A recent soccer blog, IE Soccer, created by Salvador Torres, recently featured an interview with the owner of an amateur women’s team in Temecula called SoCal Union FC. Josh Fredrickson and his team have been a part of the community for almost four years now and have made an impact on the sport for girls and women players. Valley News recently caught up with Salvador about his interview and what he discovered about this team that hails from right here in southwest Riverside County.

“Soccer in the United States is viewed as a recreational activity, something to do for fun and nothing much more than that,” Torres said. “On a professional level on the men’s side, the MLS (the professional league of soccer in the U.S. with some Canadian teams) and the national team, known as the United States Men’s National Team or USMNT for short, are growing in popularity.”

Although it is still ranked fifth behind hockey in terms of relevance, the Americans have yet to lift the World Cup trophy and failed to qualify for the last World Cup after losing to Trinidad and Tobago the last match of qualifying.

“That isn’t the case on the women’s side,” he said. “The USA is by far the best in the world. It has qualified all eight World Cups, being champions four times (including the latest one last year in France) runners-up once and placing third three times. The professional league in the United States is called the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League).”

In its eighth season, the league has also been growing in popularity as the NWSL Challenge Cup final, which was shown on CBS in July, broke record viewership. According to CBS, “the championship featuring Houston versus Chicago on CBS was the most-watched match in NWSL history, averaging 653,000 viewers, up  more than 293% versus last year’s final (166,000).”

SoCal Union FC is located in Temecula and competes in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Essentially, Americans focus more on the women’s side of the game, he said.

“With this spirit and eventually growth, the city of Temecula is no stranger to the beautiful game on both men and women,” Torres said. “Although it has only been announced recently that Los Angeles will have an expansion NWSL team, there hasn’t been a professional women’s team in California for a while.”

Outside of scholastic soccer from high school and college, reaching the next level for a California native is difficult. The next option for Inland Empire players would be local amateur teams.

“That is tough,” Torres said. “There are only two teams in the whole region. One is Legends FC, a major youth club that fields an adult women’s team in the Norco area, and SoCal Union located in Temecula. Both sides are in the WPSL (Women’s Premier Soccer League).”

As stated in Salvador’s IE Soccer blog, Josh Fredrickson grew up playing soccer since the age of 5 and it has always been his passion. When he stopped playing, he got into coaching youth soccer—leading competitive teams for a variety of clubs between Temecula and San Diego for about 15 years, coaching mostly girls competitive soccer of all ages. Fredrickson is a man with a mission to help grow the emerging demand for opportunities for women players coming from high school, College, and former professional players, to find a place to play in the valley.

“I jumped at the chance to interview Josh, who owns the SoCal Union FC club and his drive for the game and the community,” Torres said.

SoCal Union FC owner, Josh Fredrickson says he grew up playing soccer since the age of 5 and has been coaching for about 15 years. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Here is that interview:

ST: What’s your role in SoCal Union FC, and what are some of your responsibilities?

JF: Although I own the club, my role with the team is strictly administrative as the general manager. My responsibilities include everything besides coaching pretty much. So, management of game day operations, social media, website, team finances, equipment, apparel, staff, community outreach, etc.

ST: Tell us the journey or story behind starting an amateur women’s team or your involvement in the SoCal Union?

JF: In 2016, I was the director of coaching for a local club that filed for a WPSL team to start in summer 2017. I was not the owner but was hired to be the general manager of this future WPSL team slotted for the Temecula area. Unfortunately, the team’s ownership decided that they would be folding the team and not going further due to financial reasons. Even though there were no players on the side and only accepted into the league, I knew our local area of Temecula/Murrieta needed something that female soccer players could long aspire too. It was up to me to keep that alive for them here. When I fought the case to keep the team, I was instead met with an opportunity to buy out ownership if I wanted it. After 30 days of thinking, I decided to do that. Later that same year, we branded the club officially as So Cal Union FC and began recruiting and forming an official team in winter 2016. We pushed our inaugural season to 2018, giving us a little over a year to prepare and recruit.

