The team, in its second season, wants to repeat as division champions and advance even farther. Local college players use the UWS team as a good training ground during the college off-season.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – In only its second season, the Lansing United women’s soccer club looks to continue making a name for itself this summer.
The Lansing United program started in 2014, but was only at first a men’s club. Jeremy Sampson, Lansing United’s President and CEO, knew that he also wanted to have a women’s club too.
Now that dream is a reality, as the United added a women’s club in 2018.
“United is all about providing opportunity,” Sampson said. “We have a team that went undefeated in the regular season last year, and we are looking to take the next step in order to hoist the trophy this year.
“Development of our players is important to United, and head coach Jason Crist has done an excellent job in helping our team grow.”
United plays in the United Women’s Soccer (UWS) league. Founded in 2015, the UWS is a second-division pro-am women’s soccer league in the U.S., helping develop female soccer players between the collegiate, professional and international game.
Lansing United is one of three other Michigan teams in the Midwest Conference of the UWS, which includes Grand Rapids Football Club, the Detroit Sun and the Michigan Legends.
The United did well in its first season, winning the division championship and advancing to the conference final.
Many of United’s players come from college programs. They are looking for summer soccer, to continue their development in the college off-season. They also can use the reps for stronger National team tryouts.
Michigan State’s women’s soccer players take advantage of having a club team so close, right in East Lansing, to keep their skills and conditioning sharp.
MSU sophomore defender Athena Biondi, who hails from Penn Trafford, Penn., spends her summer in East Lansing to gain valuable experience and playing time with United. This is her second season with the United.
“I really didn’t know what I was getting into at first,” Biondi said. “After one year, I have already learned so much and improved as a player. Playing soccer is something that I have loved for my entire life and now I am able to really take my game to the next level with a group of girls that I love like sisters."
United also puts out calls to Michigan-native players that may want to return home and make a name for themselves.
Zoe Morse is from East Lansing and attended East Lansing High. She currently plays soccer at the University of Virginia and is a part of the U.S. women’s National U-20 team. She scored the game-winning penalty kick in the CONCACAF semifinal shootout against Haiti to clinch the USA’s World Cup berth.
Sampson said having a player of Morse’s caliber play for United really pushes across their mission in trying to give opportunity and showcase players for the community. Mid-Michigan is a strong hot-bed of soccer talent, letting younger players look up to players such as Morse and Biondi.
“United gives our players the chance to represent the city,” Sampson said. “Because many are from mid-Michigan and the area, they grew up wanting to play at a high level and now they have the opportunity to do so. Younger girls now can see that through hard work and dedication they can make it to the next level without any limitations.”
Women’s soccer has been growing throughout the United States, on an arc since the historic 1999 World Cup win. The U.S. is the defending World Cup champions, looking to repeat in this year’s World Cup in France.
In Europe, women’s club team attendance is breaking records too. On March 17, more than 60,739 fans packed Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, to watch Atlético Madrid Femenino take on FC Barcelona Femení to set a single game world record for women’s club soccer attendance.
Lansing has a healthy array of soccer, from MSU’s women’s and men’s teams to the new Lansing Ignite men’s team, plus the United.
“It’s great for our community,” Sampson said. “Fans have shown a real interest in both teams and that has led to a lot of success both on and off the field. The fans are a big part of who we are, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”
Biondi wants people to know that they have no aim in slowing down.
“We are here to make some noise,” Biondi said. “We really grew as a team last year and built a strong chemistry that you can see in our play, and I’m excited to see where our season goes. There is a lot of great competition in the league and we have to be ready and up for the challenge every game, because we know we are going to get everyone’s best shot.
“We had a great year last year, but we want to be even better, and I know we can be.”
Lansing United’s season begins May 10, against Grand Rapids FC in a rematch of last year’s conference final.