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Jesters soccer team set to start 15th season
In 2003, Irishman Kenny Farrell took a big gamble when he founded a semi-pro soccer team in New Orleans.
At the time, soccer was on the margins of popular American sports, but it was at a turning point. The game was still feeling momentum from the United States playing host to the 1994 World Cup, and, after a contentious launch, Major League Soccer began to establish stability and expand, with teams building soccer-specific stadiums throughout the league.
Today, it’s not uncommon to see as many, if not more, youngsters wearing soccer jerseys from national teams and international clubs as those wearing NFL, NBA, or MLB jerseys combined.
Fifteen years after launching his team, with the sport reaching heights in the United States unimaginable just two decades ago, the New Orleans Jesters are poised to be one of the city’s fastest-growing sports franchises.
The Jesters, who played as the Shell Shockers before a 2008 rebrand, play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), generally considered to be at the fourth tier of competition in the U.S. soccer pyramid, behind Major League Soccer (MLS), the North American Soccer League (NASL), and the United Soccer League (USL), and roughly equal with the Premier Development League (PDL).
The NPSL is expanding and seems to be getting stronger. It has grown from 45 teams in 2012 to 96 in 2017, and has seen its one-time franchise fee rise from $5,000 in 2007 to $15,000 in 2016 and annual league fee increase from $1,800 to $5,250. The PDL, by comparison, has a $75,000 franchise fee for teams to join.
The Jesters plays home games at Pan American Stadium in City Park, a 3,500-seat facility with room for an additional 1,000 fans in standing-room-only areas. Their NPSL Southeast Conference West Division rivals include the Birmingham Hammers, Chattanooga Football Club, Inter Nashville FC, and Memphis City FC.
Local sponsors include Adams and Reese, Louisiana CAT, and Entergy. Sponsorships support the team and help keep ticket prices family and group friendly. Individual adult tickets are priced at $10, $5 for youth 6 to 12, and free for kids under 6. The club also offers a family pack of two adult tickets and two youth tickets for $25 and a group package of 12 adult and eight child tickets for $144, with each additional adult or child ticket at $5.
A major focus of the club is young player talent development initiatives, including programming, clinics and a partnership with Carrollton Boosters that provides skills training to players as young as 3 years old.
Patrick Mullins, a striker with MLS’ D.C. United, is the most recognizable player to ever wear a Jesters uniform. The New Orleans native, who starred at Jesuit High School and was two-time winner of the Hermann Trophy — college soccer’s Heisman — scored 12 goals in 21 appearances for the Jesters in 2011 and 2012 while a player at the University of Maryland. Mullins was selected 11th overall by the New England Revolution in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. He was signed by New York City FC in 2015 and traded to D.C. United last season.
The New Orleans Jesters will kick off their 2017 season on the road against Shreveport Rafters FC on Wednesday, May 10, before returning home to Pan American Stadium in City Park to take on Chattanooga FC on Saturday, May 13.
New Orleans Jesters
The New Orleans Jesters will play eight home games in the 2017 regular season. The team starts on the road against Shreveport Rafters FC on Wednesday, May 10, before returning home to Pan American Stadium in City Park to take on Chattanooga FC on Saturday, May 13. All home games (in bold) begin at 7 p.m.
Wed., May 10 @ Shreveport Rafters FC
Sat., May 13 vs. Chattanooga FC
Tues., May 16 vs. Shreveport Rafters FC
Sat., May 20 vs. Atlanta Silverbacks
Sat., May 27 vs. Georgia Revolution
Sat., June 3 vs. Houston Hurricanes
Thurs., June 8 @ Inter Nashville FC
Sat., June 10 @ Birmingham Hammers
Thurs., June 15 @ Chattanooga FC
Sat., June 17 @ Memphis City FC
Thurs., June 22 vs. Inter Nashville FC
Sat., June 24 vs. Memphis City FC
Thurs., June 29 @ Georgia Revolution
Sat., July 1 @ Atlanta Silverbacks
Sat., July 8 vs. Birmingham Hammers
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.