Detroit City FC logo

Pitch Invasion Podcast Extra – Interview With Sean Mann of Detroit City FC

The logo of Detroit City FC does not feature a cartoon soccer ball. In fact, it doesn’t say or show soccer anywhere on it: instead, in grand but subdued tones of burgundy and gold, the badge is dominated by a classy representation of the statue below, the Spirit of Detroit in the city’s downtown:

Spirit of Detroit Statue

This is the identity that Detroit City FC have pinned themselves to. An instantly recognizable civic symbol of Detroit, and one that suggests sophisticated urbanism rather than suburban soccer.

Detroit City FC logo

One of the leading figures behind Detroit City FC, Sean Mann, spoke to Pitch Invasion this week about the new club, who will begin play at the fourth tier of American soccer in the NPSL this May.

You can listen to the full interview with Sean below, or over on iTunes.

[buzzsprout episode='39872' player='true']

Sean explains how Detroit City FC sprouted from an urban soccer league (Detroit City Futbol League) he began a couple of years ago: “When people think of Detroit, they think of a big blob of decay,” Sean said. “But in reality it’s a city with a whole slew of neighborhoods that often get overlooked. So my idea was let’s get people together, let’s build up neighborhood pride and neighborhood recognition. For me, the perfect vehicle for that was soccer.”

Copa Detroit PosterThat vehicle, according to this piece at model D, quickly proved to be a great success:

Here is a puzzle. Create a program that can achieve the following results:

1) Rally hundreds of motivated, young Detroit residents around a single cause. 2) Highlight 22 different historic neighborhoods throughout the city, and create unique branding for each. 3) Get the crowd out to a different bar, in a different neighborhood, each week. 4) Double the number of participants by the second year. 5) Get 10 people to pack up and move to Detroit.

This sounds like a job that will need a lot of financing, committees and sub-committees, and months planning with a large team in place to implement, right? Wrong. This is what happens when you start up a soccer league in Detroit.

League Commissioner Sean Mann started the Detroit City Futbol League last year as a way to bring city residents together, to celebrate the rich fabric of neighborhoods that make up the city, and to bring the 18-and-over crowd together over something other than frustrating politics.

Detroit City FC aim, at the grassroots level of the NPSL’s essentially semi-pro fourth tier of American soccer, to tap into that urban crowd, and bring them together in the city to support a team consciously striving to appeal to adult supporters and participants already in love with the sport.

“Our core focus is on using this team to build the supporters culture, to boost the supporters culture that’s already here in Detroit and give them a bigger platform,” Sean explained.

Sean tells Pitch Invasion how Detroit City FC’s identity came about, who’s behind it and their hopes for the future. Give the interview a listen to learn about an unusual approach to building a soccer club in North America, and special thanks to Sean for joining us in a special extra episode of the Pitch Invasion podcast.

[buzzsprout episode='39872' player='true']

One correction: we mistakenly identify the Michigan Bucks as playing in USL Pro rather than USL PDL.

7 thoughts on “Pitch Invasion Podcast Extra – Interview With Sean Mann of Detroit City FC

  1. 6th City Syndicate

    The interview got very interesting around 17 minutes in. It was certainly kind of you not to point out that you were coming from Chicago and not Cleveland. . .

    As for “sucking” we’ll find out on May 12.

  2. Rob

    Tom, really enjoying the podcasts so far — as an American with a soft spot for lower division soccer, it’s great to see quality coverage that takes the subject seriously.

    Detroit City joining the NPSL reminds me of another NPSL team, Chattanooga FC (which I kind of keep with because I used to live in Chattanooga) — not sure if you’re familiar with them, but I could see them being an excellent story for you, as what they’ve done in terms of building community involvement with the club is quite impressive. (They hold the NPSL attendance record, with 5,117 for a game last summer, and last season’s average attendance was over 4,000 — really impressive in the Southeast, where team’s like Atlanta’s USL team struggled for years to get 2,000 out consistently.)

  3. Tom Dunmore Post author

    Rob, thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you’re enjoying these. I’ve heard about Chattanooga FC, but did not know they were doing so well at the gate, and will definitely look into that. Thank you!

  4. MercurialCesco

    As a designer it’s rad to hear a bit about the branding of the team. As I designed a fan logo for Detroit City FC before this current Detroit City FC existed. Great job with the posts and good luck to the new team.


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  6. TotalSoccerShow—Daryl

    I attended a Copa Detroit in (I think) 2010. The Cass Corridor team had a great big flag planted next to their pitch that read simply: “SUCK IT!”

    Hipster-tastic, in the best possible way, and a good example of soccer that’s simultaneously doing something very important—building community—but also not taking itself very seriously. Great stuff.

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