The State of Soccer: Oregon Part 3
Soccer is the most-participated youth sport in Oregon; in addition to the normal parks and rec leagues, there are, of course the pay-to-play youth soccer clubs—but born from those youth organizations are players and coaches who want to provide an opportunity to play soccer at a competitive level for those who are no longer in a position to participate in youth leagues. These squads are popping up all over Oregon, some join national leagues like NPSL or UPSL, while others stay in regional leagues like the GPSD (Greater Portland Soccer District). Recently, FCM Portland, of the NPSL, qualified for the first round of the US Open Cup while IPS FC, previously of the OPSL (Oregon Premier Soccer League) and now in the GPSD, nearly earned their way into the USOC’s first round, by winning multiple times in the qualifying rounds.
There are very strong squads in Oregon’s grassroots ranks, largely consisting of players from the Pacific Northwest; whether born here or transplanted as college students. Nearly all of the players on PDX FC’s side are made up from student-athletes from Universities all over Oregon and Washington. The coaches and owners of all of these sides have, for the most part, gone through the same experiences and are now dedicating their time to helping along soccer players from all walks of life pursue their passion of playing the sport a high caliber. An Oregonian sports institution, Oregon SportsBeat wants to provide opportunity as well and have created the Oregon Open Cup. In its inaugural year, the Cup has drawn together four teams who represent Oregonian grassroots soccer and pitted them against one another in a single-elimination tournament. To get the whole picture, we reached out to Ryan Johnson, the organizer of the Cup and voice of Oregon SportsBeat.
How long has Oregon Sports Beat been covering local soccer? What else do you cover and what is your organization's mission?
SportsBeat started in 2012 as cable TV show in Portland. I hosted, and my guests were coaches from local sports programs. Harvey Hurst, who was the coach for my IPS over-30 team, was the first guest on the TV show. We started streaming all sports, including soccer, in 2014. We now cover select high school soccer programs and men's amateur teams. SportsBeat's mission is to promote local teams and players.
This is the inaugural Cup; when did you first think about putting together an Oregon Open Cup? What was the motivation?
The inspiration for this tournament format came from the 2012 US Open Cup, when a semi-pro side Cal FC went through a number of professional teams as they advanced in that year's tournament. I saw their game against the Portland Timbers, and remember being very impressed with how passionately they played. I decided to start the tournament this year because I blew out my knee the first game of the spring season, which abruptly ended my playing career. Since then I've had extra time on my hands, and when I put out the idea in front of a few knowledgeable people, they got behind it right away. I knew with the right team in place we could make it happen.
How did you decide on the number of teams involved and what's in it for them to participate? Are there any additional sponsors contributing? Is there a physical cup or trophy?
It started out as an idea to play just 1 game this year- featuring 2 top finishers in local leagues- and grow the tournament in year 2. But as the idea spread it was clear we could make a high-quality field of four teams. The focus this year has been getting high quality teams into the tournament who would be available on relatively short notice, as planning for this year's tournament didn't start until mid-June when the rest of my spring sports were finished. The last tournament of this kind was called the Johnston Cup, which ended in 1989.
PDX FC, FCM Portland, IPS FC, and TFA Willamette U23s... what would it take to add Starphire from Southern Oregon, Lane United from Eugene, Farewell FC from Bend, etc... next year? It makes the tournament longer, but does that come with more organizational issues?
There are plans to expand the tournament next year. There will likely be qualifying to get into the final eight, and yes of course Starphire, Lane, Farewell and whoever else is welcome to try and qualify, if they are not already an automatic qualifier. It costs $500 to get in the tournament, and there is a cash prize for the winner. The prize amount is modest this year but will grow as the tournament develops.
Where are the matches? What does it cost to get in and do you need any volunteers? If folks can't get there, how can they watch the match; will it be streamed? And if we miss it, can we catch it later in the weekend?
We aim to have all games take place on soccer specific, high-quality grass fields. We aren't able to always get this, but that will continue to be a goal. All games will be streamed live on OregonSportsBeat.com, free to view live and on-demand.
Interest in women's soccer is at its peak right now, what would it take for Oregon Sports Beat to organize a similar women's amateur cup for Oregonian teams? Volunteers? Sponsors?
This tournament has an experienced team of people getting behind a good idea, and that's what’s pushing it forward. I'd love to see the women's side have the same opportunity.
- Joshua Duder