The Sit Down: An Interview with NOSL Founder, Braden Mast

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With the massive expansion of local clubs all over the country, Twitter has become the means to keep up with the wave of new teams. Every club has a twitter account, opening up a means to connect with the team and the players. And teams are only part of the growth, regional leagues are springing up all over the country to support the expansion at a local level. One such league is the Northern Ohio Soccer League. They kept popping up in our timeline, so we reached out to We spoke with league founder, Braden Mast, and discussed where it is, where it will be, and what the ultimate goals are for the newly formed league.

Tell us about yourself and your background?

I’m actually a 19 year old college student, sports management major at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in central Ohio. There’s no big soccer leagues around us and soccer isn’t big in our area, so I thought it would be cool if we started a league and get some teams in the surrounding area involved. I had helped start Amish Country United also. We wanted to have a league to play games in, so we decided to form one and hoped to get other teams in the area involved.

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What’s your soccer experience on the field?

I’ve played soccer since I was five. Played four years in high school and currently play on the reserve soccer team here at my college. So I’ve been around soccer all my life and love seeing it grow in the United States.

Where did this idea come from?

I couldn’t really pick a certain reason that it came, but I’d say that helping start Amish Country United. I knew the team would grow and I wanted to do a lot of stuff with it, but honestly didn’t know where to play and find games. I knew there were other teams surrounding us and we’d just play friendlies and stuff, but we had no league to actually play in. And I’ve always liked organizing things, been in sports management, basically I’ve been into stuff like this my whole life. So I just put it upon myself to start a league.

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What do you do to start a league?

So, we started with a Twitter account and put the word out there. Tried to get people to see it, get interested. One of the things I did was talk to my high school soccer coach, and he gave me some names of other soccer coaches and connections in the area. I reached out to them and also talked to people that I knew from other schools to find out if they’d be interested in starting teams. I tried to give them my vision for the league. I knew there were people excited about soccer, but there was nothing going on. So I gauged interest and tried to get people interested in the league.

Did you look at any other regional leagues for examples of how to do this?

To be honest, I hate MLS. I hate the structure, format, the way it’s set up. I love European league formats, with promotion/relegation, small teams getting opportunities to grow and move up the system. So I didn’t base the league on anything. Right now we are aiming for 6 teams, and the playoffs would be very similar to MLS, with 6 seed playing the 3 seed, the 4 seed playing the 5 seed, 1 and 2 having a bye. But eventually down the road, I’d like the league to have a first division of 10 and a second division of 10 and the bottom and top 2 teams get promoted/relegated. If anything, when I helped set up Amish Country United, I had read the Kingston Stockade owner’s [Dennis Crowley] article about how to start a lower level soccer team and got inspired by it. He built it with passion and wanted to help soccer along in the U.S. He knew it was going to be hard but it’s something he wanted to do so he went ahead with it. He had people who were willing to help. I thought that was really cool. I used that mindset when I set up the league.

When will the league be expected to begin play?

We had originally planned for the fall of this year, but we didn’t have enough teams, so we decided to start next spring. We will take this time to get organized and have it be well organized and not chaotic. Spend more time planning it out, making sure everything is set. We’re hoping to start our first season in May of 2019.

How many clubs are currently in the league?

First off, Amish Country United. We’re in the middle of Amish Country, lots of Amish people. Soccer isn’t really big here. We’ve been around since 2016, played in some indoor leagues, some tournaments, still fairly new to the outside game. Second team is Rubber City FC from Akron. They are still putting together their team, in the process of having tryouts and filling out their roster. We recently added Carnation City FC, out of Alliance, OH. They’ve already been playing matches this summer.

How many teams do you plan to add? Any markets currently being focused on?

We’re using Twitter a lot to get the word out there that we’re looking for teams. There’s a league up in the Lake Eerie area, they’ve got a lot of old teams, Croatians and Serbians, and from what we’ve heard, that league is falling apart. So, we’ve actually talked to some teams from there, talked about our league and encouraged them to join us if they are looking for a new league. We're also adding incentives to bring in new clubs, we partnered with Icarus FC to be official kit partner and they're offering 20% off and free shipping to any teams that join the league. As far as locations, we’re targeting Wooster, Canton, the Akron area, we want those to be the main areas, and then smaller cities and suburbs in the area. We’re trying to keep the league so that a team on one side doesn’t have to travel 5 hours to get to the other side. We’re trying to keep it to 2-3 hours maximum for travel purposes.

What should people expect from your league moving forward?

Our first couple of years, I think it’s important to have 6-8 teams to have a competitive league. Guys coming out of high school and college, they just want to keep playing soccer. Our league will help keep soccer going for those people. Eventually I’d like to see it be a league for young kids to look forward to playing in. The way it’s [soccer] structured now it doesn’t give kids excitement, because they have all these other sports to get excited about. I think if there’s local lower league soccer and there’s teams in every city and town, people can get excited about that. Kids look up to that and strive to play in that system. We want to help grow soccer and get people interested in it.

Portions of this interview were edited for clarity.

Lola Vaughn