The National Premier Soccer League announced Monday that Ehtar Belleville Football Club has joined the league as an expansion team.
The club, located in Belleville, Ill., will begin play this year.
“The NPSL is excited to welcome Belleville, Illinois to the NPSL’s Midwest Region,” NPSL managing director Cindy Spera said in a statement. “A key component of our expansion strategy is focused on this area of the country, and Belleville bridges the gap between St. Louis, Iowa, and north into Chicago. The geographical position of the team combined with an experienced and sophisticated management team is a recipe for success.”
The club is led by president Brian Thomas, secretary Ian Thurlow, head coach Andrew Crawford and board member Patrick Hulliung.
Thomas, a native of Southern Illinois, attended the University of Kansas on a football scholarship and continued his education at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. He also has life experience as a former head chef and restaurateur who has cooked for a former U.S. President and several governors.
“We will energize the St. Louis Metro-East fan base and work with Club Atletico Saint Louis to make the St. Louis area a premier NPSL market,” Thomas said in a statement.
Thurlow was born in New Hampshire and has had the fortune of playing soccer all around the world as a military dependent. He has actively played soccer for 40+ years and currently serves as owner and COO of World Class Lighting.
“We will bring together the extensive history of Belleville area’s soccer society around a family-centric, community project,” Thurlow said in a statement. “We will be a gracious host to all visiting teams and fans.”
Crawford is the former COO of Gateway Rush Soccer Club, former director of coaching at Metro East Legacy, and former assistant coach for McKendree University women’s soccer program.
Hulliung is the owner of World Class Gymnastics and several other local businesses. He works with thousands of young athletes every year and is the creator of the nationally recognized Gateway Challenge Gymnastics Meet.
Home matches will be played at The Valley of the Kings at the Southern Illinois Justice & Workforce Development Campus. Multiple gymnasiums and locker rooms can be found on the campus along with a fitness center and an indoor training facility.
“We are pleased that Ehtar Belleville FC has joined the NPSL and that the league will have a presence in Southern Illinois,” NPSL director of membership development Dina Case said in a statement. “Ehtar Belleville FC brings a diverse group of businessmen who are excited to build their team and brand through the NPSL platform. We are confident they will be successful both on and off the field.”