There hasn’t been much noise in Harrisburg lately about what was going to happen with Penn FC in 2020. The team had pretty much gone silent after reporting they would go on hiatus for 2019 before dropping down to USL League One for 2020. As a few months of silence quickly turned into fourteen, fans began to fear the worst for the former Harrisburg City Islanders.
Now, with the entire USL in the middle of their annual winter summit down in Orlando, a report has come out from Jeff Rueter of The Athletic that indicates that Penn FC will not return in 2020 and that they have officially ceased operations. According to the report, the club has yet to make the announcement themselves because the team no longer has any employees on the payroll.
NOTEBOOK: The #USL will hold its first All-Star Game in June. It's one of many news updates from the winter summit in Orlando.— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) December 12, 2019
Expansion, a growing conference divide, coaches of interest, updates on Fresno, Rochester Rhinos & Penn FC, and much more: https://t.co/TJ3UsLGe9b
Most fans expected that the lack of noise from the team indicated that the hiatus would extend for at least another season, but this news represents the worst case scenario. It’s a tremendous frustration that the team that was playing in the USL Pro title game just five years ago is no longer able to compete in the league.
But the Skyline Sports Complex on City Island, the team’s home for its first 12 seasons, was no longer up to the standards of the rapidly improving USL. The move to sharing FNB Field with the Harrisburg Senators allowed the team to stay afloat for three more seasons, but it was clear that a long term stadium solution was still needed.
The City of Harrisburg was in no position to finance a stadium for the team and it would have been difficult to fit one on City Island anyway. Thursday’s news appears to confirm that the team’s owners were not able to find a workable solution in the surrounding area. No stadium meant that there was no chance the team could come off of hiatus.
There’s not enough space here to summarize the full history of the Harrisburg City Islanders, but it looks like Penn FC’s 0-0 draw against Toronto FC II on October 13, 2018 will go into the record books as the team’s last match. It’s the final footnote for a team that managed to beat the odds and play 15 seasons of professional soccer on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River.