Swimming with the Sharks
By Alexis Harborth
Words: Alexis Mays Photos: Brynn Osborn
Dr. Kingsley Okonkwo has always been interested in soccer, and that passion has created a pastime and profession for generations of Corpus Christi youths.
“I’ve always wanted to do something with soccer,” Dr. Okonkwo begins. “For two years, I wondered what do we bring to Corpus Christi, how we do this, what’s the process?” Then, the idea for a soccer club came to him and some friends in the summer of 2016. By early 2017, Corpus Christi Football Club (CCFC) was a registered LLC. Dr. Okonkwo, who is the president of the CCFC, explains that it happened quickly thanks to months of hard work behind the scenes.
“A lot went into it,” Dr. Okonkwo says. “We basically started from the ground up. We founded the company, registered it, applied for the franchise, started looking for a stadium, marketed from scratch…we did everything from scratch.”
From nothing to something incredible, what they have created is a minor league soccer team in Corpus Christi with 23 players on their roster. These men, aged 18 and up, have a professional platform to further their talent, or even go pro.
“We have many quality players in the Coastal Bend,” Dr. Okonkwo proudly states. “We wanted to give them a pathway to move from being high school players and have an opportunity to expose them to the very highest level of soccer in the country.”
Their commitment to excellence meant before the club’s first year had even ended, the United Soccer League (USL) and Professional Development League (PDL) awarded The Sharks a franchise expansion in October 2017.
“The Major League Soccer (MLS) is the top level of professional soccer, then below them is the USL. The USL has the largest soccer registration in the country.” Since 2014, the USL has more than doubled in size. Their large footprint in the ‘football’ community includes owning and operating the Professional Development League. The team was keen on The Sharks receiving the PDL distinction because, as Dr. Okonkwo explains, the PDL is the premiere group that works with young players to become professionals.”
That PDL designation allows The Sharks the chance to play at a higher level of competition. In fact, teams that are a part of the PDL are also eligible to complete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup along with various exhibitions.
The USL PDL is made up of 74 teams across the United States and Canada, and eight of these teams reside in The Shark’s division. Most are of them are based in Texas, and the farthest team is located in Oklahoma City.
A few clubs whose teams go head-to-head with The Sharks include the Albion Hurricanes Football Club Royals, Brazos Valley Football Association, the Houston Football Club, and the Oklahoma City Football Club. This season, The Sharks have eight home games and seven away games on their roster.
“We play virtually every week. Some weeks, we even play two games,” says Dr. Okonkwo.
Dr. Okonkwo encourages everyone to support our community and its players by attending the games. Two ticket options available are “flex” game day tickets for individual nights and season passes. Save the date for three games this month, June 22, 24, and 30.
During weeks when The Sharks are playing out of town, there are still ways to watch. Follow the CCFC’s Facebook and Twitter for watch party locations, along with food and drink specials.
November 2018 is another important date to mark on the calendar. This is when hopeful players can attend a try-out for The Sharks. Four tryouts were planned for this season, so be sure to keep an eye on their web site and social media to stay up to date.
Dr. Okonkwo encourages fans to visit their web site to learn more about the club and their mission, which goes beyond the game.
While The Corpus Christi Football Club may be a minor league sport, the group’s goals go beyond scoring goals. Part of the Corpus Christi Football Club’s mission is "developing players on and off the field and molding our youths to become better professionals and well-rounded individuals."
“As a physician myself, I very much understand the health benefits of being active,” Dr. Okonkwo begins. “In addition to being healthy and active, parents and kids are spending time together, outside, at the stadium.”
In fact, a main objective of the club was to be family-oriented. “We wanted to bring families together to watch the soccer events. That’s why children 5 and under come to our games for free. We want this to be a family event.”
And then, extending even beyond families, the Corpus Christi Football Club exists to bring our community together as well. “We want people to know we’re here to serve. We’re here to unite our society and community with the beautiful game called soccer. The primary reason behind everything we do is to bring people together. Every game — everything we’re doing — is to bring our society together.”
Our area will have that opportunity during the many home games in the 2018 season, which runs from April to July. The stadium for home games is held at the Dr. Jack Dugan Family Soccer Stadium — TAMUCC, located at 800 Nile Street, Corpus Christi, TX. During home matches, the gates open at 5:45 p.m. and the game kicks off at 7 p.m.
Each match seeks to fulfill their mission by creating a good time for players and their families alike. As Dr. Okonkwo goes on to say, “We want to get people together and speak the common language of soccer. We want everyone to enjoy a beautiful day of soccer.”
For tickets, 2018 schedule, and more information, visit www.corpuscfc.com