On and Off The Pitch – Supporting The Community with SPAM FC
Amid the vast number of clubs making it happen in the Minnesota Amateur Soccer League (MASL), a club with a simple name and a powerful message is changing its community on and off the pitch. SPAM FC’s origins are scattered across years of life in soccer, from the youth level in the late ‘90s to the promotion/relegation landscape of the modern MASL.
“SPAM FC dates back to 1998, when we were just nine and ten-year-old boys… Many of us grew up playing youth soccer for a team called Spam. After our college careers, we wanted to revive our childhood friends and Spam… In 2011, we started SPAM FC and competed in the Minnesota Amateur Soccer League in Division 4.”
The name, though quite straightforward, is an eye catching one. The club explained that the origins of its moniker are quite simply an inspiration from their youth. “Spam was our youth team that most of us played on… in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Although we were a community-based team, we became very competitive, playing at the premier level for club and competing for several state titles in high school.”
While it started in the MASL’s Division 4, the club’s first team is now a mainstay in the first division, a place earned on the pitch. Its success helped inspire the group to look beyond the actual game for ways to help people. “[We] started at the lowest level, we shot our way up to the first division in four years. Along the way, we wanted to develop a soccer platform to make a positive impact in the community, which led to the start of SPAM FC Scholarship Foundation in 2014.”
That scholarship, officially titled as the SPAM FC Scholarship Foundation, is perhaps the club’s greatest impact on its community. “SPAM FC and the SPAM FC Scholarship Foundation exists in parallel… The Foundation is our way to give back to the community because our soccer community gave us so much when we were growing up.” The focus of the foundation is to raise money to help students who have experience playing soccer to help them pay for post-secondary education. The scholarship has helped twenty students since 2014, with ten students benefiting from the latest scholarship in 2017. In the last three iterations of the scholarship, the number of students that received funds has roughly doubled every year.
A key provider for the scholarship is a tournament held by the club which uses admission fees to raise money. “SPAM FC Scholarship Tournament is one of four major fundraisers that we have annually. The tournament is a one-day, 6v6, coed, pickup-style tournament in mid-June. We average about 8 teams per year. The entry fee is $200 and players get free food and a tournament t-shirt. During that event, we raise between $2500 - $3500 with additional donations. All the proceeds go to the SPAM FC Scholarship Foundation.”
While the tournament provides the most action-packed source of funds for the scholarship, many other methods are utilized by the club to be able to provide support to a growing number of students. “In addition to the tournament, we host an annual SPAM FC Banquet in January, a GoFundMe campaign, a profit-sharing event with Steel Toe Brewery, and participate in the Minnesota Give to the Max Day in mid-November.”
Further information on its charitable activities can be found on the club’s website, spamfc.com.
Following its growing infrastructure, SPAM FC started a second team, called SPAM FC 09, which currently plays in the MASL’s Division 4. The expansion provided more opportunities for players but also added to the list of tasks and challenges laying before the club. “The benefit is that our club continues to grow. Having two teams is tough to manage. We are volunteers that have full time jobs, run a non-profit, and manage a growing football club… There are good days, there are bad days, but most days are incredible… we get to grow the game of soccer with the people we care for and support young people as they pursue higher education.”
Its foundation and fundraisers are a reflection of one of the key principles at the core of the club, a sense that the sport is an opportunity to unite support. “When we were growing up our team comprised of kids that came from upper middle class, middle class, low-income housing, and new immigrants. At a young age we discovered soccer, which became our common denominator… We had parents that are executives and parents that worked 3 or 4 jobs to ensure there's enough food on the table so that their kids would have the best opportunity to do their best in school.”
The spirit of unity is not in itself a unique trait in lower league soccer, or soccer in general, but it is the way that SPAM FC talks the talk and walks the walk that perhaps sets it apart from many of its fellow lower league sides. With a charitable infrastructure and series of ambitions that rivals those of foundations that don’t have to run a soccer club, SPAM FC may very well become a well-known figure in the Twin Cities community beyond the borders of soccer. “As we continue to grow, we hope to continue to carry on that legacy of uniting people from different walks of life and offer a helping hand for young ambitious people to grow.”
SPAM FC finished in sixth place, out of ten, in the MASL’s Division 1 with a record of 6-3-9 while SPAM FC 09 finished eighth out of seventeen in the Division 4 with a record of 7-2-7. 2019 will hold another year of big goals and big action from the club, which is far from the end of its journey. “We get to play the game we love with the people we love and we get to help others. We can't ask for more. It's beautiful; SPAM FC, it's a lifestyle.”