When the historians of US soccer write the book on the National Independent Soccer Association, they will most likely record Detroit City FC’s tenure as starting in Spring of 2020, and ending in the Fall of 2021. They’ll write of how we won every single trophy that was on the line in that league. The unrivaled dominance of Trevor James’s football prowess, the growth of DCFC from an on-again off-again amateur side on the pitch into a professional squad that took no prisoners. And then, having demonstrated total dominance in that division 3 pond, that the club felt forced to jump up to division 2’s USL Championship. It had to jump up for higher competition, to grow its business more, to take up an even larger role so that the next time MLS came to town, they had even less of a legitimate case.

The supporters, most of whom had spent years arguing against USL and MSL alike, who had railed about the weaknesses of that system, found themselves suddenly OK with the move. Far from protesting, it was practically a sigh of relief to be heard in most corners. To most people, this was a sudden heel turn against “independent soccer”. A simple “Club > League” attitude of supporting DCFC no matter what, overriding any other concerns.

And certainly, there’s some truth to what the histories will say. I always said I would follow DCFC no matter what league it went to. If we went back to the NPSL, I would stay with City. If we went to a franchise league but maintained the soul of the club- as I believe we’re doing now- then I would stay with City. Most of us would, and most of us will see this next chapter of the journey through.

But it’s not the whole picture, either. If you want to understand how we got here- how the culture shifted to allow NGS to be OK with the move to USL, or how DCFC was finally pushed into a league we spent years trying to stay out of- you have to return to 2017. You have to return to the original NISA proposals quickly fading from memory, to the two incarnations of NPSL Pro failed, and then finally live through the two years we experienced in NISA. League failures and cancellations combined with the COVID-19 pandemic all took their toll, until finally the unacceptable became the inevitable.

This blog series is my perspective on how we got here, including my own interactions with the people running the league. It’s aimed at current and future Detroit City FC supporters so that the weird stories of NISA don’t just become oral history. I don’t represent anyone else in NGS with these posts, let alone other people who were invested in NISA. This won’t be all-inclusive of everything that happened while we were in there, either. The focus is going to be on the teams and individuals who caused the biggest cracks until we finally had to get out.

This is the NISA Cycle.