A midfielder that has excelled in the lower divisions of North American professional soccer, Matthew Watson moved to Major League Soccer when he joined Whitecaps FC on Dec. 16, 2011. With experience of indoor and outdoor professional soccer, the native of Redditch, England, is reunited with Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie after playing three seasons (2009 to 2011) for the Scotsman at Carolina RailHawks. He ranks second all-time in RailHawks history after starting 98 of his 107 total appearances for the club.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER 2012: Watson made his MLS debut for Whitecaps FC as a second-half substitute during a 2-0 home win over Canadian arch-rivals and league expansion club Montreal Impact on Mar. 10. The midfielder replaced striker Camilo Sanvezzo in the late stages of the season opener. He then made his first start in MLS during Whitecaps FC’s 1-0 away win over Chivas USA on Mar. 17. The result was Vancouver’s first away win in the league. Watson's first point in MLS came in Whitecaps FC’s first-ever match in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Nov. 1. The Englishman assisted on Darren Mattocks' historic goal, as Vancouver fell 2-1 at defending champions LA Galaxy.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER RESERVE LEAGUE 2012: Watson made his MLS Reserve League debut during Whitecaps FC reserves’ 2-1 victory at San Jose Earthquakes reserves on Apr. 8.
NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE 2011: In the inaugural season of newly-formed North American Soccer League (NASL), Watson started all 24 of his regular-season appearances during his fourth and final season with Carolina RailHawks, as the North Carolina-based outfit captured the NASL regular season title after finishing top of the eight-club standings. Two of his three goals that season were match winners. They included Carolina’s 1-0 victory at FC Edmonton on June 10 and the RailHawks’ 3-1 win over FC Tampa Bay (now Tampa Bay Rowdies) on June 18. The midfielder also scored in a 2-0 home win over Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Aug. 21. Watson also assisted on Pablo Campos’ goal during a 2-1 home win over Montreal Impact on Apr. 17 and on Whitecaps FC teammate Etienne Barbara’s match winner during a 5-1 victory at Atlanta Silverbacks on June 25. The Englishman also started both legs of Carolina’s playoff semifinal versus eventual NASL champions NSC Minnesota Stars (now Minnesota Stars FC) on Oct. 8 and 15. Minnesota won the series in a penalty shootout after a 4-4 aggregate draw.
UNITED STATES SOCCER FEDERATION DIVISION-2 PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE 2010: The midfielder’s third season with Carolina was played in the United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Professional League (USSF D-2), with Watson helping Rennie’s side capture the NASL Conference title. He started 18 of his 26 regular-season appearances for the RailHawks that season, with his two goals coming in a 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace Baltimore on Aug. 14 and as the match winner in a 2-1 home win over Puerto Rico Islanders on Sept. 25. His three assists came in a 2-0 home win over Montreal Impact on Aug. 7; a 2-1 victory at FC Tampa Bay (now Tampa Bay Rowdies) on Aug. 25; and a 3-1 home win over Austin Aztex on Oct. 1. Watson also appeared in all six of Carolina’s playoff matches, as the RailHawks reached the USSF D-2 championship series before falling 3-1 on aggregate to Puerto Rico Islanders. He recorded assists on goals by current MLS players Daniel Paladini and Tom Heinemann, as Carolina defeated Montreal 2-0 in the second leg of their playoff semifinal series on Oct. 17. The RailHawks won the series 2-1 on aggregate. Watson also appeared in Carolina’s two matches in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The RailHawks reached the second round before falling 2-1 to United Soccer Leagues Second Division side Charleston Battery on June 22.