ST: Why is the team located in Temecula or in the Inland Empire?

JF: I have grown up in Temecula since 1989. It has been home to me for soccer and half the youth clubs I have coached. I have a lot of roots here and know many female players from Temecula and the Inland Empire that can play in the league and with the team. Temecula is also close enough to major cities that allow players to commute from all directions. We have players that drive from all over to be a part of this team.

ST: What are some things the team has achieved since it started? What are some goals the organization wants to make?

JF: Currently, with the cancellation of the 2020 season, we have played only the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In 2018, we finished tied for fourth with a 4-3-3 record. In the 2019 season, we finished tied for second with an 8-2-2 record. Both seasons were not good enough to advance from conference to playoffs as only the first-place team advances. However, the great thing about both seasons is that our team currently has never lost a game at our home venue. So, three things we have achieved are progress in the standings year over year and maintaining success at our home venue over two seasons and counting. Lastly, we have helped send and mentor numerous players to play overseas through their participation. Our goal for the next season is to continue with this progression and see us win the conference and advance to regional playoffs.

ST: Since the pandemic has paused playing in the WPSL, how has this affected the team, and what are they doing during this crisis?

JF: This year has been incredibly tough for all of us, especially the players. I receive numerous calls and texts from those who are just itching to get out again and play. Unfortunately, we have had to learn a lot about patience and understanding during these times. I know some of our players have done small group training among themselves or with a trainer over the months back from college. As a club, we have not been able to provide any formal training. Still, we make our equipment readily accessible to them should they want to do their workouts at home or with others. Most of our players now have returned to school, and we hope that they can complete their college seasons and maintain a high level of play for the 2021 WPSL season.

ST: What are some principles that make up the culture of the team?

JF: The culture of our team is quite amazing, to be honest. I would never have guessed in 2016 to have a team that is so well bonded and respectful of each other while also maintaining the standard of play required of the group. I think a lot of it has to do with some of the principles we instill from management and coaches down to the players. Having respect, being committed, and working hard for yourself and others are enormous within our team. Every player demands it. Our players have bought into the culture that our coaches have created, and I think that has made them so successful in just two seasons.

ST: How is the talent from the Inland Empire that has played with SoCal Union compared to other teams from other areas?

JF: All the teams in our conference have great players. It would be inappropriate to say that we have an edge that other teams don’t have because it’s just not true. Our team and all the others are made up of elite level high school aged players, players currently in college at top schools, players who recently graduated from college, former professional players, etc. It makes each game extremely competitive and exciting. Sixteen of our 22 games played have been decided by a difference of 0-2 goals. There is never an easy game against anyone.

ST: Last question, what would you like to be the legacy of this team to be? What is something you like people to remember about the club?

JF: I hope that the legacy we leave in the community about this team provides a world-class opportunity for female players to play at one of the highest levels of the game in the country outside of the top professional match. Also, I hope that we are looked at as an opportunity to continue pursuing the professional dreams for many capable players through player involvement with our team and with the league. I want people to remember not only the fun and success of the club, whether it be as a staff member, coach, player, fan, etc. I hope they remember all the opportunities and reasons behind what this team stands for and aspires to provide. We hope that people recognize that they have the chance to support the women’s game and, therefore, help them achieve great things and raise the women’s game even further. I hope that the importance of being involved and supporting is never forgotten and only continues to grow.

Temecula’s SoCal Union FC finishes tied for fourth with a 4-3-3 record in 2018 and, in the 2019, finishes tied for second with an 8-2-2 record. Valley News/Courtesy photo

To find out more about the SoCal Union FC, visit http://www.socalunionfc.com. To find out more Salvador Torres and the Inland Empire Soccer blog, email riversidecoras96@gmail.com or visit https://iesoccer286813440.wordpress.com/.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.