The idea behind Queen City Football Club came to founder Shane Bufano when he was just out of college. Bufano had already begun his soccer coaching career, and had noticed a series of recent immigrants to the U.S. in the area who couldn’t afford to pay the expensive prices that club soccer costs in the United States.
“I wanted to create an experience that was more affordable than other clubs, but more sophisticated than the average town program,” Bufano said. Enter Queen City Football Club.
QCFC was founded by Bufano in 2011, and after a trial year, officially began play in 2012 with three teams. The vision has grown quicker than anyone imagined. For the upcoming calendar year, Bufano expects Queen City to field as many as 25 total teams. “At the time Queen City started, we cost $400 and some other clubs in the area were charging around $1,500,” Bufano said in an interview last week. “We started it to be affordable for all sorts of kids, but also to be an option for three sport kids who didn’t want to commit 100 percent to soccer. The growth has been exponential.”
Right now QCFC costs $565 per child, including uniforms. This is up from $400 in 2012, but still significantly less than many of the club options in Vermont. It isn’t just price that sets Queen City apart in Bufano’s mind though. “There is room for different types of clubs in this market,” he said. “One kid may be ready to commit fully to soccer, while other kids are equally as committed to playing three sports. Each of them should be able to pursue that goal at the club level.”
At least in recent years, Synergy FC has joined Nordic Soccer Club as the club of choice for players who are ready to commit 100 percent to the sport. Bufano, a Shelburne native, has positioned his club as an alternative to Synergy and Nordic, where players can still get high-level training without making a year-round commitment. Instead of trying to beat Synergy and Nordic at their own game, Bufano and Queen City have become a club that has found their own niche.
“I think there are kids out there who are serious about the game, but who are also committed to playing other sports,” said Bufano, who also coaches soccer at Vermont Athletic Academy and St. Michaels College. Judging by the growing numbers at Queen City, Bufano is on to something. After rolling out three total teams in 2011-2012, the club had five in 2012-2013, 9 in 2013-2014, 14 in 2014-2015, and as many as 20 this upcoming spring. Of those 20, Bufano said he would personally coach three teams, the U15, U16, and U18 girls’ teams.
Tryouts took place during mid-July, during the week of July 13-17.
On a practical level, Queen City goes out its way to make the schedule realistic for kids who are playing other sports. During the vital spring soccer schedule, Bufano makes sure that his teams rarely travel out of the state and mostly stick to playing games on Sundays, because that it is the one day that high school and town teams are guaranteed not to schedule games. Queen City will also select practice times during the season based on which days players are available, so that they don’t have to miss practice for say lacrosse in the spring, or basketball in the winter.
“We want to exist to provide a high level of play for club players, while being affordable to most families and also appealing to three-sport athletes. We want to give them a taste of the premier level of the sport while also letting them have a well-balanced life,” Bufano said. “We have a 90 percent retention rate, which we are really proud of. I think we fit a niche in the soccer community.”