On The Runway In The Air Capital
FC Wichita is on the Runway and set for takeoff
Today, after 5 years of competition and the last 10 months of evaluation, FC Wichita has announced an exciting and comprehensive plan to take the City of Wichita into the next decade of Wichita soccer.
The previous decade saw incredible growth to the local soccer scene behind the establishment of FC Wichita in 2013. The club played it's first season in the National Premier Soccer league ("NPSL") in 2015, and quickly emerged as a national contender. Back-to-back championship winning seasons brought Wichita it's first U.S. Open Cup team in the tournaments 100+ year history. The club would qualify three straight times, making it easy for city council members to push for world class facility, and the allocation of State Star Bond funding. Wichita had arrived, and built it's soccer infrastructure at Stryker Sports Complex.
So, what do the twenty-twenties have in store? Club CEO Blake Shumaker believes men's and women's professional outdoor, youth academy teams operating in the countries top leagues, and year round college ID program is achievable with unity among the local soccer scene.
"We've put a lot of resources into FC Wichita over the years, but never have we got as close as we are today," said Shumaker. "We're excited to announce that outside investment has helped us understand our full potential and grounded the company ethically. We first want to unite behind the ideas of providing family entertainment, health and wellness, and ofcourse economic growth to our community. One of the key factors will be a commitment to helping homegrown players reach their dreams of becoming collegiate and professional soccer players."
FC Wichita Head Coach and Technical Director Bryan Perez believes that unity is what will allow opportunities for soccer fans to expand the game. "Wichita is ready for 5 months of professional outdoor soccer, it's what brought me back here after 8 years away. While we work on the final touches for the next level, we need to let our young players show us what they can do," says Perez. "Ownership has approved new investment which will give us the opportunity to allow our u18's and u19's boys (high school ages) to compete with teams from leagues such as the NPSL. The first example of this is March 14th when we host the Tulsa Athletic ahead of their U.S. Open Cup match."
Much like the boys, there is also new opportunity for girls players. With the youth academy announcing membership into the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) Regional League the pathway to the FC Wichita Women's team is set and we expect an elevated atmosphere for local high school age females. Perez says that females with birth years 2002 through 2006 will become the immediate future of Wichita women's soccer beginning next summer. Players will be selected into a training program that simulates a professional environment by training 3-4 days per week and playing games against professional and pro-am teams.
"It's not just important because we can take much of the cost out of this stage of their development, it's also contingent on having a few years with these specific group of players before they go to college," said Perez. "That is how we can get real culture change here, and we will obviously be able to get them unprecedented college ID and bolster their resume. In return we expect they will always arrive with pride and begin laying the foundation for the future of all female soccer in Wichita."
Throughout 2019 the National Premier Soccer League ("NPSL") announced their intent to launch a new platform, the NPSL Pro. By September of 2019 It had become clear that professional sanctioning was not obtainable for the NPSL under its current structure. NPSL has been known for operating largely in the summer months, and with over 90% of it's teams claiming amateur status. That has allowed the league to become one of the premier development platforms for the aspiring professional player.
Although the league is continuing to look into the possibility of an extended season, it is unclear how many of it's remaining teams will be ready to take that next step. Now Iconic brands such the New York Cosmos, Chattanooga FC, and Detroit City, have departed for a new professional league called NISA, which is currently operating in the third tier of United States professional outdoor soccer. NISA currently shares DIII sanctioning with the USL League 1. FC Wichita investors believe that both leagues are a viable option for expansion in Wichita.
Meanwhile, FC Wichita will use it's U20's to compete in the Heartland Super Cup during the summer of 2020, allowing the opportunity to identify players who are ready for the next level. More information on NPSL league plans are set to be released by June 2020.