by David Falk (Editor, goalWA.net)
The Kitsap Pumas are history. After 10 seasons of play representing Bremerton and Kitsap County in semi-pro and later amateur soccer the club folded officially in late July. The press coverage went like this: goalWA.net / Kitsap Sun / Soccer America / Protagonist Soccer and the official club announcement: Kitsap Pumas.
Ten years of operation for a minor league soccer club in a navy town is something just short of a miracle. It lasted as long as it did thanks to the money of owner Robin Waite and his love of soccer and enjoyment running the Pumas. It always seemed like the club would last as long as Waite wanted to keep owning it, and no longer.
There is a natural instinct to find the “teaching moment” in events. What is there to learn from this? Is it a case of we now know what we already knew?
The Pumas are gone. The Washington men’s elite adult soccer scene has suffered a blow. But models are already in place and operating that can keep and are keeping soccer clubs in our communities.
We can look at the downfall of all but one of Washington’s (former PDL) USL 2 clubs and wring our hands in despair. Or, we can look at what has been happening as the national league, local club model is stumbling here.
The Evergreen Premier League featured 9 clubs in 2018 and the new Western Washington Premier League featured 7. The WWPL has already announced 3 new clubs this off season. So the scene is growing. It is alive. Just smaller in initial ambition, maybe more soccer focused, maybe smarter.
Right in Bremerton are the Oly-Pen Force. They are heading into their 5th outdoor season in 2019 in the Evergreen Premier League and nearly all of their players are from Washington. Many are from the Olympic Peninsula.
You can get some guys together, design a crest, pick a field, and put the name of your community on your chest. You can do it for love and at the pace of reality. A pace that agrees with your bank account. A pace that matches where semi-pro soccer really is in Washington: embryonic, underfunded, lacking sponsors, but full of fresh new faces, clubs and ideas. Ready to use social media to shout out its presence. We’ve got leagues for this kind of soccer passion.
The Pumas are gone. Long live the local clubs that are playing within their means and giving all of our local guys a chance to score one for the home town and save one for the neighborhood. Check out a match in 2019.
USL Championship: Sounders 2 (Tacoma)
USL 2: Sounders U23 (Sumner)
EPLWA: Bellingham United, Oly-Pen Force, Oly Town Artesians (Olympia), Seattle Stars, Spokane Shadow, Tri-Cities Alliance (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland), Vancouver Victory, Washington Premier (Puyallup), Yakima United
WWPL: Federal WA FC, Grays Harbor Gulls (Aberdeen), Harbor Soccer Club (Gig Harbor), Issaquah SC, Kirkland Goats, Lacey Pocket Gophers, Puget Sound FC (South Tacoma), Snohomish County Steelheads, Tacoma Narrows FC, Twin City Union (Centralia / Chehalis)