Ontario, Calif. — The Empire Strykers today announced the signing of Bryce Watson for the 2023-24 Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) season. The Southern California native joins Head Coach Paul Wright's squad after being regarded as a highly promising prospect in the outdoor game and testing himself in Europe. The arrival of Watson is especially noteworthy given the 25-year-old earned a contract by impressing at the Strykers' combine earlier this month.
For Empire's executive vice president, Jimmy Nordberg, the club's latest addition marks a reunion nearly a decade in the making. While in high school, Watson joined the under-16s of renowned youth academy FC Golden State, who were then coached by Nordberg, and played an integral role on the team until moving on to the next age group.
“I felt early on that Bryce was a rare talent who could aim for bigger and better things," remembered Nordberg. "He possesses a natural gift and the type of work ethic that can allow someone to grow and progress. The fact his path has led him back here and to our organization is incredibly exciting. We can't wait to see what he can do in pro arena soccer.”
After transferring from Damien High School in La Verne to Arcadia High School, Watson's play on grass earned him a scholarship with Cal State Fullerton, but he opted to cut his college career short and try his luck in England. While attracting interest during several trials, Watson found himself unable to sign a contract due to visa complications. In his early twenties by that time, he returned to familiar pastures and played one season at Pasadena City College.
Watson finally made his goal of moving to Europe a reality when he signed with Belgian fourth-tier side Koninklijke Diegem Sport in the first half of 2020. During a whirlwind stint abroad, which saw a large number of the club's games canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Watson also went on loan to another Belgian outfit, FC Melsbroek, and ultimately returned stateside in the later stages of 2021. After keeping fit and looking for his next opportunity through 2022, earlier this year he rejected a contract offer from a team in the Armenian topflight.
Having recently stood out in the King's Cup, a 6v6 tournament hosted by his friend and legendary Empire forward Franck Tayou, Watson was invited to the club's combine in Upland, where his impressive performance earned him a spot on the roster.
Said the newest member of the Strykers, “I'm grateful for the chance to reunite with Jimmy [Nordberg] in my home region. Having played indoor and futsal growing up, I think I'll be able to transition well. There are some rules and tactics I still need to learn, but I'm a very technical player and I enjoy small-sided games, so that should help me. Since I have a creative mindset, assists and goals matter to me, but I also enjoy tracking back and pushing forward from a defensive position. My goal is to have a positive impact and help the team win.”
Bryce Watson and the Empire Strykers kick off their upcoming MASL campaign with a pair of road games in Mexico, as they face the Chihuahua Savage on November 24 and the Monterrey Flash on November 26. The team's highly anticipated 2023-24 home opener at Toyota Arena in Ontario is scheduled for December 15 against the Baltimore Blast. More information may be found at www.TheEmpireStrykers.com.