Penn FC entered a hectic news cycle on Monday with the unexpected announcement that they would be going on hiatus for 2019 ahead of dropping down to USL League One in 2020. Naturally there was a lot of conflicting information that was circulating about what the information meant for the future of professional soccer in the Harrisburg area. So Penn FC managed to clear the air a little bit with a letter from owner Eric Pettis that was sent to season ticket holders before being released to the public.
Much of the confusion about what was going to happen with Penn FC stemmed from a news release on the Rush Soccer website that was posted on October 8th before being deleted on the 10th. In it, Rush Soccer made it clear that they would be relocating the Rush Soccer first team after 2018.
This didn’t gel with the USL press release that indicated that Penn FC was looking to find a stadium solution in the Harrisburg area. However, it did match up with the alternative language that Rush Soccer used when talking about Penn FC in 2018. They would always refer to Penn FC as “Rush Soccer’s First Team” and they also made multiple social media posts referring to the team as Penn FC Rush.
But the biggest issue with the Rush Soccer release is that they dismissed what the Harrisburg soccer fans had contributed to the team. They said that the Harrisburg area lacked facilities (which is fair) but that it also lacked a “strong soccer fan base.” This was news to the fans who’d supported teams on City Island since the 2004 season.
The fans in Harrisburg, feeling slighted and afraid that they were about to see their team moved much farther away than they had originally anticipated, expressed their frustrations during Tuesday’s match against NYRB II.
WATCH - ⚽️⚽️⚽️— Allie Berube (@allieberube) October 10, 2018
Future of pro soccer in Harrisburg is uncertain after @PennFCOfficial announces it will not play the 2019 season.
Our @abc27Sports EXCLUSIVE interview with Founding Owner Eric Pettis & reaction from passionate @CapCity717 fans! pic.twitter.com/T3rxyFv3RX
Eric Pettis expressed his displeasure in his own way by taping over the Rush logo on his shirt while being interviewed.
So with this cloud of uncertainty in the air, Penn FC set the record straight with the letter from Pettis. He makes it clear that Penn FC will be staying in central PA as they look for solutions to their stadium issues. The team’s future success will depend upon them finding a stadium where they can create a reasonable schedule and control the game day experience.
But he also goes out of his way to clarify that Rush Soccer did not have an ownership stake in Penn FC. As such, they cannot relocate Penn FC. Any attempt for them to find a new “first team” would therefore require another franchise.
Pettis also made clear that the Penn FC youth soccer programs would not be affected by the upcoming hiatus and that they would continue next year. This was an important clarification as several people on social media were questioning whether these programs, which are some of the most significant youth soccer programs in the Central PA area, would be able to continue.
So there’s still plenty of logistics that need worked out before 2020, but there’s now a clearer picture of what Harrisburg’s soccer team will look like by then. Rush will have moved on to a new pro partner, but expect Capelli to remain heavily involved in any future Penn FC adventures.
In the meantime, there’s one last match to play at FNB Field this Saturday at 7 p.m. Penn FC is offering free admission to anyone wearing Harrisburg City Islanders or Penn FC gear. They will also be launching the fireworks that were cancelled due to weather earlier in the season.