UNITED SOCCER LEAGUES FIRST DIVISION 2009: In his second season with the RailHawks, Watson took part in his first campaign under Rennie after the Scotsman succeeded Carolina’s inaugural head coach Scott Schweitzer. The midfielder helped the North Carolina outfit to a club-best second-place finish in the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) standings. He scored one goal and recorded one assist in 19 regular-season appearances for the club, with Watson scoring in a 1-1 draw at Austin Aztex on June 19 and earning an assist in the RailHawks’ 9-0 victory at home to Miami FC Blues on Aug. 26. Carolina’s season ended with a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Whitecaps FC in the USL-1 playoff quarterfinals. Watson also started both of Carolina’s matches in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup that year, with the RailHawks reaching the second round before falling on penalties to North Carolina rivals and United Soccer Leagues Second Division (USL-2) club Wilmington Hammerheads on June 16. 2008: After two productive seasons in USL-2 with Richmond Kickers, Watson moved to the second tier of North American professional soccer when he joined Carolina on Dec. 12, 2007. Playing in his only RailHawks season under the club’s inaugural head coach Schweitzer, the midfielder earned a spot on the USL-1 All-League Second Team after appearing in all but five of Carolina’s 30 regular season matches that year. His first goal for the RailHawks, and in USL-1, came in a 3-3 draw at Rochester Rhinos on June 20. Three of his four assists that season came against Carolina’s Southern Derby rivals Charleston Battery. Two of those assists came in the RailHawks’ 3-1 home win over the Battery on Sept. 6, while his third assist earned Carolina a 2-1 victory at Charleston on Sept. 19. The RailHawks missed the USL-1 playoffs by two points after an eighth-place finish in their second season of existence. Watson also scored in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup third-round defeat to MLS club Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City). Carolina fell 4-2 to the Wizards after extra time on July 1.
UNITED SOCCER LEAGUES SECOND DIVISION 2007: Prior to his move up to the second tier of North American professional soccer, Watson had two successful seasons in the third-tier United Soccer Leagues Second Division (USL-2) with Richmond Kickers. As defending league champions, the midfielder earned a spot on the USL-2 All-League First Team after helping the Virginia-based outfit to a second-straight regular season title, as the Kickers finished two points clear at the top of the 10-club standings from Rennie’s Cleveland City Stars. Appearing in all but three of Richmond’s 20 regular season matches that season, Watson’s six goals and three assists include a goal and an assist in a 4-0 home win over New Hampshire Phantoms on Apr. 28, plus two goals and two assists in a 4-1 home win over Charlotte Eagles on July 13. Watson also started both of Richmond’s two games in the USL-2 playoffs, with the Englishman scoring in the Kickers’ 2-1 extra-time victory over Charlotte Eagles on Aug. 18. Richmond missed out on a successful defence of their USL-2 title after falling on penalties at home to Harrisburg City Islanders on Aug. 25. Watson was also a part of the Kickers’ run to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup quarterfinals. He scored in Richmond’s 4-2 home win over USL Premier Development League (PDL) side Michigan Bucks in the first round on June 12 before registering a goal and an assist in a 2-1 home win over USL-2 rivals Cleveland in the second round on June 26. The midfielder also started Richmond’s 1-0 home win over MLS giants LA Galaxy in the third round on July 10. Watson saw Richmond’s cup run end in the quarterfinals versus future club Carolina RailHawks on Aug. 7. 2006: After bringing his NCAA Division I career to an end after two years, Watson joined Richmond and helped Leigh Cowlishaw’s side to their first USL-2 regular season and championship titles that season. The midfielder appeared in every regular season and playoff match during his first season with the Kickers, with the Virginia-based outfit winning the USL-2 regular season title by 11 points. Of his four goals and four assists in the regular season for Richmond, two of his four goals were match winners. This included a 5-0 home win over Long Island Rough Riders on May 6 and a 5-2 home win over Harrisburg City Islanders on May 14. Watson also started all three matches in the Kickers’ postseason run to the USL-2 championship title. This included a goal in the first leg of the playoff semifinals, as Richmond claimed a 2-1 home win over Cincinnati Kings on Aug. 18.
