Welcome to Queens. Population 2 million. Home to over 200 nationalities and 130 languages. And now, home to Queensboro FC.
From the ground up
Founded in 2019, Queensboro FC is dedicated to not only bringing the sport of soccer to the community, but ingraining themselves within that community on every level. With their current boy’s academy team, USL-W team launching this season, and USL Championship team in the works for next year, Queensboro FC is set to take New York City by storm and capture the spirit of the borough of Queens through the common language of soccer.
Reflecting the diverse makeup of the borough in everything they do is of the utmost importance to the organization. “It was important to us that the diversity of the staff reflect the diversity of the borough,” P.J. Davidson, Vice President of Sales for Queensboro FC told AllForXI. “We have people from Mexico, Norway, Spain, Brazil, and China to name a few.”
Everything about the organization is rooted in community, and the front office is well aware of how important the people of Queens are to their success. “Our mottos are ‘hand to hand combat’ and ‘brick by brick’ for getting out into the community,” Davidson said. “We want to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.”
And although new fans will have to wait until 2023 for the men’s USL side, Queensboro FC is launching their USL-W side this summer as part of the league’s inaugural season. With over 40 teams, the USL-W League is a pre-professional league with the goal of enhancing the women’s soccer pipeline between college and professional soccer. Queensboro FC will play in the Metropolitan Division with 7 other teams starting this May.
The launch of this new league called for the addition of the perfect coach. To fill the role, the club turned to former Sevilla FC player Nadia Caballero. Having spent 15 years playing in Spain, the club’s newest coach is now tasked with building Queens’ first-ever women’s team from the ground up.
“To have somebody with Nadia’s pedigree both as a former player, as a coach, and as a person is massive,” Davidson said. “Her CV certainly speaks for itself, but to actually get to know Nadia and speak with the people she has impacted, it’s clear to see what a special person she is. She has left a lasting impression on everybody she has come into contact with over the course of her career. We have been fans of Nadia for a long time, so we are beyond grateful to have her as a part of the QBFC Family as we build out our women’s team and the club as a whole.”
Now, Caballero will make a lasting impression on Queensboro FC, the women’s game locally, and the borough of Queens. Her unique perspective as a former player and passion for the game makes her the perfect person to take on this new challenge.
A former player for the future
When Caballero left Spain for the United States in 2011, she landed in Queens and never left. From Glendale to Maspeth to Astoria, she’s lived all over the borough and seen exactly what it has to offer. And now, she is ready to make her mark on the community in a unique way.
For the last three years, Caballero has held a number of coaching positions, including Technical Director of the Women’s Program at DV7 Soccer Academy, a network of international youth soccer clubs led by former player David Villa. But now, she is ready for this new challenge.
“For the past few years, DV7 Group has always had the dream of a women’s team with me involved somehow in the project,” Caballero told AllForXI. “I’ve been ready for the opportunity - and now that it’s here, I’m excited to take it.”
After Caballero retired from soccer in 2011, she moved from Spain to the United States. But very quickly she realized how much she craved soccer in her daily life. Her passion for the game never diminished, and a long-time friend encouraged her to start coaching.
Although the prospect of taking the U.S. Soccer Coaching License courses was daunting, Caballero was determined. With encouragement from friends, she began the process from scratch. Although she is a former player of Spain’s first division, the waivers typically offered were not available to her because the league was not considered professional during the time she played. So she had to start from scratch.
In four to five years, Caballero completed three licensing courses with the U.S. Soccer Federation and now has her D license. “It wasn’t easy,” Caballero recalled. “You have to work your schedule around the course and find one close to you to attend.”
But despite the tough schedule, Caballero thrived during the licensing courses. “It was a nurturing environment,” she explained. “It was nice getting to network and learn from other people. It was a great experience for me.”
Becoming a coach has been exactly what Caballero needed in this next phase of her life, and she believes former women players should consider it for themselves. “Be the inspiration you never had,” she said. “I was only ever coached by one female coach at the end of my career in Sevilla.”
Something Cabello admires about the United States is the number of options and resources available for women and girls who want to play the game. Although soccer is more expensive domestically than it is in Europe, she is amazed at the opportunities there are here.
“I didn’t have those same opportunities when I was younger, and I’m a little jealous!” Caballero said. “I’m proud when I see all these women playing soccer, and we are building something for the future generations of girls in the sport.”
Growing up, Caballero did not have a girl’s team to play on. She tried playing with her neighborhood boy’s team, but was eventually banned.
With the help of her supportive parents, she found her way onto the CD Hispalis. After playing a half-season with the girls, the club was promoted. Because Caballero was too young, she could no longer play with them.
Caballero was determined to find a solution. She still trained with the girls, but played with the boys until she was old enough to rejoin the girl’s side in competition.
Even if it meant showing up to games early to change into her uniform or using the referee’s small locker room, Caballero did whatever was necessary to play the game that she loved. “I feel proud that I broke a little bit of that wall for another who might come next,” she said.
Now as a coach, Caballero doesn’t take for granted the opportunities she is given. Coaching at all levels has been extremely rewarding for her. And although she is dedicated to her coaching education, she loves being out on the field learning the human aspect of the job.
“For me, what’s harder in coaching is how to get to a player, have her attention, make her feel like she’s learning with you, and that you understand her,” she said. “Everyone is different and has different needs - you have to work to identify them.”
A diverse borough, a shared identity
For Caballero, soccer has always been a part of her life. From the time she was 11 years old, she played for CD Hispalis, which was acquired by Sevilla FC in 2004. From 2005 to 2011, she played for Sevilla FC and was most impressed by how the club treated their women’s side.
“They invested in us, and made us part of their organization,” Caballero said. This meant everything to Caballero, who saw some teams that were just interested in putting their names on a women’s side. “At Sevilla, they treated us the same as the men.”
As she joins Queensboro FC, Caballero sees an organization that strives for this same approach: a shared identity for their men’s side and their women’s side. “We’re the new kids on the block for this league,” she explained. “We want to play great soccer and have a single identity across the men’s and women’s side.”
The new coach hopes to breathe new air into soccer culture in New York City, and especially Queens. “I think women’s soccer has been lacking a club that gives opportunities for players that are in or done with college and don’t know what to do next in their playing careers,” Caballero said.
To reach her goals, Caballero has the full support of the Queensboro FC organization. “The group here is amazing, from the sporting side to the operations side to the media side - everyone has been very supportive,” she said. “Everyone is really excited and motivated to get going.”
With the season starting in May, Caballero and the team are busy putting together their squad. On February 20th, Queensboro FC held open tryouts for their USL-W team at Sports Underdome in Westchester, NY. The location, just 20 minutes from Queens, allowed the tryouts to be accessible for players from the tri-state area and to be held indoors at a near-regulation size turf field.
The excitement was palpable at the event, with over 50 registrants who hoped to try their luck at making the inaugural roster for the team.
“It was amazing to see the excitement for the team,” Caballero said. “I got there an hour early and there were already players waiting in the parking lot!”
Since it was an open tryout, there was a wide variety of skill levels. Caballero’s job was to hone in on the players that could make it to the next step. “It was a bit hard to do, but it was great to give this opportunity to all players who wanted to try out and measure their level,” she said.
The players who caught Caballero’s eye will receive an invitation to train with the team in April, a month before the season starts. With the season just three months away, Caballero is excited to get started, and can’t wait to show Queens what they’ve got.
“Queens is a huge soccer community, and we want to make the borough part of our community,” she said. “Give us a shot! Once you come to the games, you’ll see how proud we make you.”