A Time to Cheer: Downtown Soccer League Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Tilly Hartell, 9, scores against Juan Ramirez of the Red Bulls Street Crew, whose fancy footwork couldn't stop Tilly's quick kick. Ramirez, along with Emiliano Munoz, demonstrated their remarkable ball handling tricks at the Downtown Soccer League's 30th anniversary celebration. (See video below.) Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Nov. 15, 2023

The Downtown Soccer League celebrated its 30th Anniversary on the Battery Park City ball fields Saturday, and as league president Eileen Connaughton Montague stood before a throng of players and parents, she proudly recounted how far the league has come. From 300 players rostered to 25 co-ed teams in 1993 to nearly 2,200 kids, 400 parent coaches, and 180 teams playing on six Lower Manhattan fields, “this is an incredible milestone,” she said.

“All of these players live or go to school below Canal Street,” she said. “When I tell people this, they can’t believe it.”

Montague, who has been coaching teams for 15 years, helped spearhead with Laura Benoist one of the league’s most significant advances. In 2014, having watched girls drop out of league play by ages 9 and 10, they formed two girls-only divisions. Now 800 girls play in the league. In her speech, she recalled the critical role the league played during Covid, when schools and most youth programs were closed and kids had few outlets for outdoor play or seeing friends. “Sometimes the importance of community really shows when you need it most,” she said.

Video by The Tribeca Trib

Anniversary festivities included soccer tricks by the Red Bulls Street Crew, donated bagels and coffee from Zucker’s, a raffle, and anniversary hoodies for everyone. Montague presented a framed jersey of appreciation, signed by girls in the 7-year-old division, to Catherine McVay Hughes representing the Battery Park City Authority board. “We would not be here without you,” she said of the Authority.

Nor could the league have prospered without its many volunteers, Montague noted. “So many people love DSL, so many give their time to this organization,” she said. “We’re developing a love of the beautiful game where kids of all different levels and abilities can play with and against their friends. We build community through soccer.”


Thank you to the Downtown Soccer League board

I want to thank the DSL Board—this group does yeoman’s work to make all of this happen. It’s not just dealing with rostering, game scheduling, conflicts, parent emails, weather, but these Moms and Dads are coaching their own teams, they are dealing with their own families, their full-time jobs and busy lives. And in addition to their normal DC load, they are taking on huge DSL projects as well—like implementing a new registration system, finding a new uniform vendor and thinking through better ways to teach our youngest players. The work is endless.

EILEEN CONNAUGHTON MONTAGUE, president, Downtown Soccer League