Tomorrow, it begins.
Accrington Stanley's improbable run this season in England's fourth division will culminate with the kickoff of the first leg of their semi-final playoff matchup against Stevenage FC.
Whatever happens with the semifinal, the team that advances presents a remarkable story and has to be the sentimental favorite in the final playoff match at Old Trafford. Stevenage only gained league status this year. Proving that they were punching at their weight, the club also achieved one of the great results of the English football season after upending Newcastle at Broadhall Way 3-1 in the FA Cup third round.
Stevenage's roster is loaded with familiar faces.
There are two Charlton Athletic academy alums on the club's roster: Lawrie Wilson and Stacy Long.
Stacy Long came to Stevenage from Ebbsfleet United and he is joined by two other former Ebbsfleet players, Michael Bostwick and Darius Charles, at the club.
And then there are three players with American ties. The University of Notre Dame's Jose Mousinho has had a great opening season for the club. Taiwo Atieno signed with the club in February, having returned to England after playing for the Puerto Rico Islanders and Rochester Rhinos in the USL. He was added to a roster that already had a USL alum in Dino Maamria, who had a disappointing short run with the Charleston Battery way back in 2003.
Despite all of that, our rooting interest is firmly with the little club from Lancashire. We've now sponsored one of Accrington's young home-grown prospects for two seasons. We've followed the sad financial soap opera that has dominated the club's storyline over those two seasons and hope that resolution of those dire problems will now correspond with success beyond most of the team's supporters' wildest dreams.
Earlier this week, we happily added to our support for the club by sponsoring two additional players. Unfortunately, we were able to sponsor additional players because many squad members were without sponsors. In a magical season, the club should be turning away requests from supporters to assist the team.
In any event, we are not the only Americans with an interest in Accrington Stanley: AFC Cleveland, a club slated to begin playing professionally (somewhere in the U.S.) in 2012, last week announced a most unexpected affiliation with Accrington Stanley.