Although not appreciated at the time, the idea for the Omaha Football Club (“Omaha FC”) first originated in October 2008 at a Scooter’s coffee shop in Omaha, Nebraska. It was the first meeting between John Keating, Director of Coaching for Gladiator Soccer Club, and Alex Mason, Director of Coaching for Millard Star Soccer Club (“Arsenal”), to discuss the possibility of a merger of their two soccer clubs.
Although Alex and John had known each other for some time and respected each other’s accomplishments and expertise, it was always as coaches for opposing clubs. Arsenal and Gladiator, the two most successful soccer clubs in the state, had been battling at every level for over a decade (think of the Hatfields and the McCoys and you get the picture). This rivalry was constant, deeply-felt, and, oftentimes, rather bitter.
The idea of a merger was even more surprising considering the background of these two individuals and the history of their respective clubs. Alex, a native of London, England, and a life-long fan of the English Premier League club, Arsenal F.C., had launched the Arsenal select program himself in 1996.
The program had even adopted the distinctive cannon logo and red uniforms of its namesake. The Arsenal teams soon became fixtures at local and regional competition throughout Nebraska and have enjoyed great success.
Although the Gladiator club had been in existence for over 20 years, John was hired as the first Director of Coaching for the club in 2004. Born in South Africa and a recent transfer from Iowa, John was largely responsible for the dramatic rise in the success of the Gladiator program in recent years. Players sporting the easily recognized Gladiator crest could often be seen taking home the “hardware” at local and regional tournaments.
The initial meeting between John and Alex was just the beginning of countless hours spent in discussions involving board members, administrators, staff, coaches, and parents from both clubs. Initially wary and unsure, these individuals were able to set aside their allegiances and recognize that the creation of Omaha FC marks a considerable leap forward in soccer in Omaha and the surrounding area including:
The creation of meaningful opportunities for players of all levels (both competitive and recreational);
Revamping of the coaching model for select and elite players;
Developing unique and innovative programs like Kickstart (U4), the Youth Development Program (U5-U8), the Academy and Academy Lite (U9/U10); and,
The continuation of existing programs such as TOP Soccer and the adult leagues.
Although new in name, Omaha FC is simply the progression of a legacy that began with two great soccer clubs and, now represents the future of Omaha soccer.
In 2014 OFC took one more step into further growth with the merger of the Toro Girls Soccer Club. Toro was the longest running and most successful all-female club in the state. OFC and Toro met through lengthy discussions on how the two could come together to benefit girl's soccer in Nebraska. The plan was made and Toro became a part of OFC in June 2014, bringing with them over 22 State Cup titles in the past 7 years, and a first time Region II Championship title.
In July of 2013, Omaha FC became an official Academy Affiliate of Sporting KC of the MLS. From this affiliation, our membership, coaches, players and parents alike, have received:
1. A vertical pathway to SKC’s USSF Development Academy teams and the SKC First Team
2. Access to SKC’s youth development initiatives and player development curriculum
3. Coaching education and unlimited to access to SKC’s professional staff and training sessions
4. Access to Academy Affiliate and All Star Experience weekends
5. Discounted tickets, stadium tours and much, much MORE
We first entered into the Academy Affiliate Network in its infancy. It has now grown to 15 Affiliates in 8 states. With this growth has come some challenges. However, after 3 years of vetting, it is now time to take the next step in the evolution of our Club. And this next step is continuing with Sporting KC. Beginning in the fall of 2016, we will be officially be recognized as Sporting Omaha FC.
The SKC Academy Affiliate model has the potential to redevelop the structure of youth soccer in the Midwest and will be a driving force in the evolution of youth soccer in this country. Over the past three years, our philosophies on youth development continue to get more closely aligned with SKC. An official rebrand was our visible way to show a long term commitment to those core ideals in every way our Club is presented. Our new logo further illustrates our Academy Affiliate player development pathway and acts as a visual representation of the formal bridge between our hometown Club and Sporting Kansas City.
Regardless of the level within our Club, YDP, Recreational or Select, we want everyone to truly feel a part of our organization as well as the greater Academy Affiliate family within the Sporting Club Network.
The shared logo is a historic continuation of our founding clubs, Arsenal and Gladiator, represented by the two stars. The interlocking OFC remains at the center. The familiar serpent Sporting Club, “SC,” reflects our broader relationship with Sporting KC. Our primary colors will be gold, black and Sporting blue (navy or Carolina blue).
There will be a gradual implementation of the new logo over the next 14 months cumulating with the first SOKC uniform in the fall of 2017. There will be NO uniform changes for the 2016-17 soccer year! The transition to the new logo will be in three phases:
Official announcement (May 18, 2016) coinciding with communication platform implementation (www.sportingomahafc.com, @sportingomahafc.com)
Spirit wear, facility signage, coaching gear
Full integration with new uniform in fall of 2017