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May 20: A big day for Buffalo soccer

The termination of the University at Buffalo men's program was a slap in the face to the local soccer community, but the start of the spring season invites new hope and several opportunities to show that Buffalo does care about the sport.

May 20 is a daylong celebration of local soccer, where players, coaches and spectators of any gender and race are welcomed and encouraged to participate.

Let's take a quick stroll through the timeline of the day's events:

*Pepper 3-vs.-3 Tournament

Details: From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Clarence Soccer Center (10000 Clarence Center Road, Clarence), men's and coed 3-vs.-3 teams will compete in a one-day tournament to raise money for the family of Chris Pepper, an active member and dear friend of many in the local soccer community, who passed away last year to lymphoma.

The cost of $120 per team benefits his wife and two children; registration can be done through 5 p.m. May 16 here. Each team is guaranteed a minimum of three, 20-minute games, and anyone who participates will receive a free ticket to the FC Buffalo match at 7 that night at All-High Stadium.

Hard work by the managers involved in the Celtic organization of the BDSL, which fields five teams in the amateur men's league, as well as assistance from Buffalo State coaches Mark Howlett and Nick DeMarsh, and Clarence Inferno coach Tom Karanas went into the benefit tournament.

Pepper, a hardworking, selfless, energetic and positive person, committed over 20 years to the BDSL, 14 spent helping run the Buffalo Celtic club. Read more of his story here.

*Western New York Flash vs. New York Surf

Details: At 4 p.m. May 20 at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium (2885 Main St.), the Western New York Flash play their first home game as part of United Women's Soccer after taking one point from two road matches last weekend, which included a 1-0 loss to the Surf.

Tickets for the match, with the ensuing FC Buffalo game included, run for $10 and can be purchased here.

After selling their National Women's Soccer League rights to an ownership group in North Carolina, the Flash organization still wanted a capstone for its blossoming WNY Flash Academy (which you can read more about in the "Know Your Premier Club" series here).

The Flash roster is a smorgasbord of names familiar to the local soccer community, from recent past in Jenna Raepple, Dani Braun and Brittany Heist, to late high school/early college players like Maddie Pezzino, Sydney Cerza and Hope Balling, to name a few.

Carissima Cutrona and Kara Daly represent the University at Buffalo, while Maddie Good, Paige Buscaglia and Alana Rossi are Canisius players on Gary Bruce's summer squad. Here's their full roster, and you can read more about the Bruce hire here.

*FC Buffalo vs. Dayton Dynamo

Details: The nightcap of one marathon day of soccer features FC Buffalo's debut under a new coaching staff at 7 p.m. at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium (2885 Main St.). Tickets, in a package with the Flash match, are $10 here.

Frank Butcher, Casey Derkacz and John Grabowski will try to shake off early-season jitters against a Dynamo team that tied defending National Premier Soccer League champions AFC Cleveland, 3-3, in their season opener.

Longtime Wolves Kendell McFayden and Chris Walter, as well as former FC Buffalo midfielder and current Erie Community College women's head coach Gary Boughton, are the most recognizable non-college players for the new-look side. We'll have an in-depth FC Buffalo preview later this week to break down the side.

Email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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