Just over the Hudson River from New York City is the town of Kearny, New Jersey. Affectionately known as Soccertown USA, the town has become an epicenter for soccer not only in the state, but for the larger metropolitan region. It only made sense for the town to have a women’s pro-am team, and Paisley Athletic FC answered the call.
Founded in 2021 by Laura Correnti, Santiago Formoso, Mike Sylvia, and Mike Mara, Paisley Athletic has two main goals: to create opportunities for female athletes on and off the field, and to advance women’s soccer. The club will compete in the United Women’s Soccer League (UWS) this year after being promoted from the UWS League 2 last year.
“We wanted to build a pro-am club that, wherever possible, mirrored pro level experiences to create more access and opportunities for female athletes,” Correnti, the club’s president, told AllForXI. “We felt strongly that we could contribute to the advancement of the women’s game at the local level by leveraging our network and skill set, which includes a combination of competitive soccer and wide-ranging business experience.”
Co-founder Mike Sylvia also serves as Paisley’s head coach, and was integral in the club’s promotion to the top flight of UWS. Sylvia’s credentials include being the current head coach of the Kearny High School Girls Program, a youth club director at Kearny Thistle United, and working with TSF Academy in MLS NEXT facilitating goalkeeper needs from the youth ranks through pre-professional teams. He holds a USSF “C” License and Advanced National Goalkeeping Diploma from United Soccer Coaches.
Sylvia will be joined by assistant coaches Jennifer Locascio, Stefanee Kivlehan, and Ron Kolbinger.
Advancing women’s soccer, locally and globally
For Correnti and everyone at Paisley Athletic, the creation of the team is so much more than just a summer league for their players. It is their hope that the club will not only provide continued competitive play but be a springboard for their players to future professional careers.
Part of success is ensuring that players have the proper financial resources to continue pursuing their passion. Paisley hopes to open up grants and financial resources for this purpose. “It’s imperative that girls and women have access to resources that will positively impact their play, from training to travel,” Correnti said. “For example; we believe that impact at the local level can create a ripple effect to the state level, and beyond.”
MARK YOUR CALENDARS— Paisley Athletic FC (@PaisleyAFC) May 5, 2022
Paisley Athletic FC’s @uwssoccer home matches will be played at Kearny High School Stadium, with our home opener on Friday, 5/20 at 7PM!
Come out and support Soccertown USA’S Women’s Team this summer!
To reach their goals, Paisley Athletic aims to build a network within their communities, bring in local businesses, and help facilitate internships, mentorships, and other professional opportunities for their players. In general, community engagement is paramount for the club.
“We think community engagement is critical for the advancement of the women’s game, not only for the next generation of female athletes to see what’s possible, but to also generate more fandom and support for women’s soccer,” Correnti explained.
Over the years, Kearny has produced a number of national team players and has been home to many competitive youth, high school, and club programs. The town has become an epicenter of soccer and, according to Correnti, soccer has become a unifying force and part of the fabric of community in the town.
The significance of playing in Kearny is not lost on the club’s players. According to Amber Crispin, a forward for Paisley and a team co-captain, playing for her hometown means everything.
“It’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling being able to play for Paisley, a team based out of my hometown,” Crispin said. Growing up in the Kearny soccer system there weren’t opportunities like this, so being part of the creation of this program gives me hope for the future of girl’s and women’s soccer.”
Paisley goalkeeper and team co-captain Jennifer Pettigrew echoed Crispin’s comments about the importance of playing in Kearny and the significance of hometown pride.
“Playing for Paisley in my hometown means everything to me,” Pettigrew said. “Kearny is not only where I grew up, but it’s also where I learned how to play soccer and where I fell in love with the game. Being able to represent Soccertown USA’s first Women’s pro-am team is an honor and a privilege.”
In fact, the local community is so bought in, that when Paisley Athletic sold out their first Annual Paisley Spring Brunch fundraiser last month, Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos issued a proclamation declaring April 23rd Paisley Day in Kearny, NJ.
All in from Day One
After a successful year in UWS’s second division, Paisley Athletic was promoted to the First Division where it will begin play this Friday. This promotion has allowed the club to expand its recruitment efforts, leading to over 70 athletes attending their 2022 tryouts.
“Paisley Athletic has been an ALL IN environment since we said yes to the UWS in 2021,” Correnti said. “From day one, we have intentionally set out to create a best-in-class women’s pro-am club leveraging our co-founders’ collective knowledge of soccer, business, and brand building.”
This mindset has been crucial to the organization, and their collective commitment has allowed them to turn Paisley into a competitive, sought-after program. Even with this quick success, Correnti and the staff at Paisley Athletic are determined to keep putting in the work to ensure they are creating the best possible playing environment for their athletes.
“While we’re extremely excited by the early advancement, we recognize the continued work it will take on and off the field to create a premium product in our league and beyond,” Correnti explained. “We see this early promotion as an opportunity to set the bar for what a pro-am women’s club can be. We’ve only just begun to set that bar, and think our home opener on May 20th will be indicative of the playing environment and fan experience we want to deliver on as a club.”
Looking to the future
For their home opener on May 20th, Paisley has partnered with their neighbors, NWSL side NJ/NY Gotham FC as part of #WoSoWeekendNJ. Gotham will also have their home opener that same weekend on Sunday.
To celebrate Paisley’s first match, the club has organized a pre-game event which begins an hour before kickoff. The Paisley Pre-Game Party will feature appearances from USWNT and Gotham FC stars Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, and the entire event is free to attend.
As Paisley Athletic is set to kick off their first match of the season, Correnti is also hard at work with her staff creating a blueprint to become the most competitive, sought after pro-am women’s soccer club in the country. To do this, they are focused on three pillars: player experience, partnerships, and platform.
“It’s critical that our players have the support and resources required to maximize their potential, on and off the field. We will continue to raise funds and build strategic partnerships to ensure we deliver on this,” she explained. “We want to create a product and experience partners and fans would subscribe to, and we are actively working to build a brand that delivers on our mission to advance women’s soccer.”