Soccer in the United States is often looked as a recreational activity, something to do for fun and nothing much more than that. On a professional level on the mens side, the MLS (the professional league of soccer in the US with some Canadian teams) and the national team, known as United States Mens National Team or USMNT for short, are growing in popularity but still ranked 5th behind Hockey in terms of relevance, not to mention the Americans have yet to lift the world cup trophy and failed to qualify for the last world cup after losing to Trinidad and Tobago on the last match of qualifying. That isn’t the case on the women side. The national team is by far the best team in the world having qualified to all eight world cups, being champions 4 times (including the latest one last year in France) runners up once and placing third three times. The professional league in the united states is called the NWSL, which is in its 8th season, has also been growing in popularity as the NWSL Challenge Cup final which was televised on CBS on July 26th, broke record viewership. According to CBS, “the championship featuring Houston vs Chicago on CBS was the most-watched match in NWSL history, averaging 653,000 viewers, up +293% vs. last year’s final (166,000)”. Essentially, Americans focus more on the women’s side of the game.
With this spirit and eventually growth, the city of Temecula is no stranger to the beautiful game on both mens and womens sides. Although it has only been announced recently that Los Angeles will have a expansion NWSL team, there hasn’t been a professional women’s team in the state of california for a while. Outside of scholastic soccer from high school and college, reaching the next level for a California native is difficult. The next option for Inland Empire players would be local amateur teams, and that on its own is tough as there is only two teams in the whole region; Legends FC, a major youth club that fields an adult womens team in the Norco area and SoCal Union located in Temecula. Both teams are in the WPSL (Women’s Preimier One man with a mission made a choice to help grow the emerging demand for opportunities for women players coming from high school, college and former professional players, to find a place to play in the valley. Since the age of 5, Josh Fredrickson grew up playing soccer, which was always his passion. When he stopped playing, he got into coaching youth soccer, leading competitive teams for a variety of different clubs between Temecula and San Diego for about 15 years coaching mostly girls competitive soccer of all ages. I got the chance to interview Josh who owns the SoCal Union club and his drive for the game and the community.
What’s your role in SoCal union and what are some of your responsibilities?
Although I own the club, my role with the team is strictly administrative as the General Manager. My responsibilities include everything besides coaching pretty much. So management of Game Day Operations, Social Media, Website, Team Finances, Equipment & Apparel, Staff, WPSL Laision/Requirements, Community Outreach, etc.
Tell us the journey or story behind the idea of starting an amateur women’s team or your involvement of the SoCal Union?
In 2016 I was the Director of Coaching for a local club who had filed for a WPSL team to start in Summer 2017. I was not the owner but was hired to be the General Manager of this future WPSL team slotted for the Temecula area. Unfortunately, the ownership of that team decided that they would be folding the team and not going further due to financial reasons. Even though at this time there were no players on the team and only an acceptance into the league I knew our local area of Temecula/Murrieta really needed something that Female Soccer Players could long aspire too and it was up to me to keep that alive for them here. When I fought the case to keep the team I was instead met with an opportunity to buy out ownership if I wanted it. After 30 days of thinking I decided to do that. Later that same year, we branded the club officially as So Cal Union FC and began recruiting and forming it’s official team in Winter of 2016. We pushed our inaugural season to 2018 giving us a little over a year to prepare and recruit.
Why is the team located in Temecula or in the Inland Empire?
I have grown up in Temecula since 1989. It has been home to me for soccer and half the youth clubs I have coached for. I personally have a lot of roots here and know a lot of female players that are from Temecula and the Inland Empire that can play in the league and with the team. Temecula is also close enough to major cities that allow players to commute from all directions. We have players that drive from San Diego, OC, Irvine, Palm Desert, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, etc to be a part of this team. The reasonable access to talent is just remarkable in Temecula.
What are some things the team has achieved since it started? What are some goals the organization wants to achieve?
So currently with the cancellation of the 2020 season now, we have played only the 2018 and 2019 seasons. 2018 season we finished tied for 4th with a 4-3-3 record. 2019 Season we finished tied for 2nd with a 8-2-2 record. Both Seasons were not good enough to advance out of conference to playoffs as only the 1st place team advances. However, the great thing about both seasons is that our team currently has NEVER lost a game at our home venue. So three things we have achieved are progress in the standings year over year and maintaining success at our home venue over 2 seasons and counting and lastly we have helped send and mentor numerous players to play overseas through their participation with our team. Our goal for the next season is to continue with this progression and see us win the conference and advance to Regional Playoffs.
Since the pandemic has paused playing in the WPSL, how has this affected the team and what are they doing during this crisis?
This year has been incredibly tough for all of us, especially the players. I receive numerous calls and texts from those who are just itching to get out again and play. Unfortunately, we have had to learn a lot about patience and understanding during these times. I know some of our players have done small group trainings among themselves or with a trainer over the months being back from College. As a club, we have not been able to provide any formal training but we make our equipment readily accessible to them should they want to do their own workouts at home or with others. Most of our players now have returned back to school and we hope that they are able to complete their college seasons and maintain a high level of play for the 2021 WPSL season.
What are some principals that make up the culture of the team?
The culture of our team is quite amazing to be honest. I never would have guessed in 2016 to have a team that is so well bonded and respectful of each other while also maintaining the standard of play that is required of them. I think a lot of this has to do with some of the principals we instill from management and coaches on down to the players. Having Respect, Being Committed, and Working Hard for yourself and others is huge within our team and it is demanded from every player. Our players have bought into the culture that our coaches have created and I think that has what made them so successful in just two seasons.
How is the talent from the IE that have played with SoCal Union compared to other teams from other areas?
To be honest, all the teams in our conference have great players. It would be inappropriate to say that we have certain talent that other teams don’t have because it’s just not true. Our team as well as all the others are made up of Elite Level High School aged players, players currently in college at top schools, players who recently just graduated college, former professional players, etc. It definitely makes each game very competitive and exciting, 16 of our 22 games played have been decided by a difference of 0-2 goals. There is never an easy game against anyone.
Last question, what would you like the to be the legacy of this team to be? What’s something you like people to remember about the club?
I hope that the legacy we leave in the community about this team is one that provided a world class opportunity for female players to play at one of the highest levels of the game in the country outside of the top professional game. In addition, I hope that we are looked at as an opportunity to continue pursuing the professional dreams for many capable players through player involvement with our team and with the league. I would like people to remember not only the fun and success of the club whether it be as a staff member, coach, player, fan, etc but I hope that they also remember all the opportunities and reasons behind what this team really stands for and aspires to provide. We hope that people remember that they have the opportunity to support the women’s game and therefore help all these players achieve great things and raise the level of the women’s game even further. The importance of being involved and supporting I hope is never forgotten and only continues to grow.