FORT WAYNE – The question is about Fort Wayne and soccer and the place of the former in the hierarchy of the latter, and it flatly stumps Dan Kruse.
Wow, he says. I dont know quite how to answer that.
Which is all the answer thats required, really.
Its all the answer thats required because the relationship between Fort Wayne and soccer was established long before the Fort Wayne Sport Club got the call to play host for the United States Adult Soccer Associations Midwest Regional finals this weekend, and you dont have to leave the Sport Club grounds to get that. All you need to do is look at the pictures on the walls and the trophies and the Sport Club logo itself, which includes one instructive number: 1927.
As in, the year the club was established.
So, soccers been a thing in this town for a while, then.
Weve been around since 1927, and our fields been there since, I think, 1931, says Kruse, Sport Club president. Some of the guys came from old industrial leagues when they were immigrants here from Germany. So we have guys in their 70s and 80s that were playing at the club back in the 50s.
So I guess I hadnt really thought about it. Its always been a soccer community.
And this tournament, this USASA regional, is just the latest affirmation of that.
You had all those old Germans who brought the game here from the old country, and then along came college soccer and high school soccer and the Flames/Kick. And then some of the Flames/Kick stuck around to help build a soccer culture that gets more robust with every year, and then Terry Stefankiewicz was bringing all these top-flight college programs to town for the Shindigz National Soccer Festival – Indiana? Notre Dame? Akron and Duke and North Carolina? – and why wouldnt the USASA want to come to Fort Wayne? Why wouldnt it?
Its a soccer town, after all. From way, way back.
We did bid for (the USASA Regionals), Kruse says. But it also goes back to the fact our membership has a lot of the people whove been referees for a long time, and theyre members of the (USASA). And theyre in the meetings talking to these people about us.
And so the world, or a small piece of it, beats a path to this soccer towns door again.
More than 30 adult teams from 14 states as far away as North and South Dakota will be here, comprising about 600 players. Theyll be competing for spots in the USASA Nationals in Chicago next month.
Its a very important event for us, says Paco Espinosa, communications director for the Indiana Soccer Association, which is co-hosting the event with the Sport Club. And of course for the club, its very important because it gives a lot of people exposure to what they have to offer, and what the city has to offer.
This is the biggest tournament that weve had out here that I can think of, he says.