FORT WAYNE – As the Shindigz National Soccer Festival was taking place on one end of IPFW’s Hefner Fields last month, on the other end, The Plex was hosting a different tournament.
The Puma Cup was the biggest youth soccer tournament ever played in Fort Wayne. It celebrated the merger between Citadel FC and Fort Wayne Fever Academy. The club is now named Fort Wayne United Futbol Club.
In the past, the tournament was the Fever Cup, hosted by Fort Wayne Fever Academy, which brought in 60 to 65 teams from around the Midwest.
With the new partnership, the Puma Cup was able to accommodate 140 teams U9 through U14 from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Both clubs have been prominent in the development of youth soccer in the Fort Wayne area since Citadel started in the 1980s, but they each had their strengths and weaknesses. Now the two clubs can level these out and maximize the playing opportunity for more players.
We’ve usually been able to have one travel team per age group per club, tactical director Nick Potter said. With the partnership, we’ll be able to have three travel teams per age group, be able to participate in more tournaments and get more kids playing.
Player accommodation isn’t the only thing the merger helped with.
The partnership helped bring the strengths of one club to the other’s weaknesses to create a more balanced club, premier programs director Paco Castillo said.
The club is incorporating a three-tier development system for the players. This was impossible to do with the clubs as separate entities because of the limited number of coaches and volunteers available.
We start with the recreational programs and go up to the travel teams, which is the top tier, Castillo said. The goal is to get the players to the top levels, and get them on to college teams.
Many area high school and college coaches are becoming more involved in the development of the players in the United Club.
Snider, Saint Francis, Huntington, Grace and Indiana Tech have coaches who are involved in the United Club, making a vast array of techniques and skill sets available for the players.
The fall season with the club is for the younger players, up to age 14, since high school-age players are involved in the school teams.
The Plex is set to host indoor tournaments throughout the winter, which will bring in many teams from the Midwest.