Sports
6:00 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Futsal Soccer Catches On In Kansas City

Children play a game of futsal soccer, which involves fewer players and a smaller field, at Wyandotte High School.
Children play a game of futsal soccer, which involves fewer players and a smaller field, at Wyandotte High School.
Credit Greg Echlin / KCUR

The soccer craze in the Kansas City area wasn’t just captured in the Power & Light District watch parties for the World Cup games.

It’s evident on full-size soccer fields on both sides of the state line. But the metropolitan area's newest soccer passion may be churning up on mini-courts in Kansas City, Kan.

There is a facility for what's known as futsal soccer that was converted from tennis courts on the grounds of Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kan. It’s one of eight facilities in the city as a result of proceeds raised from last year’s Major League Soccer All-Star game activities.

Between the city and Sporting Kansas City, Mayor Mark Holland says the discussion centered around either three urban city fields or eight futsal courts.

He’s glad the futsal courts won out.

“Tennis courts are the perfect size for the futsal court,” said Holland. “With a pretty moderate amount of rehab, we can go in and convert a tennis court to a futsal court. We had tennis courts sitting vacant for weeks before someone would play on it.”

So what is futsal? Basically, it’s a mini-soccer game played in a small, enclosed hard court with two goals. It’s usually played five-on-five instead of the 11-per team on a normal outdoor soccer field.

On the new court at Wyandotte High School during a hot July day, it was, ‘Game on!’ Though the court baked under the sun, it didn’t stop more than a dozen kids who gathered to play.

Dominic Alvarado was one of them. He’s 11. Dominick and his buddy, Alex Perez, waited for their chance to play on the other court. To them it didn’t matter if there were no vacancies until someone else went home.

“Soccer for me is a good thing to play,” Alvarado said.

“It’s our passion,” added Perez.

Mayor Holland said it reminds him of what takes place at the popular basketball playgrounds in the city.

“You see kids on the basketball courts where there’ll be 5-on-5 and the losing team steps off and the winning team plays the next team and so forth,” said Holland. “But futsal is a program across the world really to develop foot skills.”

Sporting Kansas City’s academy camp is on the field adjacent to their practice facility in Swope Park Village. Through either the clubs or through the MLS Works Foundation that was responsible for the futsal fields, Commissioner Don Garber says the league emphasizes development on the youth level.

“It’s a requirement for our teams to invest in player development and to have academy teams at the U-18 down to the U-14 level,” said Garber during last year’s All-Star game activities.

Alan Mayer, a goalkeeper for the indoor Kansas City Comets in the 1980s, is one of the academy coaches. He also coaches college level players at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. And while Mayer grooms players on the larger fields, he also realizes the importance of getting kids started early on the futsal courts.

In Mayer’s opinion, it’s why a country like Brazil has some of the best soccer players in the world.

“I mean they’re super in soccer, but one of the things you attribute it to is that these kids are playing futsals from age 3 on,” said Mayer.

The futsal fields built in Kansas City, Kan., have not replaced the agreement to build 18 tournament-ready fields that Sporting agreed to upon the construction of Sporting Park in the Village West area. But Robb Heineman, one of the team owners, says the club “reconstituted” its ideas.

It has further plans for fields as the club, the city of Kansas City, Kan., and U.S. Soccer corroborate to build a national training and coaching development center in the city. An announcement is expected in about a month.