It was quite the triumphant inaugural regular season for Greenville.
The Triumph posted a winning record of 12-9-7 to finish in third place and clinch a spot in the United Soccer League’s League One playoffs. They will travel to second-place Lansing Ignite on Saturday night.
Greenville won three of its last five games heading into the postseason. Head coach John Harkes said his team exceeded on-field expectations.
“It’s fantastic to see how much success we’ve had in the first year,” he said. “We’re in a good spot right now, but did I think that we’d be in the hunt for the playoffs? No.”
The Triumph has also built a solid home fan base at Legacy Early College on Greenville’s Westside. The stadium has a 4,100-person capacity. Heading into the final week of the season, the Triumph were averaging over 2,500 fans, which ranked fourth in the league.
Harkes said that the fan base reaches beyond the Greenville area.
“We’ve tapped into the locals, which is great,” he said. “But we’ve also seen a lot of response from surrounding areas in the Upstate.”
Triumph Vice Chairman and Chief Brand Officer Doug Erwin said that fan support has helped the team achieve its position going into the playoffs.
“I think we’ve been thrilled with the fan support and the love for the team that makes us feel we’ve been around 10 or 15 years,” he said. “It’s been very humbling. We feel the attendance has been very good. We want to make it better, of course. We’re pleased but not settled.”
Erwin added that the fan following hasn’t necessarily come as a surprise.
“There was definitely energy and buzz for it before we started as a team,” he said. “There was a petition with over 1,000 signatures on it that wanted a team, and that caught our eye.”
Erwin said team management has plans to try to pull in even more fans next year with more theme nights and community initiatives.
“We feel like we’ll learn from year one to year two,” he said. “We did some things this year like tweaked ticket prices midseason, and that got great response. We feel like we’ve laid the foundation.”
The Triumph also tapped into local talent by signing a pair of high school midfielders to Academy contracts. Ben Erkens, the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Clemson commitment, as well as Furman commitment Conor Dowler, were both members of Carolina Elite Soccer Academy.
Harkes said that giving CESA players opportunities will help make the local fan base even stronger.
“It’s a great development opportunity,” he said. “We’ve got two players from a youth club in the area that can train with the team and may eventually turn pro.”
Greenville finished 1-0-2 during the season against Lansing Ignite. Harkes said his team will do everything possible to win a championship. However, the team feels it’s already come out on top.
“Success is not based on wins or losses,” he said. “It’s built on performance, and we’ve already won. We’ve woken up a small town that’s growing and building. We feel the Greenville Triumph is part of that.”