Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
Oklahoma City breaks into the ranks of professional soccer with the formation of the OKC Energy FC.
“I think that it is absolutely amazing for OKC to get the opportunity to support a soccer team of this caliber,” OKC Energy promoter Catie Scott said. “Our town is ready for it. We have the supporters, the resources and the excitement to get the USL pro team and help them transition into an MLS squad. I [think] this will bring commerce and a new life to the already booming economy of OKC.”
The new semi-pro United Soccer League (USL) team will hold open tryouts on Feb. 15 and 16 at the local Southlake’s Soccer Arena for a fee of $125.
The team is also holding open tryouts in Kansas City at the Sporting Kansas training grounds Feb. 28 to March 1. The cost to tryout in Kansas is $75 before Feb. 14. Registration will increase to $125 after, and there will be no refunds available.
“The open tryouts are to be held in Oklahoma and Kansas,” Scott said. “There are four spots reserved for Oklahoma players, which is awesome because a lot of small towns never get the chance to try out for a high-level soccer team.”
Several Oklahoma Christian students expressed excitement more for the team’s arrival than for the open tryout.
“My friend, Bo Erwin, told me about open tryouts the other day,” freshman Alex Harlow said. “I jokingly said we should go. But the truth is I’m nowhere near the level of talent needed to play for a pro-soccer team. Also I think that the real talent of the team will not be found in an open tryout.”
Energy FC is the farm team of Sporting Kansas City, their Major League Soccer (MLS) affiliate. The OKC Energy has announced their head coach will be former Kansas City goalie and 2013 MLS champion Jimmy Nielson. The team also signed their first player, Michael Thomas. Thomas already has a history with Coach Nielson, having played together previously in Kansas.
“Energy has already signed their first player,” Scott said last week. “If the rest of the team is as skilled as he is then I think this is going to be an amazing opening season.”
As of Tuesday, the Energy also signed Cyprian Hedrick, Kyle Miller and Nate Shiffman to the roster.
The OKC Energy is set to have their opening game on April 26against defending champion Orange County Soccer Club. Tickets start as low as $9. All of the Energy FC games will be held at the Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Oklahoma City. Prodigal, the OKC Energy’s owner, has put a great deal of money and effort into renovating the Bishop McGuinness stadium in preparation for the soccer team’s debut.
“Prodigal is putting a lot of money into retro-fitting the stadium,” Scott said. “ They are going to play there this season and possibly next season until we can build our own stadium that can fit the MLS minimum of 20,000 people.”
The OKC Energy is not the only team coming to Oklahoma. Another USL team is set to form in 2015, based in Tulsa, Okla.
“The two soccer teams are already forming a competition soon to be known as ‘The Turnpike Rivalry,’” Scott said. “I’m hoping that it is going to be the bedlam of soccer.”
Although the opening game is still months away, the OKC Energy is already starting to build a fan base with merchandise and ticket sales.
“Growing up with a father that is from England, you soon realize that soccer is the No. 1 sport in the world,” Harlow said. “So I’ve been watching and breathing soccer for almost my whole life, but the problem was I could never watch my favorite teams in person. So I’m extremely excited to see a professional soccer team that I can watch and cheer for in person.”
Harlow isn’t the only student who is anticipating the Energy’s debut.
“I love going to soccer games because everyone in the crowd is so supportive,” senior Addie Jackson said. “I’m excited to get to watch such high-level athletes play.”
This league offers many opportunities to not only the players, but the city as well. The USL league often works as a springboard for aspiring MLS players looking to further their career. It also offers the chance for the league to expand itself. Five of the last six USL leagues have expanded into MLS’s top professional divisions.
Those wishing to participate in the Energy’s open tryouts can register online at EnergyFC.com. Participants should be aware that after Feb. 7 the price to tryout increases to $200 and that no refunds will be available.