The months of January, February and March are the slowest of the local soccer calendar. College teams enter their spring seasons, FC Buffalo slowly builds its roster and the Buffalo District Soccer League's divisions are established, but one of the first signs of life is the NPSL schedule release.
If you're a member (or an aspiring member) of FC Buffalo's supporters group, The Situation Room, there's no offseason for you, and you can commence planning your road trips. The group loves to poke and prod Erie, banter with Detroit City FC and craft "Z" jokes at the expensive of the expansion River DogZ.
But with the National Premier Soccer League returning to its 2014 setup -- two divisions separated geographically rather than the single table of 2015 -- it's worth taking the time to stay current. The biggest change? The departure of the Fort Pitt Regiment, who won the conference in 2014. Also, the league has unveiled a redesigned website.
Below are the six teams in the NPSL Midwest Region's Great Lakes East Conference:
FC Buffalo (2015 record: 6 wins, 2 losses, 4 draws -- 22 points; 5th place, no postseason)
Home stadium: Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium (behind Bennett High School)
Head coach: Brendan Murphy (enters fourth season; coaches D'Youville College)
Active alums in pros: Dan Stevens (Finland) and Waleed Cassis (NASL, Ottawa)
2015 standouts: Ngwese Ebangwese, Adam Lauko, Kendell McFayden, Brett Larocque, Andrew Ferguson
2016 signings: Read them here
Primary supporters group: The Situation Room (follow on Twitter)
Notes: FC Buffalo completed two open tryouts and will announce further signings soon.
Indy Eleven NPSL (2015 record: 7 wins, 2 losses, 3 draws -- 24 points; 4th place, won the region)
Home stadium: Park Tudor High School, Indianapolis, Ind.
Head coach: John Simmonds (enters third season)
Active alums in pros: Vincent Mitchell (Butler & Chicago Fire draft pick)
2015 standouts: Nago Mbengue, Mitchell, Cody Schweitzer, Bennett Kim
Notes: Formerly Indiana Fire before rebranding and affiliation change from MLS' Chicago Fire to NASL's Indy Eleven
FC Indiana (2015 record: 2 wins, 3 ties, 7 losses -- 9 points; 11th place, missed playoffs)
Home stadium: Legacy Sports Club Soccer Complex - Lafayette, Ind.
Head coach: Erik Castro (enters second season)
Active alums in pros:
Rudy Baldetti - ADR Jicaral (Costa Rica)
Rogelio Juarez Robinson - North East Stars FC (Trinidad & Tobago)
Christopher Bugay - SV SAAR 05 (Germany)
Alexander Clarke - Singleton Strikers FC (Australia)
Brendan Allen - FC 08 Homburg (Germany)
2015 standouts: Andrew Higgins, Ryan Forde, Ricardo Ruiz, Alex Sangsuwangul
2016 signings, as of Jan. 26: News and updates of signings via The Lion's Den
Primary supporters group: The Lion's Den
Notes: You can see Facebook video of FC Indiana's Premier Arena Soccer League matches, via The Lion's Den.
AFC Cleveland (2015 record: 8 wins, 2 ties, 2 losses -- 26 points; 3rd place, lost in Midwest final)
Home stadium: Rocky River High School, Cleveland, Ohio
Head coach: Carter Poe (enters second season)
Active alums in the pros: None to my knowledge
2015 standouts: Antonio Manfut, Sergio Manesio, James Haupt, Admir Suljevic, Alex Ivanov
Notes: Upset Erie in 2012 Great Lakes Conference title game before losing Regional Final to Madison 56ers
Erie Commodores (2015 record: 5 wins, 7 losses -- 15 points; 7th place, missed playoffs)
Home stadium: McDowell High School, Erie, Penn.
Head coach: Dan Howell (unconfirmed return for 2016)
Active alums in pros: None, to my knowledge
2015 standouts: Daniel Deakin, Ricardo da Silva, Ryan Lund, Sten Marcson
Primary supporters group: None
Notes: Known as the Admirals until rebranding before 2015 season. Won Midwest Region in 2013, lost in league semifinals.
Rochester River DogZ (2015 record: None, expansion team)
Home stadium: Boulter Field in Webster, NY
Head coach: Matt Tantalo (enters first season)
[Read more about the RiverDogZ signings of former FC Buffalo players]
2016 signings: Jake Schindler, Isaac Kissi, Luke Pavone, Tim Crawford, Ryan Bayne, Eric Nuss, Will Stone, Rafael Godoi, Brandon Bianchi
Primary supporters group: None announced yet
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org