In 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers ended the city’s championship drought in the three major sports. But, during those 52-years prior, there was a professional team in The Land that won multiple league titles: the Cleveland Crunch. And, after more than a decade, the team is officially on track to return to action next year.
The Beautiful Game Network caught up with majority owner/president Eric Davis about the exciting news in Northeast Ohio. For Davis, the process to bring the Crunch back began in early May in Lakewood, Ohio. “I decided to take a picture of both my Cleveland Force and Cleveland Crunch shirts side-by-side and posted it on my Instagram Story as a poll to my followers – “If it was up to you, which pro indoor soccer team would you bring back to Cleveland?” The poll was a success and the results favored heavily with the Crunch (obviously),” Davis told BGN. “A day later, I decided to take the poll result and began conducting some research behind what exactly happened to the collapse of the Crunch franchise and if there was an opportunity to revive this team back to life.”
“Throughout my research efforts, I figured out that the trademark for the brand had been ruled “DEAD” since 2001. This lead me to immediately change my established LLC in the state of Ohio, at the time sitting there vacant from my previous job, to reflect the Cleveland Crunch, LLC. My business partner, Luciano Ruscitto – VP of Operations, and I invested in purchasing the TM after we established our new Cleveland Crunch brand identity. Since then, the rest has picked up immensely quicker than we ever imagined in this new endeavor.”
A Mentor, Ohio native, Davis isn’t new to soccer or the Crunch. “Soccer is my first love, it’s the only thing I truly know and has given me a platform I thought was unimaginable to many,” he said. “My background with soccer takes me all the way back to my youth days as a young three-year-old boy, with my playing career finishing at Lake Erie College, a Division 2 school in Painesville, Ohio after my junior year season in 2015.”
“In the last three seasons of the Crunch’s existence, I used to play on the Crunch field one home game per season during the halftime shows, scrimmaging my fellow mates at Mentor Travel Soccer Club. My parents used to take myself and my younger brother, Jeff, to many Crunch games at the former Convocation Center as little kids. The Crunch memorabilia that remains around our parents household today still shows how prevalent and impactful the Cleveland Crunch were in its glory days to Greater Cleveland and the surrounding communities. Today, I am also a youth soccer coach for the U10 Boys at Geauga Federation Soccer Club in Chardon, Ohio.”
While he does have experience in soccer at different levels, this will be his biggest responsibility yet, definitely putting his Marketing and Business Administration degrees from LEC to good use. Describing his role in the club moving forward, he said, “As President & Majority Owner of the club, I will be involved in the strategic day-to-day business operations while implementing executive level decision-making that promotes and reflects the best interest of the Cleveland Crunch, Major Arena Soccer and the Greater Cleveland community.”
For fans, there may be a concern that this will be a grand return followed by another exit for their beloved Crunch. How can they be sure that Davis and his team are committed to making this a true return with consistent investment? Davis explained, “Committed is truly just the tip of the iceberg in our pursuit to return our city’s notorious soccer club. When I first embarked on this journey, I had to accept the fact that this would be a large risk intake with my back against the wall trying to do this alone, knowing that this challenge will require every single ounce of me. Thankfully, my good mate Luciano shared the same vision as I, and the decision to jump into this business venture together was a simple one in knowing our lifelong soccer experience paired with the outreach we possess in the local surrounding soccer communities. Sticking to our grassroots vision and relentless ambition, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to rejuvenate our beloved professional soccer team that deserves nothing less than a comeback to our city; even if it took nearly two decades.”
He added, “Considering our team’s internal growth to 10 team members in this present day, it is a reflection of our work ethic and collaboration efforts put forth together since the very first day. The well-rounded, experienced group of individuals we have accumulated also covers the essential business segments needed for us to accomplish our goals collectively, with the ability to bounce ideas amongst each other on a consistent basis. We will continue to hold ourselves accountable while growing our brand identity in the hopes to add more members to our team in our 2021-2022 season debut pursuit.
Davis also talked about the club’s announcement of a Cleveland Crunch Youth Soccer Camp set for Sept. 25-27 with a plan to host at least three more youth camps before the Thanksgiving/Christmas timeline. The club is also working on an online team shop with official merchandise from apparel sponsor Un1tus, expected to launch mid-late this month.
While they wait for their official new Crunch gear, there’s another topic that fans are wondering about: Will the man that scored over 1000 goals in a Crunch uniform be involved in the club’s return? Cleveland soccer legend Hector Marinaro is the all-time leading scorer in professional indoor soccer history and racked up countless accolades during his time with the Crunch and later the Cleveland Force. Since 2006, he’s been the men’s soccer coach at nearby John Carroll University. “We have been in active conversations with Hector up to this point and he has recently taken on an advisory role to our organization,” Davis said.
With clubs like the Cleveland Force, Cleveland Internationals, and Cleveland SC established at different levels of soccer in The Land, the Crunch will return professional soccer to the city as a member of the Major Arena Soccer League. Davis said, “I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t thrilling! But, with this excitement comes much more work ahead in anticipation of our first season, and our team is fully prepared to spearhead it directly.”
Stay tuned to the club’s social media channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) and website for announcements on the club’s technical staff, home arena, open tryout dates, and more ahead of their MASL return next fall.