Williamsport has been long regarded as a “baseball town,” and rightfully so, because of its place as the “Home and Birthplace of Little League Baseball” and its more than 130-year involvement with minor league baseball, but another sport is charging hard to take its place in Williamsport’s sports universe — and that is soccer.
Two men, who have accomplished and enviable records in coaching area collegiate soccer teams, have brought semi-professional soccer to Williamsport in the form of the newly-formed Williamsport City Lions Football Club of the United Premier Soccer League that is broken up into divisions nationwide.
The team was founded by and is headed by Ken Fern, and co-owner Ian Scheller, who worked together with the Lycoming College Women’s Soccer Team; Ian Scheller is now the head coach at Pennsylvania College of Technology. There is also a women’s team that Lynette Reitz coaches, a former interim head coach of the Lock Haven University women’s soccer team, and Jon Steese, another coach who has worked at the club and high school levels.
Coach Fern is the Head Coach with Lycoming College Women’s Soccer. Prior to joining Lycoming’s staff, Fern was the assistant manager to the first team and head of academy for Kaya FC in Manilla, Philippines. He has previously worked within Arsenal FC, Brighton FC and Chelsea FC’s academies in the UK. He is also the Director of Soccer of the Lisbon Lions Soccer Academy.
As mentioned, Ian Scheller is the Head Women’s Soccer Coach, at Penn College. Prior to Penn College, Scheller acted as Fern’s Assistant Coach at Lycoming College, for 4 seasons.
Scheller also spent time as the Loyalsock boys’ soccer coach, where he claimed two conference titles, two conference coach of the year awards, as well as Sun Gazette Coach of the Year.
Lynette Reitz brings a wealth of experience to the Williamsport City Lions Coaching Staff. During her time coaching collegiately, Lynette has spent time as the interim head coach for the Lock Haven women’s team. Prior to leading the Lock Haven women’s team, she spent time working as the assistant for both the men’s and women’s programs at Lock Haven, as well as Lycoming College. Along with her role with the City Lions, Lynette is currently the Loyalsock Township girls’ soccer head coach.
Jon Steese brings 20 years of coaching experience to the City Lions technical area. Jon has used this experience to facilitate the growth of players and help place of many student-athletes, at the collegiate level. Holding a number of coaching licenses and diplomas, Jon is a well-rounded coach, who specializes in player development.
“Both our passions are soccer; I have been approached a number of times to start a club in the area; at first, it wasn’t an option; now, I have lived here since 2016, we feel the timing is right, and the local area is ready to get behind us,” Fern told Webb Weekly. “Our club is based on the club I love back home in Glasgow, Scotland. The name of the club Celtic FC, their most famous Celtic team, is called the Lisbon Lions; they won the champions league in 1967. I grew up with the stories of that team, and it will always be in my heart, so we wanted to go with the Lions. We have the same famous green and white hooped jersey, and we plan to play attacking soccer the same as Celtic.”
Fern said the player response has been great; they have filled both rosters without any great advertising, and they feel both the male and female teams will be competitive in their UPSL league games. Next year it may be a case of adding more teams.
“We will play out of Loyalsock High School,” said Fern. “To be honest, we hoped for more support from local businesses to help us make this venture work; so far, we have had Rowe Sprinkle System step forward and sponsor our men’s team, and we are very thankful to them; we are still looking for a women’s sponsor.”
He said they are a non-profit club and hoping to get local support.
“We are very pleased to announce we will have a youth academy center that myself, Ian, and our players will work in to develop the youth players in the area,” stated Fern. We will be advertising evaluation days in the next week or so. People have been contacting us asking about the youth setup. As we progress, we will be looking to feed our adult teams with players that come through the academy. We are very excited by this.”
He continued, “The driving force behind this is to bring soccer to the area and grow the sport; it’s my passion. I’m up every weekend around 6 a.m. to watch games from home. In the past, I have worked in pro soccer and run academies with over 300 kids; Williamsport is now my home and my future. My wife and her family are from here. People often ask what I miss from home; I can tell you — family is number one, but I miss the passion of everyday soccer, and that’s what I want to bring to Williamsport.”
He said he is very fortunate to have met Ian Scheller; they have the same drive, focus, and passion for the game, and between them, he believes they will make this a success.
Both City Lions men and women have begun competing in the Northeast Conference of the UPSL this Spring. With a growing youth team called Lisbon Lions Soccer Academy, it was a natural progression to add the senior teams to allow the kids growth to an adult semi-pro team. The club is focused on-Positive role models for youth & the community.
– An opportunity for the development of soccer players beyond college.
– A competitive playing outlet for college players and aspiring/former professionals
– Visibility of soccer through widespread promotion & media exposure
– A positive experience for players and fans by operating with professional standards
The team has gotten off to an auspicious start with a 4-1 win over the Allentown United team and a 1-0 win. The Williamsport City Lions are 2-0 in the American South Division of the USPL.
The City Lions’ next home game will be May 21st at 2:00 p.m. at Kenneth Robbins Stadium at Loyalsock High School.