Three clubs join forces to give players a path to the pros starting at the Under-8 level
The Ocean City Nor’easters, South Jersey Elite Barons FC (SJEB FC), and the New Jersey Surf are proud to announce a new collaboration between the three clubs who have historic ties dating back nearly 25 years.
This partnership between the Nor’easters, SJEB FC and the New Jersey Surf will have the shared goal of providing a pathway to the pros. SJEB FC and NJ Surf field boys teams from the Under-8 through the Under-18 levels. From the two youth clubs, players have the opportunity to advance to the Under-19, Under-23, USL-2 Reserves and the USL League Two First Team within the Ocean City Nor’easters organization.
The Ocean City Nor’easters compete in USL League Two (USL-2), the top amateur league in North America, which is the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid, behind Major League Soccer (MLS), USL Championship and USL League One.
The collaboration will provide a proven pathway for South Jersey boys to develop from youth players to men’s soccer and a clear tried and tested route to the professional game. The goal of helping players take their game to the next level will be a shared goal while all three clubs will still operate as separate entities.
The Nor’easters have had success in helping players achieve their goal to play the game professionally. More than 90 players have moved on to the pros in MLS, the United Soccer League and more than 20 countries around the world. (A full list of former Ocean City players who are playing and have played in the pros can be found HERE)
The collaboration will be led by the members of the Nor’easters’ revamped front office, along with new head coach Alan McCann, the reigning two-time USL League Two Coach of the Year. The men who are spearheading this effort have a long history of working together:
John Thompson: A former award-winning player and head coach of the Nor’easters has returned to the club as the Technical Director. Thompson is also the SJEB FC technical director
Neil Holloway: An award-winning player for the Nor’easters, Holloway also operated as the club’s head coach and general manager. In addition to his role as the Nor’easters’ vice president of soccer operations, he is also the director of the New Jersey Surf.
Giancarlo Granese Sr.: The president and owner of the Ocean City Nor’easters since 2005.
Tim Oswald: After a brief hiatus, the Nor’easters’ all-time leader in USL-2 coaching wins has returned as the club’s sporting director. He is also the head coach of the Rutgers University-Camden men’s soccer program and recently earned his 200th career win with the Scarlet Raptors.
Nor’easters technical director John Thompson has been with the SJEB FC youth club and USL-2 organization for 20 years. Thompson spent five seasons as a player with the Nor’easters (2002-06), and was a two-time Best 11 selection, and was named the league’s 2004 Defender of the Year. Thompson also served as the Nor’easters club’s head coach for two seasons (2017-18) in 2017 and 2018.
“I’ve been a part of this club since 2002 when I signed as a professional player straight out of college,” said Thompson, who was a three-time First Team All-American as a player at Lewis University (Ill.). “I have devoted my entire working career to the Ocean City Nor’easters USL-2 team and the SJEB FC youth club, so having the two entities working together again to provide a pathway for future generations of footballers to the professional game couldn’t be more perfect.”
The Nor’easters and the SJEB FC are the most historic clubs in South Jersey with a shared history that dates back to 1997. The SJEB FC and the USL team separated into separate entities in 2009 and this affiliation re-connects the clubs for the benefit of the South Jersey boys soccer landscape.
“Between the Nor’easters and the SJEB FC, these two clubs have a proven track record of helping guide players to the pro game,” said Thompson. “More than 30 South Jersey and Philadelphia area footballers have moved up into the pro ranks through our youth club and the USL League Two team, I see a lot of emerging talent who will benefit from this pathway.”
“Major League Soccer isn’t the only national pro league” added Thompson. “There are opportunities for players with the USL Championship, USL League One, NISA, UPSL, Major Arena Soccer League and hundreds of leagues overseas. Our goal is to help guide players to whatever professional path they aspire to so they can maximize their potential.”
In 2002, Neil Holloway joined Thompson with the South Jersey Barons after being an All-American at Wheeling Jesuit University (WV). Holloway was also a Best 11 selection (2004) as a player before spending five seasons as head coach. The England native ranks third in club history in coaching wins (34).
