FLINT, Michigan -- The Flint City Bucks have been waiting nearly two years to celebrate their 2019 national championship in front of a big crowd of fans at Atwood Stadium.
Crowd capacity will be limited to about 1,700, but they’ll finally have their chance when they open the 2021 season at 7:30 p.m. on May 15 against Toledo Villa FC. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster
Costa Papista, Flint City Bucks team president, watches a scrimmage at Atwood Stadium on May 11.
The team’s 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the Bucks were able to play a series of friendlies
last summer and early fall. No fans were in attendance at those games, but the team did work out a television deal to allow games to be broadcast on CW46. Games will once again be televised this season, and the experience of putting together that schedule under strict COVID-19 restrictions was good experience for putting the 2021 season together.
“The season preparation has been going really well,” said Costa Papista, Flint City Bucks team president. “From a team standpoint, the recruiting has gone very well. That has a lot to do with the history of the franchise and the success of 2019. I also think the fact that we played in 2020 helped us with our recruiting as well. It helped us to prepare for executing the events in 2021, because we went through a lot of the protocols and processes in 2020.”
The team’s roster has come together quickly, with dozens of U.S. and international players being added over the past three weeks. All of the roster news is available on the Bucks’ website
. Even with new faces on the roster, what doesn’t change is the goal -- to compete for a national championship. The team has won four in its franchise history -- one in their first season in Flint and three prior to moving here.
“I think we’ll be very talented,” Papista said. “Our division is going to be challenging, there’s some new teams that have entered that are going to be strong. I feel really good about our roster. Our coaching staff and technical director have done an amazing job building the team. We have a lot of high-end talent from some of the top Division I soccer programs in the country.”
Another element that was missed last season but returns this year will be the fact that the players will be once again living downtown in the Riverfront Residence Hall on the University of Michigan-Flint’s campus. The team also lived there during their first season in Flint, and the players had a good experience immersing themselves in the many growing attractions and businesses in the city. Papista hopes this year’s team will have similar experiences.
“They’re really excited to be living downtown,” he said. “We have a partnership with UM-Flint, and they’ve been gracious enough to host our players. Riverfront is a beautiful facility, it’s close to everything, including the stadium. Players here without cars can just walk and be here in 10 minutes. It’s really a nice setup.”
Papista also said that, despite the long layoff from being able to see the team live, the fan support hasn’t waned in the community.
“The fact that we were able to have the partnership to broadcast games, that was really helpful as far as keeping our team out there and relevant in 2020,” he said. “Our fans really enjoyed that, we got a lot of really good feedback. As it stands right now, we’ll have (crowds of up to) approximately 1,700 to start the season and then hopefully if things continue to improve health-wise, those numbers will hopefully open up a little more over the course of the summer.”
The full Bucks schedule is available on their website and tickets are available on Ticketmaster.