FC Wichita’s season ended on Saturday night in dramatic fashion. A match that saw FC Wichita out shoot and pass it’s opponent, went to penalty kicks and eventually ousted FC Wichita from the 2018 National Premier Soccer League playoffs.
Wichita players and coaches had come into the 2018 season with expectations of competing for a national championship. First, win the heartland conference shield for the third time in four years. Second, win the conference tournament. Finally, advance through the regional week and into the national finals.
Early in the year it seemed those goals were not so steep. FC Wichita made history in the Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup, beating professional teams, and carrying that momentum into the heartland conference regular season with a 7-0-0. During this stretch Wichita soccer was on full display for the entire country to see, and the heartland conference shield stayed right where it belonged.
Winning against the Tulsa Roughnecks FC was a significant moment in 2018 that gained national media attention. The team played down a man for nearly the entire second half, and trailed three times throughout the match, until numerous late game heroics took Tulsa by storm. The club was identified by U.S Soccer as “Wichita showing they belong”, and also earned coverage on major news outlets such as ESPN and NBC Sports, after Franck Tayou scored from no mans land in the 92′, and secured the “#cupset.” The result was Wichita’s first ever victory over a (USL) United Soccer League opponent. FC Wichita had been close the previous year, taking St. Louis FC to extra time in 2017 open cup before losing 3-4.
“When the club began play in 2015 we set ambitious short and long term goals that would position us to show Wichita we deserve the opportunity to have professional outdoor soccer here,” said CEO Blake Shumaker. “We knew it would require success on the pitch, so we built the team to get wins. We preached the importance of early success as we signed players and set the expectations. Our staff and players were able to knock down the door to many of our 10 year goals in the first 4 seasons. There is a lot of people I need to thank for that mindset.”
Now the club finds itself squarely where it hoped to be, at the doorstep of introducing professional soccer in Wichita. Shumaker believes it is time to add local investors and increase marketing to non-soccer fans in the Wichita metro. “We know it’s time to take the next step, we just want to make sure it’s done correctly.” says Shumaker. “All our focus has been on proving we can compete, and gaining that national media exposure. Now we need to get into the community, market to all the potential fans, inspire our youth players, and just focus on impacting the growth of Wichita’s future leaders.”
Overall it has been a tremendous season. A season that has now seen players moved to a higher level with Franck Tayou, James Togbah, and Uzi Tayou all reporting to USL teams. Meanwhile, midfielder Nelson Landaverde is receiving media attention about the potential of him joining El Salvador’s national team training camps, making him the second FC Wichita player to be invited into another countries first team. Goalkeeper, Mauricio Vargas, also achieved this with a return to Costa Rica when he departed from FC Wichita in January 2017.