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Although the fledgling 264 Futsal Club is only three months old, placing a cap on its competitive ceiling on the regional and national stage is done at one’s peril.
Club co-director Thomas Goines, from a practical and results-based standpoint, simply sees no need for it.
“I’ve learned a long time ago with a lot of these girls to stop doubting that they’re going to have success,” he said.
There’s sound logic behind that approach after his 264 Futsal U14 girls finished second in their age group at the U.S. Youth Futsal South Atlantic Regional Championships, held in Charlotte from Jan. 17-19. Five players from his Wilson Youth Soccer Association ‘06 Explosion that made club history in their own right by becoming the first WYSA team to qualify for the prestigious U.S. Youth Soccer National League Piedmont Conference are on the roster, with Darby Wallig, Mariah Polk, Natalie Capps, Bri Little and Cappa Bunn taking their skills from the outdoor pitch and transferring it to the freewheeling world of futsal, where the 11-player game condenses down to a five-on-five affair that includes the goalkeeper.
As a result, 264 Futsal’s U14s — along with its U17 girls via qualifying for the regional finals in Charlotte — will each participate in the 2020 U.S. Youth Futsal National Championships, to be held in Kansas City, Mo. from Feb. 14-17.
Thus, 264 Futsal, in just its third month of existence, will be competing against established youth futsal brands from across the country. The formation of 264 Futsal marks just the third North Carolina club sanctioned by U.S. Youth Futsal, joining F5 Futsal in Charlotte and Wilmington NC Futsal out of Wilmington.
Conceptually, the idea was bounced around by Goines, also the WYSA’s Director of Coaching and Randol Mendoza, the former Greenfield School head coach who is now the Youth Technical Director of WYSA. Tryouts were held in November and the melting pot of clubs under the 264 Futsal banner include Pitt-Greenville Soccer Association and Tar River Youth Soccer Association along with WYSA. Mendoza reported that several unaffiliated players came to tryouts just to experience futsal for the first time.
Individually, 264 Futsal will also be represented at nationals by U10 goalkeeper Aspen Evans, who will play as a guest of the Charlotte Independence Soccer Club after being scouted and invited by that team during regional action.
“Randol and I had talked about for a few months,” Goines said. “We had talked about the idea of putting it together, and then I’ll give the credit to my wife if anyone needs the credit. Because her and I were talking about it, and we have a mutual friend back home who actually runs the Fort Wayne (Indiana) futsal. I thought it was a good idea, and Randol agreed to go along with it. I think as all ideas go, it came from the smartest women in the room!”
Futsal’s more confined space requires added creativity for success on offense. The four-on-four environment in the field of play ensures a fast pace, and decisions must be made quickly.
“It’s just a creative environment where kids learn to play under pressure and just do things that aren’t traditional in an outdoor game,” Goines said.
Playing under pressure may be an understatement. Players are only allowed to be in possession for four seconds before getting rid of the ball, and the raising of a linesman’s flag for offsides has no place on a futsal court. Offsides does not exist.
Mendoza admitted going to some of the initial tournaments under the 264 Futsal banner was an eye opener, coming from the outdoor game. Goal scoring is plentiful, and a slew of 10-9 outcomes awaited Mendoza’s team in early experiences.
“It was a learning curve,” he said.
Despite that, Mendoza finds himself an advocate of the game and the quick-thinking instincts that must be adopted to play at a high level. At the conclusion of national tournament play, Mendoza and Goines plan to get feedback from players and parents to find out how futsal skills have translated to improved skills on the outdoor pitch.
“It forces a player to mold technique,” Mendoza said of futsal. “The field is less narrow and less wider.”
Besides the two 264 Futsal teams going to the national tournament, there are three girls teams — U10, U11, U13 — and a U19 boys offering under the club banner.
Indeed, the rapid growth since inception has been undeniable.
“It started mid-November, and two weeks later, we were in a tournament in Wilmington,” Goines said. “From there, it’s just really taken off and it’s been an awesome amount of commitment from about 50 different families who took on a new adventure and ran with it. We’ve had a fair amount of success in the process as well and all those kids have learned some lessons about where they’re at in the technical level of the game.
Club fundraising efforts for the trip to the national tournament are still ongoing.