...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 email@example.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