The love of the beautiful game grows stronger every year in the Bay Area and 2015 was an eventful year for our local soccer community. Here are just some of the highlights.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES GET A NEW HOME
Following a soft-opening against arch-rival, LA Galaxy in February, the Quakes officially christened Avaya Stadium with a 2-1 victory over Chicago Fire in their home opener before a capacity crowd of 18,000.
Quakes fans raved about the great sightlines, fantastic atmosphere, and the LOBINA (Largest Outdoor Bar in North America).
STANFORD MEN WIN NCAA TITLE
Led by U.S. national team forward Jordan Morris who scored twice, Stanford won its first NCAA title in men’s soccer with a 4-0 win over Clemson.
Morris scored his first 87 seconds into the match with Corey Baird and Eric Verso helping set up the goal, and then Stanford would go up 2-0 in the 51st minute when Morris scored again. 20 minutes later, Brandon Vincent converted a penalty to make it 3-0. Verso who was involved in Morris’ first goal, scored his own in the 74th minute.
BAY AREA HOSTS NUMEROUS INTERNATIONAL MATCHES
The International Champions Cup returned to the Bay Area with a marquee match-up between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC in front of a sold-out crowd of 68,416 at Levi’s Stadium. This followed San Jose Earthquakes hosting Club América and Manchester United at two sold-out Avaya Stadium matches.
Levi’s also hosted a Mexico v Chile friendly in August while the U.S. Women’s National Team opened a three-game Send-Off Series against the Republic of Ireland at Avaya Stadium, prior to their World Cup winning campaign. The fierce rivalry of Liga MX teams, Club Deportivo Guadalajara and Club Atlas was also visible at Avaya last July.
2016 promises more of the same as two more Liga MX clubs, Monarcas de Morelia and Xolos de Tijuana are playing at Avaya next week, and Levi’s is one of 10 United States host sites for the Copa America Centenario in June.
SAN FRANCISCO GETS A NEW SOCCER TEAM, OR TWO?
This year saw the launch of San Francisco City Football Club, a supporter-owned soccer team, initially playing in the U.S. Club Soccer NorCal Premier League. They quickly developed a rabid group of supporters, dubbed “The Northsiders” and became the first local team to qualify for the U.S. Open Cup since 2007’s California Victory.
City FC has already begun their qualification quest for 2016’s U.S. Open Cup and will play next year in the USL’s Premier Development League.
Meanwhile, a group largely shrouded in mystery announced their goal of bringing a professional soccer team to the Bay Area. Represented by Ricardo Stanford-Geromel a former partner in the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the group launched both a prank web page for Foggers United Association Football Club as well as a legitimate one at BayAreaProSoccer. Sources say the group is committed to fielding a local NASL team by 2017.
RENOVATED BEACH CHALET SOCCER FIELDS REOPEN
December saw the reopening of the new Beach Chalet Soccer Fields in Golden Gate Park. A massive renovation saw the installation of four new synthetic fields, lighting for night games, and improvement of parking, restrooms, and spectator areas. While concerns remain about the recycled tire crumbs used in the manufacture of the turf fields, the end result of the work done is spectacular.
SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC EYE MLS AND NEW STADIUM
In their two shorts years of existence, the Sacramento Republic FC has won the United Soccer League title and broken league attendance records. But they’ve got their sights sent on joining Major League Soccer. The team believes they are “Built For MLS”, and if the league selects Sacramento for expansion, the Republic will build a new 25,000-seat stadium, north of downtown. The Sacramento City Council has already approved the stadium plan.
BURLINGAME DRAGONS WIN DIVISION IN FIRST SEASON
San Jose Earthquakes affiliate Burlingame Dragons FC of the Premier Development League won the Southwest Division in their inaugural season, and made it to the conference semi-finals. In preparation for the 2016 season, the Dragons hired a new head coach, president, and general manager.
LOCAL SOCCER NON-PROFITS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
2015 saw San Francisco host the Street Soccer USA National Cup for the second year running. A multi-day event in Civic Center Plaza saw tournament play featuring program participants from the organizations 22 chapters, as well as company and individually sponsored team. The organization’s I Play For SF recreational league funds the Bay Area chapter’s mission of improving the futures of at-risk youth and young adults.
The end of the year hit a sour note for America SCORES Bay Area when their offices were burgled two weeks ago. But it was merely a small blemish on an otherwise exemplary year for the SCORES program, which uses a combination of soccer, poetry, and service-learning in their work with low-income city kids.
The organization held a multitude of events in 2015, such as their 5th Annual Legacy Awards, public World Cup viewings in Civic Center Plaza, a lunch with former USA goalkeeper, Brianna Scurry, and the opening of a new field at Marshall Elementary School in the Mission.
The field was the latest in SCORES’ Field of Dreams Initiative, which aims to put turf soccer fields in 18 San Francisco schools, which currently have only asphalt surfaces for students to play on.
Over in the Oakland, Soccer Without Borders continues it’s almost decade-old mission of helping recent immigrants assimilate, through soccer and educational support.
More than 200 children and teenagers take part in the East Bay’s football project every week. 95% of the program’s Oakland participants graduate high school, a rate that is 35% higher than the Oakland average.
The organization has programs in multiple U.S. cities, as well as Uganda and Nicaragua, and has reached over 10,000 young people. In 2016, Oakland will launch three new teams and a league at the newly finished Oakland International High School field.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016
There’s a lot for Bay Area soccer fans to look forward to in 2016, including Copa America matches at Levi’s, the Quakes hosting the MLS All-Star Game and much more, and FootySF will be there to make sure you know all about it.