A new National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) semi-professional soccer team is expected to draw not only players affiliated with Major League Soccer’s D.C. United but also George Mason University players and top amateurs from around the United States. And a George Mason alum is the owner.
Federal City Football Club has signed as an official partner of the D.C. United U23 Academy for emerging players; the team, which will formally be known as Federal City FC/D.C. United U23 NPSL, begins play in May when the 64-team NPSL kicks off its season. Federal City FC’s home games will be played in Fairfax High School’s 3,000-seat stadium, with a $5 general admission charge.
George Mason, where the team was announced at a press conference in March at the Mason Inn, can be considered midfield for the team as the squad’s owner, Steven Wagoner, is centralizing activities on and around the Fairfax Campus.
Wagoner, BS Health, Fitness, and Recreation Resources ’11, is a graduate of the College of Education and Human Development. He also played soccer for Mason, helping the team earn a Colonial Athletic Association championship, an NCAA Tournament appearance, and a top-20 national ranking. But once he traded in his cleats for a diploma, he came to a challenging decision.
“I had been selected as one of 102 players in North America to go to the United Soccer League’s pro combine,” he says. “I went, and I got interest from two teams, which was great. But I had to make a decision: Turn pro and play at the Division II or III level, or keep pursuing my career as an entrepreneur.”
Wagoner, it turns out, started two businesses as a sophomore at Mason. One capitalized on his love of coaching soccer and the other focused on providing resources to support federal government contractor program development.
A serious player since his youth—he played his first exhibition match against the D.C. United Reserve Team at RFK Stadium at 17—he knew he wanted to stay involved with the sport but to also give back to the game that had given him so much. Owning a team combined all of that, plus engaging his unmistakable entrepreneurial instincts.
The NPSL was looking to expand in the Washington, D.C., region; once Wagoner secured the regional rights, it became a natural progression for his incipient Federal City FC to partner with the D.C. United U23 Academy to provide more avenues for up-and-coming players.
The team started off on the right foot with the announcement that international soccer star Jaime Moreno will be the team’s first head coach. Moreno, the first Bolivian to play in Europe’s Premiership, is a multiple Major League Soccer (MLS) all-star, a former league goal scoring leader, and the first MLS player to reach 100 goals and 100 assists. He was the all-time leading MLS scorer when he retired from DC United in 2010.
For the players, the NPSL is “the highest level you can play without forfeiting your amateur status,” Wagoner says. Federal City FC’s program will expose top players from regional powerhouses to scouts looking for young, promising players.
“It gives high school players exposure to colleges, and college players exposure to [MLS],” says Wagoner. “Giving exposure and development opportunities to upcoming players, that’s what makes it worthwhile for me.”
Wagoner is also working with the international marketing education association DECA and marketing departments at several local high schools to provide experience in pursuing students’ entrepreneurial dreams. Wagoner engages high school interns with Federal City FC to provide career development opportunities. “It’s important to give back to the Northern Virginia community where I live, especially to aspiring students,” he says.
“He’s a very entrepreneurial young man, and he’s a reflection of how you can get quality preparation in a sports management program that extends beyond the classroom,” says Robert Baker, a professor and director of Mason’s Center for Sports Management. “Steven was active with our student association, went to conferences to meet people, and was always active beyond the classroom, which is the key.”
Wagoner is planning Federal City FC summer youth academy programs to give players a high-performance experience and additional exposure to college soccer programs.
While 70 percent of Mason’s sports management students with internships “have employment by the time they’re done with their internships or they’re accepted into grad school,” says Baker, Wagoner chose to create his own position based on his passion. “He’s one of those people who’s very engaged. He connects with people, he’s entrepreneurial and takes broad steps a step further, and he’s a sponge for learning.”
Wagoner continues to be involved directly with Mason as a member of the Mason Sports Management Advisory Board, which he says is an honor that continues his family’s legacy at the university. Six family members have attended Mason, beginning in 1975 when his father, Scott, was saber captain of the men’s fencing team. His sister Karen is a current student and a member of the class of 2014.