An Interview with our DOC/Executive Director, Alex Miranda
...Answers to practical questions our families have regarding US Club Leaguing and OPC

There’s a lot of interest around this new league – OPC. As the DOC, how did you make this decision?

First of all, this was a club decision. It was made collectively with the full participation of our Board of Directors and with feedback from our management team throughout every stage of the process.

 

What will be the biggest impact for NEOFC families?

One of the most attractive parts of this new USClub league is that schedules for the entire season will be done well in advance, with built in rain-out dates instead of teams having to schedule them on their own. Games will only be on weekends and this will directly help us achieve the guidelines for proper training-to-match ratio as outlined by USYS and US Soccer (2-4 training sessions per 1 match, depending on age; for players U11s and older). Match day is how players and coaches can measure the level of success in attaining the team’s training objectives for the week, month, and ultimately for the entire season. So, if the game-day is the “test”, then players must have a number of lesson days (training days), to receive relevant feedback and information needed to be prepared for the next test. This will also have a huge positive impact on families and their ability to plan; as there already is a full annual calendar in place for fall and spring (from August 2017- June 2018), and when a game gets rained out, families will know immediately when the rescheduled date will be by just looking at the next rain-out date on the calendar.

 

Will this change impact the number of games that teams get to play?

Another great aspect of this league is that it will guarantee two things: (1) all teams in each age group will play the same number of matches per season, and (2) each team will play a guaranteed minimum of eight games (but potentially more, as long as every team in the age group plays the same number!)

 

If you only have five clubs, how can you guarantee a certain number of games?

It’s not about the number of clubs, it’s about the number of teams that these clubs collectively have. During the planning process, we looked carefully at the current number of teams as well as their developmental levels. Not only will OPC be able to provide an equitable number of games but also the appropriate parity in these games – meaning good, solid matchups at every level. These games will also be meaningful because each game will have implications for the State, Regional, and National tournament seeding.

 

Many heard that from OSA that teams won’t get to play State Cup. This is obviously a big concern to members. How would you respond to this concern?

Every club in OPC has prior State Cup champions, so obviously a state tournament is very important. One thing we are very excited about is the set up of the USClub State tournament. Teams will be seeded based on standings and, through a double elimination system, they will have more opportunity to compete at both the State and Regional level.

 

Will the member clubs manage the league?

The administrative aspect of the league, such as schedules and logistics, will be handled by a well-established soccer event management company called Prime Time Sports. They’ve successfully run leagues like this throughout the country. However, decisions that are technical or strategic in nature will handled by the member clubs. Each club has a vote in these types of decisions.

 

Why was this major change done so quickly?

Well, actually, it wasn’t done quickly at all. The first planning sessions began in late summer, 2016. The league really grew as a result of the significant negative feedback that each club had gotten from coaches, members, and club administrators, over the course of the past 3 years. This feedback focused on scheduling issues, inappropriate travel, and very short seasons.  OPC had a calendar in place to release information in early May. All of the information had to be supported by the proper documentation. Also, it was important not release information too soon because with a change this big, everything has to be right. OPC wanted the new league announcement to not disrupt the current season also give families enough time to make decisions about USClub versus USYS for the coming season.

 

Can other clubs join the league?

OPC would welcome that. We are actively having these discussions with other clubs and there is an application online. One of our goals is that other clubs see the value that this new platform provides for players, coaches, referees, and families alike. We understand that bringing in new clubs might take some time, but that is just another reason why it was so important that we had a solid, airtight plan in place.

 

In terms of travel, many have heard that being in OPC will require even more travel. Is this true?

It’s quite the opposite. In fact, travel was one of the major considerations throughout the planning process. Whether for teams participating at the State level or Regional level, we wanted to ensure that we shortened the distances required. Anyone who has traveled three hours one way and three hours back for a 50-minute match knows the frustration! OPC schedules will be designed with exactly this issue in mind. For example, just looking at the NPL map, the farthest our regional teams will travel is Arkansas and North Texas. Whereas in the past, these teams had to travel to South Texas numerous times – sometimes to play Oklahoma teams! OPC has designed schedules so that this doesn’t happen. State-level teams will be prioritized regionally so that most travel is local. However, when teams are spread apart by distance, schedules will be set so that teams meet in a more centrally located space which can reduce travel by an hour or more each way.

 

Will this cost more?

No. Let me be clear: the overall cost to families was one of our primary concerns. For teams that participated in OCL, the costs will be about the same. For teams that participated in OPL or higher, the cost will be significantly less. Cost-Specific Information Linked Here 

 

Is this really about a merger with other clubs?

