There are three local semi-pro soccer opportunities for players: one just began its inaugural season in 2021 and only has an indoor team with hopes of expanding outdoors in the near future; the other two both have indoor and outdoor teams.
These opportunities allow current players to join in the summer and winter to prepare themselves for their upcoming fall and spring seasons. And, they give former players the chance to continue playing the game they love after college.
The Waves are a nonprofit indoor women’s semi-pro soccer team that competes in the Northwest Premier League.
They began their inaugural 2021 season this winter and their goal is “embracing our time, energy and focus to learning, growing and providing equitable outcomes for community members through soccer.” Their core values are commitment, compassion, care and competitiveness.
According to the Waves’ executive director, Suneeta Eisenberg, their plan is to create an outdoor team in a few years.
“Our hope is to provide specific workshops, trainings, clinics and other opportunities for women regardless of age, sexual orientation, ethnic background or socio-economic class to play the indoor game,” Eisenberg said. “We are in our first year, so we are modeling and being leaders in the community to show what is possible and try something new that has never been done before in our area.”
Midfielder Emily Webster, goalkeeper Ashley Homer and forward Mali Mack all played at Western Washington University under Coach Travis Connell and are continuing their careers for the Waves.
“I love training to get better and working at something with the goal of improving,” Webster said. “The idea of playing competitive indoor soccer again excited me. … I feel lucky to be a part of such a great soccer community and adding the Waves to that community was a great way to connect with others who share my excitement for soccer.”
Webster, along with teammate Homer, was on the Western team that won the 2016 National Championship title under Connell.
“[Webster] was a very technically skilled player with a brilliant left foot,” Connell said. “Her consistency, composure and smart decision making enabled her to play almost every minute of every game during an amazing career.”
Connell said that Homer was a physically intimidating goalkeeper who played her best in the big games, and the team played very confidently with her in the net. He added that Mack was a versatile player who could play many positions and was one of the fastest players he’s ever coached.
The Waves ended their inaugural season a few weeks ago. But if you want to learn more, check out their website.
Snohomish County FC Steelheads
Viking junior midfielder, Jacen Stein, plays for a semi-pro team called the Snohomish Steelheads. They compete in the Cascadia Premier League in the summer and the Western Indoor Soccer League in the winter.
“I play semi-pro to keep my touch and improve over the summer so I’m ready to go straight into the fall season with Western,” Stein said. “I also play because I've known the coach and a lot of the players at the club for a long time.”
Stein said college was more difficult than semi-pro because collegiate soccer was constantly at a high level which required him to be athletic so he could perform over long periods of time. He said that semi-pro was consistent when he played against Division I players or former pros, but other times he played against disorganized Sunday leaguers.
“[Stein] is a unique player [and] he plays the game with such intelligence and [an] amazing first touch,” Steelheads Head Coach Dagi Kesim said. “He is a deadly finisher, a class act and a great locker room player.”
Kesim also said that semi-pro keeps college players in good shape if they are on teams that have good training and coaches to improve their game.
Bellingham United FC Hammers
The Hammers are a men’s semi-pro team that competes in the Evergreen Premier League in the summer and the Western Indoor Soccer League in the winter.
Former Vikings Drew Farnsworth and Iakov Shmelev, and current Viking senior defender Danny Fazio, have played on the Hammers team.
“It’s great Bellingham United has a team in the summer for our guys because our guys need as many games as possible,” said Vikings men’s soccer Head Coach Greg Brisbon. “It’s a good opportunity for those guys to play during that time of year. And really, it’s about getting games and it’s a good league they’re in and they get to also play with older guys. … I’m very happy that there's [an] opportunity for them in Bellingham.”
Richard Henderson, a current player and assistant coach for the Hammers, said the goal of Bellingham United next season is to win the league like they did last year, continue developing players and partner with the community to provide a positive soccer environment.
“[Farnsworth, Fazio and Shmelev] were great to work with,” Henderson said. “What was most impressive was their enthusiasm to learn and take knowledge from older players who could share with them and make them and the team all around much better.”
As for Shmelev, he has recently left the Western men’s soccer program and Bellingham United to continue his career by signing with a professional soccer team: the Michigan Stars.
“It’s great he’s found a team,” Brisbon said. “He is the guy who wants to try and play at the highest level he can. And he went into it, worked and found the right spot for him and did it all on his own. I’m really proud of him and I can’t wait to see him play on TV someday.”
Henderson added that Bellingham United is a platform between the pro leagues that gives players the chance to improve their game while finding opportunities in the pros. He and the Hammers are delighted for Shmelev and wish him all the best.
Click here to read more about Iakov Shmelev, the former Viking and Hammer who recently signed to play professionally.
Taras McCurdie is an aspiring sports journalist who writes for the Front. He is a news/editorial major with a focus in sports reporting. He writes about WWU athletics and other sporting opportunities in the area. Outside of journalism, you can find him playing on the WWU club tennis team or running on the treadmill at the Rec Center. When chilling at night, he listens to throwback slow jams and ’90s hip-hop.