Soccer is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about New York’s Soho. Nevertheless, it is exactly in a Spring street office that Copanyc, one of the country’s most exciting soccer tournaments, finds its roots. The brainchild of Spencer Dormitzer and Chris Noble, Copanyc is a tournament that looks to bring together city-based players from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds by having them step on the field wearing the colors of their ancestral nations. Think of it as a mini world cup, taking place in the world’s most diverse city.
“It would make a lot of sense to make the world cup in New York city,” Noble says as he begins to explain Copanyc’s genesis. He recalls seeing numerous games being played all over the city and always feeling that something was missing. “I saw it was incomplete. A lot of people were playing, but they were very segregated.” Noble is alluding to the fact that in a country where soccer is easily overshadowed by basketball, football, and baseball, surprisingly, it is soccer that is the most played of all. In New York, people play the sport everywhere. Yet, unfortunately, while upper-middle class New Yorkers benefit from an abundance of organized tournaments, those who live in poorer urban areas, are limited to pick-up games that have very little structure. It is that street soccer culture and talent that the Copanyc wants to exploit. For Noble, “the focus should be in the inner city, should be on diversity, and the picking up of other people’s skills.”
In order to bring together the often undiscovered talent that is spread all over the city, Dormitzer and Noble reached out to community leaders who manage teams representing different countries, and are responsible for putting together the squads that compete in Copanyc. In some cases teams are run by the consulates of the countries they represent, and their involvement raises the tournament’s notability outside the United States. In fact, Copanyc has gained so much prominence that some consulates have arranged for former and current professionals to join the teams (it was recently announced that Inter Milan’s Julio Cesar would play for the Brazilian team, and former French world cup winner, Youri Djorkaeff, will likely suit up for the French). Dormitzer lights up at the idea of seeing amateurs playing along side some of the world’s biggest stars. “Imagine seeing your hero playing for your country in the world cup, and now you’re passing him the ball.” He also doesn’t believe there is a huge disparity in skill between both groups of players. Having played in New York’s Cosmopolitan league for many years, Dormitzer has competed with and against players that he firmly believes could have become professionals had they been given a chance.
Hosting the tournament just a few weeks after the end of the world cup is no coincidence, as well. Both Dormitzer and Noble realize how important it is to ride the wave of excitement that surrounds this year’s world cup. Never before has there been so much buzz concerning soccer in the United States. The US national team’s knockout game against Ghana alone saw ESPN earn more ratings than FOX did for all of last year’s world series games combined. “Soccer is exploding in this country right now, and we’re right in the middle of it,” Dormitzer raves as he points at a poster depicting Pele’s last game for the Cosmos at Giants stadium. Both he and Noble were at that game, and they equate the excitement currently gripping the city to that of that day. “That’s where I fell in love with soccer,” Dormitzer says. “I knew that it was bigger than all of us.”
While this is only the second Copanyc being held, Dormitzer and Noble claim that there has been an enormous growth in popularity, something they attribute to their partnership with Anomaly, a NYC and London based marketing company, and Umbrosportswear, which has recently been bought by NIKE. “Anomaly and Umbro have really helped us improve on last year’s copa, since they have so many resources,” Dormitzer says. Mayor Bloomberg’s involvement has also brought a lot of attention to the tournament, having recently hosted over eight hundred people at Gracie Mansion to acknowledge the tournament.
Copanyc’s success is sure to catch on in other cities, and Noble makes no secret of his intentions to expand across the United States. “If things continue to go well, LA could be next.” As for, Dormitzer: “I just can’t wait to see who wins this year.”
*CopaNYC is now CosmosCopa