PALMER — Alaska City FC, the state’s first semi-professional soccer team, made its United Premier Soccer League debut last week, playing to a scoreless draw against the Arctic Rush.
“It was really gratifying, neat seeing the start of something new in Alaska,” Alaska City FC general manager Brett Banks said earlier this week.
The Palmer-based squad will hit the turf again Friday, facing Cook Inlet FC at 7 p.m. at Palmer High School’s Machetanz Field. Alaska FC created the chance to bring semi-pro soccer to Alaska last year when the organization was awarded a spot in the UPSL. Now there are three teams, with the Anchorage-based Arctic Rush and Cook Inlet FC joining the Palmer team. All three squads are part of the UPSL’s new Alaska Last Frontier Conference.
Banks said the initial goal was to establish a four-team conference prior to the first season with the league. There was a fourth squad, Banks said, but the team was not able to be ready for the start of the season. Regardless, Banks said the three-team division is a good place to start.
“One of the nice things about this year is we’re able to use this year as a dress rehearsal,” Banks said.
Each team will face its two new rivals in both a home and away match this summer. Banks said additional scrimmages have also been scheduled.
“It’s a good opportunity to work out the kinks, figure out what we don’t know,” Banks said.
The UPSL currently has teams in 32 different states across the country. The key is players maintain their amateur status even though it is considered a semi-pro league. The current roster features players who were local standouts at Colony, Wasilla and Palmer high schools. Two of its players, Noah Krozel and Kyle Dearborn, recently led Colony High School to the Alaska Division I boys’ state title.
“We’ve got some good local players,” Banks said.
Banks said there is room for more.
“I still think we have a lot of untapped talent in the Valley,” Banks said.
Luring that talent will help the conference expand. Banks said he’d like to see a second Valley team. There is also additional interest in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Ideally, Banks said, he’d like to see a six-team conference.
“That would give everyone a slate of 12 to 14 games,” Banks said.
A challenge, Banks said, educating Alaskans about the level of play in the UPSL.
“People aren’t sure what to think of us,” Banks said. “A lot of people are in wait and see mode.”
Banks said he hopes once people see that caliber of soccer, it will create interest and help on the business side of the operation.
“Having these games happen is going to be reassuring to people,” Banks said. “I think they’re going to see there is really potential to have the next level of soccer in Alaska.”
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at email@example.com.