|Stumptown Athletic announces first players and philanthropic goals|
|Plans nonprofit donations after every match|
|Published Thursday, August 29, 2019 9:26 pm|
|Stumptown Athletic is pledging community collaborations with donations to nonprofits after each game during the season, which starts in Sept. 7.|
Stumptown Athletic is taking a different approach to fit into Charlotte’s soccer sphere.
President and general manager Casey Carr is not shying away from putting a winning product on the field, but knows they need to be more than another minor league soccer team in a town that cares only about major league.
Philanthropy is Stumptown’s hook. They signed 24 Foundation founder Spencer Lueders to a 24-hour contract today at a press conference in Freedom Park. A Charlotte philanthropist known for founding the 24 Hours of Booty charity cycling and walking event that has raised over $22 million for cancer awareness, Lueders played soccer at South Carolina. Carr noted this is the first of several community collaborations, with 5 percent of ticket sales donated to 24 Foundation. The team goal is to make a donation after each game throughout the season.
“We’re finding a niche in the way we’re connecting from a community standpoint, and building from there,” he said.
Said Lueders: “I’m going to be a pro for 24 hours, but I’m looking forward to retirement…I’m going to donate my salary to the 24 Foundation, and then transition into a community ambassador role for the team. What that means is I’m going to help these young players develop as players, as men, as people that are really involved in the community.”
Hiring USL Hall of Fame coach Mark Steffens as head coach was Stumptown’s first major move. Steffens led the Charlotte Eagles from 1997-2014, taking them to the playoffs 14 times during that span. Following the 2014 season, the club self-relegated to the PDL (now USL 2), after selling their franchise rights to the Charlotte Independence.
“Mark’s reputation speaks for itself,” Carr said. “For me, he’s got that history of developing players, doing things the ‘right way.’ I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t say something nice about him. The soccer world is very small. Those things were already there before we met, and our conversation was pretty quick, to be perfectly honest with you. We sat down, and we talked about what I wanted to do from a team perspective in the community, and how we wanted to develop players and build and be able to create opportunities and springboards for players, and really connect to our local market. The style Mark plays, the way that his reputation has always been in the community, I think we just kind of connected quickly.”
Steffens returned to the Eagles last season as assistant coach alongside head coach Sam Hope with the Charlotte Lady Eagles, who earned a berth in the Women’s Premier Soccer League regional final in their first season. Now, Steffens embraces a new challenge, leading a young side into the National Independent Soccer Association’s inaugural season, which kicks off Sept. 7 at Philadelphia Fury. They open at home against Miami FC on Sept. 28. Stumptown’s first three home games are scheduled for the OrthoCarolina Soccer Complex. They host Atlanta SC at the Sportsplex at Matthews on Oct. 25.
“I’ve been with the Eagles so long,” Steffens said. “My time with Sam and the coaching staff there was fantastic. The young ladies are so trainable, so coachable. We had them from all over the country. It really was a hard decision for me to make. Being an assistant coach is the best thing in the world because there is no pressure on you. You just listen to what the head coach says, and help in any way you can, but I did itch to get back into running the team. It’s more than just the X’s and O’s. It’s building relationships with the guys, trying to really help them be better men, and soccer players of course, but trying to help them have great relationships with each other and the coaching staff, really connect to the community. That’s the stuff that really pulled me back into it.”
Patrick Daka, who played for Steffens with the Eagles, will serve as assistant coach. They have assembled a very young team, with a few players with previous professional experience.
“I wanted a group of professionals to come in and kind of lead the way as well,” Steffens said. “I grabbed those guys first—five or six maybe. We have quite a few young guys 20-22 years old. It’s going to be a bit of a learning curve for them. They have been very teachable. Having Daka as my assistant, he’s so good with the guys as well.”
Jamaican midfielder Michael Binns, who played with the Wilmington Hammerheads in 2016, was the first announced player signing by the club.
“I was in Florida—home, and I got a call from my agent,” Binns said. “He told me that coach Mark was interested in bringing me here.”
Binns relishes the chance to return to North Carolina.
“First, it is about getting everyone on the same page, especially the younger guys who are coming out of college and signing their first professional contract,” Binns said. “It is for us, the older guys, to guide them.”
Charlotte native Jared Odenbeck midfielder, a Charlotte Christian, Charlotte Soccer Academy and Wake Forest alumnus who spent a brief stint with the Independence followed by time in Europe and New Zealand, also came home.
“After the Independence, I went to Sweden for six months,” Odenbeck said. “I ended up needing to come back for groin surgery, and then I was in Tormenta in the PDL for the summer of 2018, and then back over to Sweden for the latter part of 2018. This past year, I was in New Zealand for seven months, which was an awesome journey.”
Odenbeck played for Daka during his CSA days, and that connection brought him to Stumptown.
“I was real young—maybe 11 or 12,” Odenbeck said. “I talked to Mark, and he told me about the project. It’s something I was interested in, because it was really community based.”
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