SUSA co-owners Glenn Schneider, left, and Moussa Sy flank Rebecca...

SUSA co-owners Glenn Schneider, left, and Moussa Sy flank Rebecca Raber, a recruit for a new semipro women's soccer team on March 20, 2018. Credit: Newsday / Valerie Bauman

Long Island’s SUSA Academy has been granted a franchise to play in the semiprofessional Women’s Premier Soccer League and is in the process of recruiting players for the new team’s debut this summer.

“We’ll be one of the only two soccer academies on Long Island with a pathway for our players, our girls, to have a chance to play on a semiprofessional level,” said Glenn Schneider, co-owner of Smithown-based SUSA. “All the girls [will] now get to watch the women in this program; it gives them something to aspire to, role models.”

Long Island has one team already in the WPSL — The Fury, who play out of the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Mitchel Field. WPSL commissioner Rich Sparling said he’s excited to watch competition unfold between the teams, with one each in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“I’m big on rivalry,” Sparling said. “That forces me to make my program better. If I’m going to attract fans and players, that forces me to make sure my program is desirable for players and attractive for fans to come out.”

Landing a semipro franchise adds cachet to SUSA’s growing empire. Founded four years ago, the academy quickly consolidated three soccer organizations under one umbrella. It continues to grow, with hopes for launching a men’s semiprofessional team soon.

“Long Island had been so fragmented; no one has ever put their stake in the ground and said, ‘We’re going to be the home of soccer on Long Island,’ ” Schneider said. “We were the first to do that.”

SUSA broke ground in October on a $12 million soccer complex in Central Islip, now on track to be completed in spring 2019. Phase one of the project will include five outdoor soccer fields. The long-awaited complex will be the home of the new team, SUSA FC. Until then, the semipro women will play at Bayport-Blue Point High School.

The first round of tryouts was in January; a second round will be held in May. The new team’s season starts with a home game June 2 against the New York Athletic Club. SUSA FC will play home and away games within the tristate region.

SUSA officials said the academy currently works with more than 1,500 players of all ages.

For SUSA’s female players to have a shot at a semipro team after high school or college is “significant, it’s huge,” SUSA co-owner Moussa Sy said. “Usually the platform is that you get to high school, then what’s next? This is a steppingstone, this is the next step. After this league, you’re talking the national league.”

Rebecca Raber, 24, of Bayport, said she is excited to “make some history” as one of the first players, who are unpaid, on the new team. She started playing at age 4, continued through college, and played on a semipro team in England and professionally in Switzerland.

Now back home on Long Island, Raber said she would have had to stop competing at the level she was used to without the new soccer club.

“I’ve just developed such a love for this game,” she said. “It’s a huge part of my life, and I’m not ready to give it up yet.”

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