The United Premier Soccer League has announced its first team in the Philadelphia region with Junior Lone Star FC slated to join the league’s new Northeast Conference in the spring.
“Junior Lone Star FC has shown its quality through the years and now the club is looking at a wider stage, and the UPSL can provide that with our growing movement of teams embracing the UPSL’s Pro/Rel Model,” league commissioner Yan Skwara said in a news release.
The UPSL was founded in 2011 on the West Coast and currently has 125 teams split between two divisions. Junior Lone Star will begin play in the Pro Premier Division (the league’s other division is known as the Championship).
To date, 10 other teams have been announced for the new conference with one team in North Jersey, three in Massachusetts, two in New Hampshire, one in Rhode Island and two other teams in New York.
The UPLS has a spring (March-July) and fall season (September-December), where the National Premier Soccer League, which Junior Lone Star FC has been part of since 2012, only runs a season through the summer months.
“We want to mix things up and play guys in both the UPSL (and the NPSL),” club president Paul Konneh said. “They’re both competitive leagues and now everybody can go UPSL or NPSL, and it will give those players that chance to be seen on a wider stage, too. The UPSL gives us another avenue where we can showcase the ability of our other players.”
In addition to more playing opportunities for players from the first team and U23 squad, the UPSL will provide another pathway to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which the team qualified for through local amateur qualification for the first time in 2017.
Club founder Bobbi Ali will serve as the UPSL team’s head coach and James Karnga as his assistant. Like the NPSL team, they will play home games at Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill.
Tuesday’s news comes a day after the club announced that a new team would be added in Liberia.
Junior Lone Star was founded in 2001 and has grown from a single team to more than 150 total players, many immigrants from Liberia and other West African nations. Philadelphia Union homegrown midfielder Derrick Jones competed at the youth levels with the club prior to joining the Philadelphia Union Academy.