Soccer’s popularity continues to grow in the greater Seattle area, and around Washington state.
Look no further than the recent addition of Seattle’s own Major League Soccer team — the Sounders FC. The city has also gained consideration to host matches for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.
But don’t think the sport is done growing yet.
Starting in May, area soccer fans will have an opportunity to watch some of the world’s most elite female players compete when the Seattle Synergy kicks off its inaugural season. The team will compete in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, and will be headed by Issaquah’s own Jay Jones.
“There’s just a huge buzz, it’s great, it’s incredible,” said Jones, who has resided in Issaquah the last 10 years.
The WPSL launched in 1998 after a failed attempt by another organization. Since then, the league has grown like wildfire. The Synergy was the 54th team added to the league, which spans coast to coast. Seattle will compete in the Pacific North Division with the Sacramento Pride, Portland Rain FC, Monterrey Blues, San Francisco Nighthawks, Sonoma County FC Sol and California Storm.
Jones said the idea of starting a WPSL team was launched a few years ago by a private company with international ties. The corporation noticed a high number of successful collegiate programs in Washington and wanted a piece of the action. They finally came up with the funds, and the rest is history.
“It’s just a huge pocket of great talent in this area,” Jones said.
After a series of tryouts, the Synergy recently formed a 25-woman roster, which includes Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA college players from around the state.
“We’ve got kids coming from Olympia, Gig Harbor, Bellingham, Spokane, Cheney, Pullman, Ellensburg, Tri Cities,” Jones said. “They’re all piling over for trainings here twice a week.”
There are currently two high school players on the team, including Issaquah High junior Lindsay Stoll. Lauren Munechika, who graduated in 2007 from Issaquah and plays at Seattle University, is also on the team.
Bringing so many players together so quickly, including some rivals at the collegiate level, Jones said it could be an interesting first year.
“We’ve got four or five schools that potentially are rivals with each other,” he said. “To get them all groomed, to get all them happy, to get them all playing together and to get them competitive is our goal.”
The Synergy is a fully amateur squad, meaning the players do not make money. Certain teams around the league have opted to have professional players, and some are made up of only high school athletes. Jones, who is also the general manager, said the Synergy maintains amateur status to avoid NCAA violations with the college players.
The WPSL is ranked just below Women’s Professional Soccer, which is the female equivalent of the MLS for men. The 10-team WPS drafted 29 of its 40 first-round picks from the WPSL in the last draft.
“The ones who want to get paid professionally and do this for a living, this is a stepping stone for them,” Jones said.
The Synergy will play home games at the Starfire Complex in Tukwila. Admission to games will be $8 for adults and $6 for children.
“We’re going to be at Starfire and the capacity is like 4,000, so we’re hoping to get as full as we possibly can,” Jones said.
Jones, who has coached at various levels around the state for the last 15 years, said he can’t wait to get things going.
“It’s incredible, it’s been like winning the coaching lottery,” he said. “It’s just overwhelming. It’s been a lot of work, but man is it exciting.”
The Synergy is scheduled to begin their regular season at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 30 at home against the California Storm. For a complete look at the schedule go to www.seattlesynergyfc.com/.