Absolutely not. Over the last four years, we’ve had a number of merger proposals and opportunities, but we have never seen one that aligns with the NEOFC vision. We have a strong club with a great complex, a professional coaching staff, and a united management team. This is what NEOFC is about: providing the best product for our members in our area. We see the growth in quality as always being more important than numerical growth or geographical growth. The goal is to build the strongest foundation possible with the resources we have, so our house can stand on its own.

 

There have been a lot of comments on many social media outlets, so I have to ask: are you leaving NEOFC?

I’m currently going on my fifth year in this organization, and I have a standing contract that expires in 2018. So, just like from my first day, I will continue to make collective decisions with our Board of Directors and management team, that represent and protect NEOFC’s interests and is in alignment with NEOFC’s vision.

 

Any other concerns you want to address?

A lot people have said this league is dividing soccer in Oklahoma, but we see it as just the opposite. Five major, well-established State clubs have come together and positively collaborated to create this league in a way that we’ve never experienced before. Every club has differences, but the things we share are much greater. We all want a good, solid league that has a player-centric approach. Rather than looking at what is easiest to do administratively, we want to shift the focus to what is in the best interest of the player. Take scheduling: it is easy to see schedules as just an administrative detail. But, in fact, it has a major impact on player development. Stacking 3 and 4 games and then not having a game for a month is not developmentally good for players. One of USClub’s main principles is to let the player development dictate the administrative aspects, not vice versa. We are following this with our “Player First” (P1) motto.

 

What if someone has more questions?

They can get answers to any leaguing questions by sending an email to opcinfo@northeastokfc.com.

I would also encourage everyone to read the full presentation (HERE) and all other relevant information located within the following links:   USClub       NPL        OPC       PlayersFirst        Press Releases

 

Oklahoma Premier Clubs
...A Game Changer for Oklahoma Youth Soccer

TOP OKLAHOMA CLUBS TRANSFORM YOUTH SOCCER LANDSCAPE

OKLAHOMA PREMIER CLUBS TO LAUNCH IN FALL 2017

PROVIDES INNOVATIVE NEW STATE AND REGIONAL COMPETITIVE PLATFORM


          US Club Soccer has announced it will sanction a statewide u11-u19 competitive league, including mulit-division postseason state tournament play in the state of Oklahoma, beginning in the Fall 2017 season.  This landmark initiative for Oklahoma soccer will leverage US Club Soccer’s programming on behalf of member clubs in the State of Oklahoma. 

          Five of Oklahoma’s top seven clubs by membership size, facilities, and state and regional level accolades are making a full commitment to participation in this innovative new platform.  Northeast Oklahoma FC (NEOFC), Oklahoma Celtic, South Lakes Cosmos, TSC Hurricane, and West Side Alliance S.C. (WSA), have each committed to Oklahoma Premier Clubs as the primary leaguing platform for their competitive membership moving forward.  These five clubs represent a major portion of the competitive soccer membership population in Oklahoma soccer today, and will bring several decades of consistent, experienced, and innovative leadership to the forefront in leading this new endeavor. 

          OPC will have a player-centric focus while collaborating and investing in coach and referee development. Each OPC member will work together to raise standards that improve the player experience so that each player has the opportunity to reach their full potential and enjoy the game more.

          “TSC Hurricane is extremely excited to be part of the unification of these leading clubs in raising the standards for youth soccer in Oklahoma. OPC is a game changer. Embracing Diversity is one of OPC’s core values and one of the strengths of our team is that each of our clubs bring diverse viewpoints and ideas while also sharing a common philosophy, mission and resources,” reports TSC Hurricane Executive Director, Jim Tindell.

          “We fully understand that as a leading club in Oklahoma, we have a responsibility to our players, coaches and members to provide the most effective and quality competitive platform possible.  The quality of the programming has a direct impact on the development and experience of all our players, coaches, partners and members.  We are excited to be working side-by-side with all of the OPC clubs to lead the direction of player development, exposure and player path opportunities across Oklahoma.  By working together as a team, the potential for what the OPC can achieve is limitless,“ Tindell continues.

          The Oklahoma Premier Clubs will join the US Club Soccer circuit of recognized and qualified statewide leagues by USCS.   OPC has been deemed immediately eligible for the US Club National Cup Playoffs.   The State Cup Champion from OPC competition will qualify for the US Club National Cup Championships. 

          In addition Oklahoma Premier Clubs will include a Regional League platform through US Club’s National Premier League (NPL).  The Red River Premier League will launch in the Fall of 2017, and will host top teams from each club in OPC, and will be joined by a conference of clubs from North Texas, Kansas and Arkansas, providing reasonable, economical and logical travel for a regional league platform. 

