quarter-finals||Did not qualify||1,510|
|2005||3||USL Second Division||3rd||Semi-finals||Did not qualify||1,604|
|2006||3||USL Second Division||7th||Did not qualify||Did not qualify||1,781|
|2007||3||USL Second Division||3rd||Champions||Quarter-finals||1,724|
|2008||3||USL Second Division||5th||Quarter-finals||2nd round||1,684|
|2009||3||USL Second Division||3rd||Semi-finals||Quarter-finals||1,857|
|2010||3||USL Second Division||5th||Did not qualify||Quarter-finals||1,666|
|2011||3||USL Pro||2nd, National||Finals||2nd round||1,404|
|2013||3||USL Pro||4th||Quarter-finals||2nd round||1,456|
|2014||3||USL Pro||8th||Finals||4th round||1,941|
|2015||3||USL||8th, Eastern||Did not qualify||3rd round||2,430|
|2016||3||USL||10th, Eastern||Did not qualify||4th round||1,622|
|2017||2||USL||11th, Eastern||Did not qualify||4th round||2,429|
|2018||2||USL||13th, Eastern||Did not qualify||3rd round||2,147|
Although they had been rivals and competed against each other in previous seasons, the inaugural Keystone Derby was officially contested between Penn FC and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2015. Pittsburgh went on to win the cup in the first edition of the tournament in a series that saw 28 goals through four matches. The City Islanders would claim their first derby title in 2016.
- "City Islanders Football Club".
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- "Harrisburg City Islanders and Philadelphia Union Agree to Dissolve Five-Year Exclusive Partnership".
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- "City Islanders embrace Central PA, drop 'Harrisburg' from club name". Brotherly Game. May 12, 2016. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
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- "Harrisburg City Islanders Take Next Step in New Stadium Project". Harrisburg City Islanders. May 26, 2015. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
- "USSF Professional Standards". kenn.com blog. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
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- "Penn FC Aims to Develop Global Talent". USLsoccer.com. November 21, 2017. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
- CI Hecklers
- Sons of the Susquehanna
- Derek Meluzio (July 11, 2010). "Q&A With the Sons of the Susquehanna". PennLive.com. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
- Sean McPherson (February 16, 2017). "New Harrisburg supporters group has a vision for soccer in central PA". Brotherly Game. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- "Tiago Lopes Named Club President". City Islanders Football Club. December 15, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
- "City Islanders Roster". Harrisburg City Islanders. July 4, 2017. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
- "Front Office". Harrisburg City Islanders. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
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- "City Islanders Claim 2016 Keystone Derby Cup with Draw Against Pittsburgh". Harrisburg City Islanders. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
- "Islanders Fall in Keystone Derby Cup Final". Harrisburg City Islanders. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
- "Penn FC falls in Keystone Cup finale". Regan Cook. Retrieved October 9, 2018.