FC Wichita was created during the summer of 2013 as a community investment group with the goal of improving local soccer. A passionate fan base with heavy youth participation made the decision to push forward and give Wichita a team easy on us.
On April 30, 2014, FC Wichita officially became a member of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and began its path towards the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Although the club has lofty dreams of making a deep run in the Cup, team officials make it clear the primary job is that of a “caretaker” for Wichita soccer.
National Premier Soccer League: Over 80 teams across the country
“We wish to build the game in our community to new levels by inspiring youth players and dedicating time to future health and wellness campaigns for the entire city,” said Blake Shumaker, FC Wichita CEO. “By bringing a high level of outdoor soccer to Wichita through a premier summer league, we believe we’ll not only attract future professional prospects, but also give the local player an opportunity to showcase their talents. Our coaching contacts will be able to help youth players with college placement and recruitment to get to that next level.”
The club opened offices in June 2014 and hired head coach Larry Inlow shortly thereafter. Inlow quickly built a professional staff with former pro players and coaches, including Sammy Lane, Jamie Harding and Brent Hobson.
In October 2014 FC Wichita held it’s first tryout in club history bringing out nearly 120 local players. Over the next three months 250 players were looked at through either tryout or trial. Thirty players were invited into winter training at the team’s training facility. In December, Northwest Wichita High alum Nic Cramer was signed as the club’s first player. Players from 12 different countries, including 5 additional local talents, joined soon after to fill FC Wichita’s inaugural senior squad.
MORE THAN A LOGO: Learn about FC Wichita’s crest
Winter in the midwest offered limited training opportunities which led to the club acquiring the 360 Sports indoor facility in January ’15. The facility, located near the AYSO fields in west Wichita, allows the organization to provide a consistent training regimen, in addition to hosting sports camps and clinics. In completion, the facility will serve as the home office with a team locker room, as well as an on-site treatment and physical therapy center for players.
“The acquisition of the 360 facility is thrilling for us as a team, but what we’re really excited about is offering a secure place for the community’s youth players to develop,” said Shumaker. “It gives our players a comfortable, top-notch facility to develop their skills, while offering essential amenities they wouldn’t have access to elsewhere.”
Just two months after acquiring a training facility and HQ, FC Wichita announced a partnership with the City of Wichita to host all competitions at Stryker Soccer Complex. Matches are played on the “Tommy Peckham Championship Field” which currently provides over 2,000 general admission seats. Additional supporters sections were brought in, along with field side tables to accommodate increasing attendance.
HOME SWEET HOME: Stryker Soccer Complex
FC Wichita had their first taste of competition on May 15, 2015. The home opener vs Joplin was not the dream start any club envisions, but the 1-0 loss was no early indication of how the season would unfold. An innovative coaching staff unified and motivated the young team to bring Wichita its first soccer championship at a higher level.
“From the very first training session the team had we spoke about this club’s history and how we were literally building it everyday. We discussed how this team would be the one to set the bar for seasons to come, and the squad did not disappoint. There are so many people that deserve a great big thank you for all the blood, sweat, and tears they put in to making everyday operations happen, in addition to the players.” – Inlow
FC Wichita clinched the 2015 NPSL South Central Conference Championship with a final record of 11-3 and outscored the competition more than 3 to 1. An offense spearheaded by team point-leader and MVP Matt Clare averaged 2.5 goals per game (3rd in Conference). The Conference’s best defense, anchored by GK Mau Vargas and Veteran Kevin Ten Eyck, conceded an average of only 0.79 goals per game ranking 3rd in the Region and 6th in the country. The cohesive and disciplined team was the only club in the Conference (and 1 of only 9 teams across the 70-team league) to not see a single red card the entire season.
Many factors contributed to the championship run, but the catalyst was a seven game win-streak over the course of a month (6/9-7/10) that included victories against the defending Conference Champions (Tulsa Athletics) and a double over this year’s title challengers (Corinthians FC SA). The season concluded as Wichita was eliminated from the South Region Finals by Myrtle Beach in a tough 3-1 loss in South Carolina.
The season wasn’t short of emotion and memorable moments: the heartbreaking 1-0 loss in the home opener; the dramatic 2-1 Father’s Day victory thanks to a Clare penalty just moments before the final whistle; the convincing 4-0 win over the then-undefeated CFCSA; and the cheeky punt from Kevin Ten Eyck to help win the Conference in front of a sold-out home crowd in the season’s final home game.
TROPHY CABINET: NPSL Goal of the Year, NPSL 1st-Team, and more
“Our NPSL debut has been amazing for both players and staff. We faced new challenges everyday which only strengthened our relationship with the community. The support we’ve received is the kind that makes you proud, and inspires you to continue growing and investing in Wichita’s athletes and families.” – Shumaker
The club’s first-year success was underscored with an at-large berth in the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Featuring in the 103rd edition of the oldest soccer competition in the US achieves an early goal set by the organization.
“To simply sum things up, we’re very happy with the season and ecstatic about the future. We have already begun working on next season to make it bigger and better. I’m excited for the opportunity to move forward with this team, this community, and this city.” – Inlow
A managerial shift in October saw Coach Inlow take on an advanced role in the organization as the Director of Soccer Operations. This made way for John Markey to be selected as the team’s new head coach.
Born in Myrtle Beach, SC and raised in Birmingham, AL, Markey started his soccer career at age 4, and was coaching youth teams by age 17. John comes from Bethany College and holds a US Soccer National “A” coaching license.
“I was coaching a U10 girls team while I was playing for the U18 boys team.” Markey said. “I have to credit my father for teaching me how to look at the game like a coach at such a young age. He allowed me to help with the top teams he would coach and paid for me to get my coaching licenses at a young age.”
2016 began with the club announcing the launch of their youth academy program in January. Overseen by Jamie Harding and other senior club directors, the academy was set in place to foster the growth and development of local youth players and prepare them for the collegiate and professional level by providing the same resources available to the senior squad.
“We have a lot of quality players here. Wichita tends to be losing these players to other areas in the region because of academies affiliated with bigger clubs. By establishing a similar structure, we can keep these players here and compete with these big name teams in the surrounding areas.” – Jamie Harding, Director of Coaching.
BUILDING A CLUB: FC Wichita Academy
The team held tryouts for the 2016 season in March and recruited a strong squad of 33 senior players from 15 different countries with a range of experience. The NPSL season kicked-off in May with a win on the road to Little Rock’s new club (Rangers). Despite a good showing, the club’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup debut saw the home side eliminated from the competition in the first round against an experienced Des Moines Menace. Carlos Contreras etched his name in the books as the first ever player to score for Wichita in the 103 year old tournament.