“In the past 10 years, there haven’t been many pro players from South Jersey,” said Holloway, who was named the USL League Two’s Executive of the Year in 2007 as well as helping Ocean City win the Organization of the Year award in 2008. “Having the strength and unity of two great youth clubs along with the history and prestige of the Ocean City Nor’easters, it will open doors to players in the area. The people involved in all three clubs have deep connections nationally and an understanding of what it takes to make it as a professional player and our goal is to get more South Jersey players earning a living playing the game they love.”
For Nor’easters sporting director Tim Oswald, he has been involved in recruiting and evaluating talented players throughout the Tri-State area and beyond, from club soccer through the college game. During his five seasons as the head coach of the Nor’easters (2012-16), the Elizabethtown College alum has had nearly 50 former players move on to sign professional contracts, including 12 MLS draft picks.
“I have always been most interested and intrigued in the pathway between the youth, collegiate and the professional level,” said Tim Oswald, who coached the Nor’easters to a pair of national final four appearances (2013, 2016) and Rutgers-Camden to the NCAA Division 3 National Championship Game in 2013. “During my time with the Nor’easters, I saw first-hand that path to the pros come alive here in Ocean City. We were able to identify so many young local and international talented players that moved on to the next level which were not exclusively Division I players or affixed to an MLS Academy, but at every level including Division II, Division III and the NAIA. Talent is everywhere. You just have to find the players that not only have the ability, but also those that have high character and motivation to truly want to excel. It’s easy to say you want to be a pro, but it’s action, sacrifice, and commitment over time on top of talent that pushes the envelope to capturing that elusive goal."
The Nor’easters will also run ID Camps, player combines and tryouts for Under-19 to Under-23 aged players. The three organizations will access, utilize and use the facilities within their network to benefit the programs, events and teams including Tuckahoe Turf Farm, Rowan University, Total Turf Experience, and the Nor’easters’ home at Carey Stadium (“The Beach House”).
“The club has bonded players, coaches and fans over the past 23 years and the club's alumni is a who’s who of the South Jersey soccer community,” added Holloway. “Everyone involved in this partnership cares deeply about South Jersey since we all have a long history with the Nor’easters as former teammates, roommates, and having shared great times traveling and competing to win titles. And we just want to recreate that environment and create those experiences for up-and-coming South Jersey players.”
For Oswald, he knows that by including the Nor’easters with this partnership, this is a win-win situation for everyone involved, especially for players who want to take their game to the professional level.
“This is not only a unique collaboration, but one that’s so important to the growth of the game in South Jersey and the surrounding areas,” said Oswald, who was a USL League Two Coach of the Year finalist in 2012 and NSCAA Division III National Coach of the Year in 2013. “It’s 100% one that I wanted to be a part of and facilitate with John and Neil. Both SJEB FC and the New Jersey Surf will have a proven pinnacle at the top of their pyramid structure and we hope to see many local players move into that environment over time. We want to see our USL-2 players involved at the grassroots levels and truly allow the youth to connect with future pros in the community. As those relationships grow and become more real, it’s realistic for young players to want to aspire to playing at the USL-2 level and beyond, to chase their own dreams of playing at the very highest level.”
The collaboration will include the following teams:
* Affiliate Youth Clubs who field Under-7 through Under-18 teams (NJ Surf & SJEB FC)
* Ocean City Nor’easters Under-19 USL Academy team
* Ocean City Nor’easters Under-23 men’s team - Ocean City
* Ocean City Nor’easters Under-23 men’s team - Camden County
* Ocean City Nor’easters USL2 Reserve’s team
* Ocean City Nor’Easters USL League Two men’s team
For more information about the NOR’EASTERS: WWW.OCEANCITYFC.COM
For more information about the SJEB FC: WWW.SJEBFC.COM
For more information about the NJ SURF: WWW.NEWJERSEYSURF.COM