FC Wichita is pleased to announce a newly incorporated U-20 team that will compete in the United Premier Soccer League. Based in Wichita, Kansas, the Academy will be part of the UPSL Midwest-South Conference, playing in the leagues top flight, the "Premier Division".
The Academy U-20s are operated by FC Wichita's senior parent company and serve as a developmental tier in the soccer club's academy system just above its ECNL National League U-19s.
"Part of our goals for the Academy is to develop some of the best youth players in Kansas and provide each of our players and teams with the right competition platform," said FC Wichita Technical Director Bryan Perez. "We believe the UPSL will help to prepare our young players to take the next steps in the club's development pathway."
The Academy U-20 move to the UPSL seemed to be a matter of time. FC Wichita CEO Blake Shumaker has been in close communication with UPSL commissioner Yann Skwara since 2018 and had been an intricate part of the expansion talk for Wichita. Plans progressed before the covid-19 shut down in March of 2020, but during the downtime, Shumaker committed to supporting league expansion as a primary applicant.
As the expansion talks continued, it became apparent that long-term sustainability would likely be achievable through multi-club expansion. At this time, Shumaker committed to an opportunity to onboard ownership partners for at least two clubs inside Wichita. Shumaker immediately brought in recent Wichita Wings intern Yves Aka and helped to form International Wichita FC ("Inter Wichita"). Aka would take on the managing partner role, and the team would begin competing during the 2021 season. Meanwhile, as it existed post covid-19, FC Wichita would follow its commitment to begin promotion from the NPSL to the USL League 2.
"The goal was always to help more local players get opportunities to log minutes in important matches and we knew that was a numbers game, so it first meant empowering hopeful club owners to take a chance on themselves," said Shumaker. "Yves helped me as an intern for the Wichita Wings in 2019, which ultimately proved to make his management dream a reality in return."
Shumaker acknowledges there will be rivalry on the field between FC Wichita U-20 and Inter Wichita, but says he will quietly support Inter from afar.
"I'm proud to have partnered with Yves, and it was an exciting time being behind the scenes bringing Inter Wichita to life. Watching Yves grow into an excellent operator has been rewarding on many levels. I will obviously always support the team and look forward to watching the young FC Wichita Academy boys in action against the promising group Inter Wichita is assembling."
The FC Wichita Academy U-20's is comprised only of current and graduated players who've come through the FC Wichita youth system. Players must be under the age of 20 years old and have collegiate or professional soccer opportunities on the horizon. To keep college eligibility fully intact all players are registered as amateurs inside the United States Soccer Federation. FC Wichita Academy U-20 begins UPSL action in April 2023.
The UPSL was formed in 2011 and currently includes more than 325 teams nationwide. The UPSL is the largest Pro Development League in North America. Each UPSL team is individually owned and operated. UPSL teams are eligible to participate in the U.S. Open Cup Qualifying Rounds through the league's affiliation with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). More information about the UPS can be found at www.upsl.com