The North American Soccer League (NASL) had folded in 1984 and Major League Soccer (MLS) was still a dozen years away (1996).
Then came FC Seattle, and eventually the WWCL…
by David Falk
In our soccer-loving area this ‘downtime’ was actually start-up time. In 1984 FC Seattle was born out of a need to keep the sport going forward after the folding of the NASL Seattle Sounders a year earlier.
FC Seattle had grand plans, and followed through on many of them, including hosting a series of great international friendlies in which local Seattle players like Brian Schmetzer could test their mettle against tough foreigners.
I have only recently been made aware of another great thing FC Seattle did. They started the Western Washington City League (WWCL) so that communities throughout Puget Sound could have their own clubs and train players to eventually play for Seattle. I found out about the league from Jim Leingang, an Olympia-area guy who played in the WWCL. Jim recently sent me a treasure trove of scans from an Olympia F.C. match program. (See gallery). We also exchanged questions and answers about those days.
These were the teams of the WWCL: Bellingham F.C., South Snohomish F.C.(Everett), Eastside F.C. (Redmond), Seattle F.C., Valley Cities F.C. (Kent), Tacoma F.C., Federal Way F.C., and Olympia F.C.
See the gallery for articles scanned from Jim’s pragrams that explain more about the league and its clubs. There were both men’s and women’s teams.
I asked Leingang about the WWCL days and how Olympia F.C. came together. “Well, that is kind of a long story,” he begins. “A certain core of the players on FC Olympia I had either played with or against in local junior soccer and then, of course, in high school. As you’ll notice (by looking at the scanned roster in the gallery), the team had a strong contingent of guys who played at North Thurston High School. We had formed a team to play in the local men’s league during my sophmore year (1980/1981) and many of us continued to play together even after high school. After the Sounders folded we heard rumblings about FC Seattle and the possibility of a “City League”. In 1985, the league was formed and had 6 teams. Teams from Federal Way. Tacoma and Kent along with teams from Seattle, Everett and Redmond.”
It took a bit of conversation, and more than a few pints, for FC Olympia to get kicking. “Over the course of several early summer nights and several beers, Tom Rigg and I convinced his father, Bill Rigg along with Bob Olsen to sponsor an effort to get a team in the Olympia area,” recalls Leingang. “At the time, I played at The Evergreen State College and Tom RIgg played at WSU. We contacted old teamates from high school and also a good number of guys from Evergreen and then held open tryouts. After a few phone calls to the FC Seattle office and the promise of a competitive team, we were allowed to “play our way in” so to speak with three “friendlies” against Federal Way, Redmond and Tacoma. Our first match was against Federal Way after only three tryouts. We finished with a 1-1-1 record and were accepted for play in 1986. We also played in an inviitational tourmament in Eastern Washington that season and brought home the first place trophy.”
So what level of play, skills-wise, was the WWCL at? “At the time,” Jim says, “it was second only to the FC Seattle club, and the level of soccer they played. It would compare to PDL in this day and age.”
Leingang talks about the Olympia F.C. coach. “Our gaffer was Frank Hall. He had coached youth soccer in the Pierce and Thurston County areas for years. He coached several professionals over that time including Mark Peterson, Jeff Durgin, Danny Vaughn, Brent Goulet, Grant Gibbs, and Tim Bartro. He had coached my youth team and also helped at North Thurston HIgh school from 1978 through 1984. Former North Thurston coach Tom Lopp also helped out with FC Olympia.”
Now that the youth of the 80’s has slowly morphed over time into the soccer memories left to each of us in the present, I ask Jim to go back and relive a few good times with Oly F.C. What does he remember most? “The first match! The first goal! Our first win!,” he gleams.
He’s got details. “Scoring a hat-trick against Jeff Stock’s Tacoma team. Getting kicked in the shins by Jimmy Mac! All great memories. The biggest, however, was being able to play at a high level with a bunch of guys that were overlooked in a lot of cases because South Sound soccer wasn’t considered to be on a level equal to Pierce, Snohomish and King counties. Not only did we compete, we surprised the teams we played. Our efforts led to a group from Bellingham doing the same thing and making a bid for entry in 1986. We played them in a friendly that year as well and beat them 4-2. We developed some lifelong friendships. Tom Rigg and I still refer to the summer of ’85 as a magical one!”
One of Jim’s mates on Olympia F.C. was John Purtteman, head coach to this day of The Evergreen State University soccer program. John chips in this memory. “The fledgling FC Olympia had a chance to play against the FC Seattle Storm in our first year. FC Seattle was the top flight squad of the day. We lost 3-0 as I remember but we had a guest appearance by a young High School keeper named Kasey Keller. The game feature a couple of great goals by Scott Benedetti and Brent Goulet. Timberline grad Don Farler featured as a right back for the big squad.”
It might have been that over the years the story of the WWCL could have faded away and never been preserved. Now, thanks to Jim’s scans, the memories can come rushing back for all of the players and fans involved in this special time and league, in this important part in local soccer history.
Contact me with WWCL your memories here: goalWA@gmail.com.