MAJOR INDOOR SOCCER LEAGUE 2011-12: Playing his fifth and final season of professional indoor soccer, Watson made 10 appearances for Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) club Baltimore Blast before making his move to MLS and Whitecaps FC in Jan. 2012. His four ‘two-point’ goals and three assists included a five-point performance in an 18-10 win at Syracuse Silver Knights on Nov. 27, 2011. His final match for the Blast came on New Year’s Eve, as Baltimore won 9-4 at Milwaukee Wave on Dec. 31, 2011. 2010-11: Watson appeared in all but two of Baltimore’s regular-season matches that season, as the Blast earned their spot in the MISL championship game after a first-place finish in the five-club standings. The midfielder’s 14 points that season included two ‘two-point’ goals in a 16-13 victory at Chicago Riot on Feb. 27, 2011. Baltimore missed out on a sixth MISL championship title after a 16-7 home defeat to Milwaukee Wave in the final on Mar. 25, 2011. 2008-09: Watson’s third season with Baltimore saw the Blast win their fifth professional indoor soccer title, as the Maryland-based outfit won the National Indoor Soccer League (now the current MISL) championship following a first-place finish in the five-club standings. The midfielder’s 23 points that season included two ‘three-point’ goals and eight ‘two-point’ goals. Baltimore won the NISL title with a 13-10 home win over Rockford Rampage on Apr. 11, 2009. 2007-08: The midfielder won his first MISL championship title with Baltimore after playing less than half of the Blast’s 30 regular-season matches that season, scoring five ‘two-point’ goals in the process. After finishing third in the nine-club standings, Baltimore won their fourth MISL title after defeating Mexican-based Monterrey La Raza 14-11 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Apr. 26, 2008. 2006-07: After being the third selection in the 2006 MISL Draft, Watson appeared in all but one of Baltimore’s 30 regular-season matches, as the Blast missed the MISL playoffs following a fifth-place finish that year.
Before embarking on his professional career, Watson played two seasons of NCAA Division I soccer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). 2005: In his sophomore year with the Retievers, the midfielder earned National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-South Atlantic Region First Team honours and was named American East Conference Midfielder of the Year for second straight season after registering three goals and seven assists in 19 appearances that year. His three goals came in a 2-0 victory at University of Hartford on Sept. 24; a 3-0 home win over University at Albany on Oct. 1; and a 3-0 victory at Boston University on Oct. 29. UMBC reached the American East Conference semifinals before falling 4-1 at home to Binghamton University on Nov. 9. 2004: Watson’s freshman season with the Retrievers was a successful one, as the Englishman was named America East Conference Midfielder of the Year and Rookie of the Year, while he earned spots on the All-America East Conference First Team and Rookie Team. His nine assists that season ranked him first in the America East Conference and ninth NCAA Division I for assists per game (0.60). Starting all but one of his 15 appearances for UMBC, Watson claimed his first NCAA goal and two assists in his home debut for the Retrievers, as they defeated George Washington University 3-0 on Sept. 22. He then posted a goal and an assist in a 3-0 home win over University of Vermont on Oct. 9 before earning America East Conference co-Rookie of the Week honours after his match-winning goal and an assist in a 4-1 home win over University of Maine on Oct. 18. Watson then scored the match winner in UMBC’s season finale, as they won 1-0 at home to University of Hartford on Nov. 3.
Watson started playing soccer in his native England, where after an unsuccessful trial at English Premier League side Aston Villa FC, the midfielder joined the youth academy set-up at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. He played for Wolves’ youth and reserves sides before continuing his playing career in North America.
Born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, in England’s West Midlands region, Watson was raised in the Worcestershire town of Redditch, England. On Feb. 15, 2012, the midfielder obtained permanent residency status (green card) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. He has a wife and two children from his time in the United States. The midfielder’s parents are Angela and Geoff Watson, while he has a younger sister named Danielle. Before attending UMBC in the United States, Watson was a student at Bridley Moor High School in Redditch, England. Married to wife Cat and father to children Evelyn and Theo.
A supporter of English Premier League giants Arsenal FC, Watson is an admirer of former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright. When not concentrating on his soccer career, the midfielder enjoys playing basketball and golf. With an avid interest in North American culture, Watson enjoys the works of filmmaker and author Antwone Fisher.