          “Oklahoma Celtic is excited about being a part of the Oklahoma Premier Clubs.  We believe the clubs already involved in this league share a similar vision for player development and know this will be a fantastic opportunity to create the best environment for our players and teams to grow.  We feel US Club is in the forefront of player development and joining them will give our club great benefit through its multiple player and coach identification and development programs," says Oklahoma Celtic Director Don Rother.

          NEOFC Executive Director, Alex Miranda, reports, “NEOFC is proud to usher in this historic change for soccer in Oklahoma. Our club believes in the OPC’s collaborative approach as the guiding principle for developing a league platform, which provides the best player experience at all developmental levels. Through a vast range of programs, we believe OPC offers the most innovative developmental opportunities for players, coaches, and game officials alike. OPC’s focus and determination in establishing standards of excellence for its member clubs, directly aligns with our club’s vision of offering the best overall experience for families, players, and coaches. We look forward to working with all OPC clubs in this exceptional player-centric environment.”

          OPC clubs are joining forces to leverage the power of their combined resources to transform the landscape for all players in Oklahoma centered on player, coach and referee development while creating multiple player pathway opportunities whether it be from club-to-college, club-to-National Team or club-to-professional.   OPC programming will also bring the clubs more closely in alignment with US Soccer Development Academy and ECNL standards and recommendations.

          OPC member benefits will include access to US Club Soccer’s ID2/PDP programming, an Olympic Development Program that helps identify players for national pool selection.  This innovative concept will expose every player of the OPC to weekly evaluation opportunities through league play, and in-house recommendation avenues, bringing a new level of ongoing exposure to the player. 

          OPC member benefits will extend to coach symposiums for coach education, the development of a coach network, training standards, sharing best practices, referee development, US Club Soccer’s Player’s First initiatives for safety and health of players, and a streamlined league management process provided by the experts at Prime Time Sports.  Prime Time Sports has over 80 years of event management experience including select soccer leagues in the Dallas Ft. Worth Metroplex.  Their professional league management will reduce the workload on the clubs, allowing clubs to focus on their intended “player-centric” models.  Additionally the league website services will be provided by Blue Star Sports, the PTS parent company.  Blue Star Sports is a leading provider of sports management software and payment solutions.

          “The leadership from the OPC clubs have a great vision for soccer development in the region and we at Prime Time Sports and Blue Star Sports are pleased to partner with their league to build an even stronger platform,” reports Bandon Hollmann, COO at Prime Time Sports a Blue Star Sports company.

          OPC league scheduling will include proper periodization that is influenced by club technical directors.  This means that the league schedule will account for rest and recovery periods, as well as proper game to training session ratios for a consistent and annualized calendar for the player as well as the families who support the player.  Through their home club recreational bases, OPC member clubs will also have control of nearly every major club-based complex in the state while also having access to independent complexes.   Multi-million dollar investments are also currently underway or planned at the majority of the OPC complexes.

          “South Lakes Soccer Club is excited about the new Oklahoma Premier Clubs announcement with US Club Soccer.  Having soccer minded individuals in decision making roles is a "game changer".  The OPC leadership will have more knowledge and experience than any other League in Oklahoma's soccer history.  The collaboration of clubs and the caliber will be second to none.  With having like minded soccer Directors all working together to benefit the players, Oklahoma cannot lose.  It has been great working with this group on the creation and launch of the OPC.  SLSC looks forward to an exciting future!” says South Lakes Director of Coaching Brandon Lawless.

          With the participation of five of Oklahoma’s most historic, reputable, and accomplished soccer clubs, the OPC will become the medium for tremendous player development opportunity, and enhanced overall player experience opportunities. OPC will collectively have the largest and most credentialed coaching staff network in the state.  This innovative new platform is not only about the expanded opportunities it brings to all elite players, but it is intended for ALL players no matter what experience level, age or background. The combination of size, resources, network, experience and diversity of ideas that each club brings is powerful and will be unmatched in the state of Oklahoma. 

          “WSA is not only excited, but enthused to be a part of this endeavor on behalf of Oklahoma soccer.  We see the opportunity presented by OPC as providing the latitude necessary to properly support and nurture our teams, and ultimately serve our players.  The early participating clubs in OPC represent for us a formidable leadership base that we are encouraged to be a part of.   We fully understand our responsibility to our players and families and our responsibility as a member of the Oklahoma soccer community, and it is for this reason we are eager to facilitate the OPC vision on behalf of Oklahoma soccer,“ reports WSA Executive Director Roger Bush.

          OPC membership is open through an application process to interested clubs that meet the criteria established by OPC.  OPC forecasted team expenses reflect a small negative delta (less expensive than previous team fees have been). Registration, tryout, team formation, and league start dates will go relatively unchanged.  Please visit our information page for FAQ’s and more league information at this link.