BREMERTON, WA— Kitsap Soccer Club recently declared their amateur status, ending 8 seasons in which they paid players to perform on their side. It was just latest of big announcements from the Bremerton outfit. Earlier they revealed they had left the PDL and joined the NPSL. The name “Pumas” is officially taking a break in 2017 in a parting agreement with the PDL.
The amateur declaration will mean a completely new direction for KSC. No longer will they be tracking, chasing, and recruiting players who are out of college and looking for a pro stipend. Instead, in a new league and with an adjusted crest and name, Kitsap will look for college enrolled talent to compete. KSC Goalkeeper Coach Liviu Bird played his college ball at Seattle Pacific University. No doubt he’ll be of help as Head Coach Cammy MacDonald and staff continue building connections to a new player pipeline.
Video: A look back at 2016 Kitsap Open Tryouts
So many recent moves for Kitsap, but Bird sees the amateur declaration as one of the biggest. “Really, the move from professional to amateur will be a much bigger change for the way we operate on a daily basis (than the league switch),” Bird tells goalWA.net. “The decision (to go amateur) wasn’t connected with the move to the NPSL per se, but it opens up our player pool almost infinitely. Instead of looking for a very specific kind of player who is under age 23 but already out of college and also within our range in terms of what we could pay and the level of play, now we’ll be able to sign players currently in college and be able to sign them without them risking their eligibility.”
In recent years the Pumas have seen the rise of the USL, a 3rd tier pro league. Bird says it was becoming more difficult for Kitsap to find talent the way they used to. The amateur switch no longer puts Kitsap in competition with those clubs for talent. College-eligible players can’t be paid. “The reality of American professional soccer is, especially without any hope for promotion by winning the league, the pool of players for lower-level teams like us is a lot smaller. USL keeps expanding, making it so that those players we used to find who slipped through the cracks aren’t slipping through anymore. We expect that this move, more than the change of leagues, will make it easier for us to find the right players.”
Completely new roster in 2017 possible
The guys the Pumas and their fans have grown to love over recent seasons will likely all be gone as the side moves into a new amateur era in the NPSL.
“Yes, it will be almost an entirely different roster,” Bird concludes, “if for no other reason than because we’re not going to be paying our players now. A number of the 2016 players will undoubtedly receive offers from higher-level teams. I know of a couple who are going on trial or have been on trial already this offseason.”
This is life in lower-level adult soccer, Bird says. “Pretty much every year, I expect a big turnover because of the nature of the league and the fourth division. We start from scratch every offseason—we currently have zero players under contract—and build up from there. Players don’t receive preference just because they played with us before. Everybody has to compete for a spot, and we’re looking forward to tryouts in January and March to see who we might be able to find, especially now that we can sign current college players.”
Coming up in a few days on goalWA.net: Kitsap Soccer Club at the NPSL Meetings, and a look ahead to competing in the NPSL.