The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
by David Falk
It’s a good question, and one that I have asked myself more than once in recent months: How will the three elite men’s leagues in the state of Washington affect each other, if at all, when they all hit the pitch at the same time in 2014?
The Premier Development League (PDL) has been around the longest and is seen as the prime destination for Division One players who have pro aspirations. The Evergreen Premier League (EPLWA) is coming in 2014 as a local, grass-roots upstart for players and the development of football culture around Washington. The National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) is coming in some form to Washington, most-likely by way of teams in Renton and either Shoreline or Tukwila.
The Wash is David Falk’s take on the world of soccer in The WA.
Let’s get my bias in these matters right out in front: I have helped establish the EPLWA, and see it as the real ‘breakthrough’ at this level. I like the local focus, the control the clubs will have, and the focus on building Washington’s FC communities. What’s yet to be known is what the quality of play will be like. The same can be said for the NPSL teams. With the PDL there is a known product, though I’ve argued before that it is a unbalanced one. You’ve got the Kitsap Pumas paying players from around the country, the Sounders U-23′s with former academy stars and Division One guys ‘borrowed’ from here and around the country, the SeaWolves, who have struggled in the PDL with talent from the University of Washington and elsewhere, and Washington Crossfire, who have former academy players and college guys coming back from school for the summer.
goalWA.net Local Soccer News is sponsored by Pro Roofing Northwest, Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle, Redmond, Woodinville, Federal Way, Everett, Snohomish, Issaquah, Renton, Kent, Bothell, Edmonds Washington roofing company.
PDL matches are generally entertaining. The Pumas and Sounders U-23′s played to two amazing 3:3 draws in 2013. There is a sense though with these rosters that the guys in the kits are ‘visiting.’ In a real sense, that is because they are. Only on a rare occasion does a PDL club get more than a few players from the same town they play in. The rest are from around the state or country, or foreigners.
This should not be the case in the EPLWA, where local players or guys with strong local ties will be the featured stars. Sure, FC Three Rivers has already gotten a couple of commitments from Brazil, but they also are seeing lots of locals and regionals come back into the scene as the new team forms. We have yet to see what the NPSL rosters will look like, but both clubs that could enter (Renton and Inter United FC) have teams playing right now with local guys, many of them new US citizens from various local ethnic communities.
What’s really clear with all of the unknowns is that players in Washington will have more chances than ever in 2014 to elevate their games. It’s also clear that more than ever fans and supporters will have chances to support soccer just down the block.
Some Division One players will opt for the EPLWA over the PDL. Some local first-generation American players may opt for the NPSL over the EPLWA. It might be a matter of club locale more than league. Washington will find out just how many players are out there, and fans will be able to judge the quality of play for themselves.
Drawing fans at this level is always a challenge. Last year Bellingham United (1,000) was Washington’s top-drawing men’s amateur side. Kitsap Pumas were second (610) and Sounders U-23′s were third (540.) There is hope that a few EPLWA clubs can eventually approach Bellingham numbers. The NPSL clubs will be hard-pressed to get close to these tallies.
Is there any direct ‘competition’ for fan ‘soccer dollars?’ In Bremerton the Pumas will play their season at the same time that WestSound FC’s Men debut in the EPLWA. Their stadiums are about three blocks apart. There will be some kind of effort to not schedule on the same nights. WestSound and the Pumas have different models and player recruiting formulas. The two could actually enhance each other at some point.
In Tacoma / South Sound the Sounders U-23′s and South Sound Shock will be neighbors. They are already friends, and it’s possible they might even schedule an EPLWA / PDL match day doubleheader.
In most other communities the various clubs will have territory to themselves.
A person (other than me) involved with establishing the Evergreen Premier League was asked about the arrival of the NPSL so soon after the EPLWA’s initial push. “Our leagues are apples and oranges,” he said.
Seeing as how Washington is known for a certain fruit crop, I replied back, “Well, the Evergreen Premier League had better be the apples.”
Projected 2014 Men’s elite amateur / semi-pro clubs and leagues in Washington
Premier Development League
Issaquah / SeaWolves
Evergreen Premier League
Bellingham United FC
FC Three Rivers Tri-Cities
Seattle Stars FC
South Sound FC
Spokane SC Shadow
Vancouver Victory FC
Wenatchee United FC
National Premier Soccer League
Renton (yet to be named)
Inter United FC (to play in north or south Seattle)