The fields outside Tulsa’s Dream Center buzzed with excitement Saturday afternoon - with many children playing in their first soccer game.
Saturday marked the opening day of the “Dream League,” bringing youth soccer to North Tulsa.
FC Tulsa pledged $15,000 in October to cover league operating costs, uniforms, and referee fees. The team’s head of operations and fan engagement, Wayne Farmer, said watching the league kick off Saturday brought him great joy.
“So much joy,” Farmer said. “Kids, coming out of the car with a big smile on their face, nervous for their first game? It’s fantastic.”
The crowd was much more than just family and friends; FC Tulsa staff took part, as well as 83 United, the team’s fan club.
“The kickoff of the Dream League means so much to me and the Dream Center,” Tim Newton, the director of programs for the Tulsa Dream Center, said in a news release. “It’s an opportunity for our community to come together and to cheer on our boys and girls, not just in athletics but also in academics. This Dream League is designed to motivate our boys and girls to work hard in school, show up at school, and to do their absolute best and not settle for less. We are excited to be able to partner with FC Tulsa to help make this dream happen for myself, the Dream Center and so many boys and girls in North Tulsa.”
FC Tulsa head coach Michael Nsien, a Tulsa native, said he saw the Dream League as a stepping stone to do more for the communities in his hometown. Building this league - paying for the uniforms, the referees, and field maintenance - showed the team’s “For Tulsa” brand wasn’t just a social media hashtag.
“If we’re going to call ourselves ‘Tulsa’, FC Tulsa, it’s for all communities,” Nsien said. “Hopefully people fall in love with the game. Maybe they come out and support. Maybe we find some future soccer players one day.”
At least eight North Tulsa elementary schools are represented in the league including McKinley Elementary, Drexel Academy, John Hope Franklin Elementary, Sequoyah Elementary, Hamilton Elementary, Hawthorne Elementary, Lewis and Clark Elementary and Monroe Demonstration Academy.
“We are thrilled to work alongside the Dream Center and members of the North Tulsa community in launching Dream League this Saturday,” Farmer said. “The support we’ve seen from the soccer community around Tulsa has been fantastic. For example, ONEOK Field head groundsman Gary Shepherd taught the Dream Center how to maintain a field and one of our Season Ticket Members, Brian Whitlow, marked the pitch. This league will give elementary school children the opportunity to represent their school and play the world’s game in the community they live in.”