Soccer’s popularity has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the US over the past ten to fifteen years. The popularity for European teams like Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, and others can’t be overstated. The US has responded with their own leagues and different levels of competition, including Major League Soccer (MLS), United Soccer League (USL), and the reformed North American Soccer League (NASL). Even with the differences in level of competition, the influence and excitement of US soccer leagues has grown and spread.
Take the Tulsa Roughnecks FC. The team was formed in 2013 and first took the field in 2015. Now in their third season, the impact that the Roughnecks have had in Tulsa has been profound – perhaps because, for older fans, this is a resurgence of professional soccer. The Roughnecks originally were a team from 1978 to 1984. They had been moved from Hawaii and in those six years in Tulsa their success had been profound, evening winning the coveted Soccer Bowl in 1983. However, when their league, the old NASL, went out of business, so did the Roughnecks. From there, the city waited for the return of the Roughnecks until it finally came in 2013.
Alan Ramseyer, the Director of Video Production for the Roughnecks, has seen the impact the Roughnecks have had on the Tulsa community. Describing the team as “paying homage to the original Roughnecks that won the Soccer Bowl, while building a legacy that instills pride in the Tulsa soccer community” Ramseyer also notes the progress the 2013 Roughnecks have had with the Tulsa community.
“Tulsa has a big soccer community, which has been big in the successful return of outdoor professional soccer to Tulsa,” Ramseyer shared. “[The Roughnecks have] really grown since 2013, along with the sport of soccer. The Roughnecks have developed partnerships with organizations throughout the soccer community in an effort to continue the growth of soccer.”
The community has benefitted greatly from the Roughnecks’ return. The recent success the Roughnecks have had, such as their performance in the Hunt Cup, has helped elevate the team, but it’s not just on the field performance that counts. The Roughnecks do a lot of community outreach, including working with different youth organizations and camps to help build soccer with younger fans.
“Coach [David Vaudreuil] is big on youth camps,” says Ramseyer. This helps the organization “get out in the community and work with kids. There are times Coach will be running an early soccer camp, the day after a game. They’re really passionate about promoting the game of soccer and it’s wonderful to see.”
Coach Vaudreuil’s passion has helped define and shape the soccer community in Tulsa, but his players are just as critical. With some guys having been on the team since day one, they’ve acted as ambassadors for the team by getting out and interacting with the community, including speaking to fans and participating in these camps.
“Players get out a lot,” Ramseyer notes. “If there’s an event that players or coaches can get out and meet people, there’ll be two, three, or four guys there. Guys head to soccer tournaments. Guys want to go out and meet fans, talk to folks around the Tulsa community and talk to them about the Roughnecks if they haven’t already [heard about them].”The fans have been dedicated since day one as well. Ramseyer pointed out two fan groups: the Tulsa Roustabouts and La Union 918.
“They’re great supporters of the team,” Ramseyer said of the Roustabouts. “They support the club in many different ways, whether it be community outreach or building the in-game atmosphere, the Roustabouts do a great job. They’ve also grown quite a bit since they were formed, as well.”
La Union 918, the other fan support group, is a Hispanic supporters group. “They’re loud during games, which really helps make the in-game atmosphere special” Ramseyer shared. “They support the team, organization and they’re passionate about growing the sport.”
The Tulsa Roughnecks will be returning to television June 27th on Cox. How will the team be looking then? Ramseyer is optimistic.
“The team is good and plays an exciting brand of soccer. The team plays hard 100% of the time and does a great job valuing possession. It’s an exciting brand of soccer. The team has been in the top half of the table most of the year, making a trip to the playoffs a distinct possibility.”