MANCHESTER — Applejack Stadium will host home openers for its Black Rock FC men’s team and the VT Fusion women’s team this weekend.
The two teams are launching their home match schedules Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, the Black Rock FC hosts the Boston Bolts at 7 p.m.
Black Rock FC plays in USL League Two, which is an amateur developmental league, considered a fourth-tier league with Major League Soccer being the top tier in the United States.
The players are largely top collegiate players with aspirations of playing at the professional level.
Other teams in the Northeast Division include AC Connecticut out of Hartford, FC Malaga City out of Pleasant Valley, N.Y.; Seacoast United from Epping, N.H.; and Western Mass Pioneers from Ludlow, Mass.
The Bolts already boast a 4-1 record on the season while Black Rock was launching its season Wednesday at at AC Connecticut.
Following the men, the women take to the pitch Sunday when the Vermont Fusion host Westchester United at Applejack Stadium.
The Fusion tied the New York Shockers, 0-0, May 22 in Albany, and blasted Nordic FC, 8-2, in a friendly match in recent days.
Westchester United were 1-0 losers to the Rhode Island Rogues in their only match so far.
VT Fusion has been a youth team for about a quarter century in Manchester but this year created a team to play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, a developmental league.
At the Manchester Select Board meeting Tuesday, several players from the VT Fusion were in attendance on the Zoom meeting as was a representative from the Black Rock FC.
Eric and Sarah Perry were introduced and Sarah Perry said that they’ve been working for 10 years to bring this type of team to the community.
They said VT Fusion is bringing 30-plus athletes into the community with some living in Manchester and others being residents of nearby towns.
“All of these young women are bringing high-level soccer to town,” said Sarah Perry. “We should be really proud of what we’re bgringing to town.”
Many of the women are staying in BBA housing, she said.
Eric Perry pointed out there is a real diversity with girls ranging from locals to those who have come from a long way away.
One of those is Brooke Jenkins, 24, from Smithfield, Rhode Island.
Jenkins attended UVM and earned a master’s degree there are currently works for the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.
“I’m the grandma on the team,” Jenkins joked because of her age.
She said she wanted to play for the VT Fusion because she “thought it was a chance to play at a high level and it’s a really awesome area.”
Jenkins said she’s already contributed to the economy shopping and eating in restaurants.
Another player at the meeting was Erin Murphy of Long Island, NY, who also said it was a great opportunity to enjoy the game in a beautiful place.
Jon Moodey of the Black Rock FC said he moved his team to Manchester from the Berkshires.
Moodey said Black Rock is a unique club in the soccer landscape.
“We work with players from around the globe,” Moodey said. “We’re really excited to bring kids together from different cultures.”
Moodey said his squad boasts players from 20 countries and 15 different states, with players from Korea, Brazil, Cameroon and others.
Players come from high-level college programs and several have gone on to professional teams.
The biggest feather in the Black Rock FC cap is Jack Harrison.
Harrison played for Black Rock before going on to Wake Forest where he was a star and ended up being the overall No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft and played for New York City FC.
In 2018 he was sold to Manchester City FC for $6.5 million and has been on loan to Leeds United.
“What unites our players is their passion for the game of soccer and what soccer can do for people,” Moodey said. “We use soccer to further life opportunities and bringing people together through the game.”
Moodey said the players were excited to be in Manchester and mentioned the great bookstore, coffee shops and other businesses in town.
“They plan to be good role models for the kids there,” Moodey said.
Select Board chair Ivan Beattie told Moodey he remembered when Moodey made his pitch about coming to Manchester.
“We were pretty excited about it then and we’re still excited about it now,” Beattie said. “I’m pretty impressed by the level of play.”
Beattie also had a memory to share with Sarah Perry.
“When I went to Burr and Burton, there was no girls soccer team,” Beattie said. “But Sarah’s aunt played men’s soccer at a high level.”
Town Manager John O’Keefe, said “Soccer is a sport that has worked out for Manchester.”
He said the Select Board’s support of improving facilities and back the infrastructure at the rec park is a big reason why Manchester now has two high-level teams calling Manchester home.
“Manchester is one of a very few towns in the United States that has both a WPSL and a USL League Two team,” O’Keefe said. “The investments you’ve put into the community have worked out. This summer, you have too much to do I’d say, but I don’t think the people visiting and living here would agree with me.”
In addition to the developmental teams calling Manchester home, later this month, Manchester will host a tournament bringing 75 teams town.
O’Keefe said that means 2,200 to 2,500 visitors coming to town, “which is a massive number for a town of 4,200 residents.”
O’Keefe said that’s a lot of hotel rooms, tanks of gas, hot dogs at Nan Zs, ice cream and coffee.
Both games for the opening weekend will have food truck vendors with beer and wine available.
And if you miss the home openers, come back next weekend.
The home teams return to Applejack Stadium for the weekend of June 11-13 for the New England Soccer Fest Showcase Weekend.
The action starts at 7 p.m. Friday, June 11, with Black Rock FC hosting FC Malaga City.
Saturday, at 6 p.m., the VT Fusion hosts Rhode Island Rogues in WPSL action.
And then the men are back on the pitch Sunday, June 13, as Black Rock FC hosts Seacoast United at 6 p.m.
Game tickets for the VT Fusion WPSL games are are available at http://www.vtfusionsoccer.com/tickets and tickets for the Black Rock FC USL League Two matches are at https://manchestervt.brushfire.com/events/.
Games can be watched online at www.applejackstadium.com/live.