Don't let the terminology throw you. Tonight's match may be a soccer "friendly" or in American terms an "exhibition" but there's ample opportunity to make some noise at All High Stadium. And, well, there's a trophy on the line, too.
FC Buffalo will host the Bedlington Terriers at 6:30 tonight in All High, highlighting both the local and international aspect of soccer. They will be competing for the first Lord Bedlington Cup, named for Bob Rich, whose financial support for both teams helped make this excursion possible.
"We know this is a good opportunity to continue to build what we want to build for Buffalo soccer," said FC Buffalo president Nick Mendola. "We know it's a major deal."
In case you've missed it, here's the backstory:
While researching his family history, Rich discovered a connection to the town of Bedlington, located in England near the Scottish border. Bedlington's story is one which sounds familiar to Buffalonians. The strip mining town lost its major industry and has been struggling to find its new economic niche. Their pride was their soccer club, but the Terriers were feeling the economic affects, as well, having little money for new uniforms and a pitch that was so torn up, it caused injuries.
Through a bit of research, Mindy Rich discovered that one can purchase titles in England and so, partly as a joke, she bought the title Lord of Bedlington for her husband. Rich traveled to Bedlington and decided to help sponsor the soccer club. He doesn't own them, but has provided some much needed financial support for uniforms, field repairs and a scoreboard.
As that story broke, Mendola of FC Buffalo took the leap to talk with Rich about soccer in Buffalo. After agreeing to offer some help to the local club, known as the Blitzers (yes, after native son and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer), the process began to bring the Terriers to Western New York for a few friendly matches, some soccer clinics, and some tutelage in running a successful sports franchise.
The attention is something both clubs could use. The Terriers, an amateur club in the Northern Football League (considered the ninth level of English soccer), have players who range in age from 18 to 37. Their season runs from July to the championships in May and last year, the club finished ninth in the 22-team league.
FC Buffalo has flown under the local sports radar since being founded in 2009. The team, also an amateur club, plays in the National Premier Soccer League. Their roster draws heavily from local colleges and local players. The amateur status allows them to get looks from professional clubs across the world while preserving their collegiate status.
The regular season is winding down for FC Buffalo with just four games left. The team is 3-4-1, though the front end of their schedule was loaded with the top teams in the league. The team will likely finish anywhere between third and fifth. And while the league season is where the emphasis usually lies, it would be wrong to equate tonight's friendly with easy fun.
"The cliche is that you go out and play hard every game and you can't have a letdown. That's kind of a joke," Mendola said. "Everyone knows when the Sabres play the Leafs, the game is more important. While Bedlington might not be a league game, this is for silverware, as they call it in soccer. That's a real sense of pride. We want to keep this in our proverbial, and hopefully one day physical, trophy case. This is very important to us and I wouldn't be surprised if our players stepped it up just a little."
Lord Bedlington Cup
Who: Bedlington Terriers vs. FC Buffalo Blitzers
When: Tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Where: All High Stadium.
Tickets: Adults $10; 14 & Under $5.