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For soccer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Raptors will try to do it all
From outdoor and indoor teams to youth programs, Raptors keep expanding
The scene at Prairie High School last Saturday was a sign of soccer’s progress in Cedar Rapids.
It was the sight of an Iowa Raptors FC doubleheader, kicking off with the organization’s first Women’s Premier Soccer League game and capped with a men’s United Premier Soccer League contest.
Raptors officials don’t plan on stopping there.
Indoor soccer is returning to Alliant Energy PowerHouse in December with the Raptors’ Major Arena Soccer League 2 team. A Premier Arena Soccer League women’s team is in the works, too.
This month brings Iowa Raptors FC Academy tryouts for U11 through U19 teams in a collaboration with PSC Iowa’s Select program.
Oh, and there already is a second men’s outdoor team competing in the Midwest Premier League.
Gordy Gurson envisions a program in which kids who play club soccer growing up and go on to play in college can return in the summer to play competitive amateur games with a club they already have a connection to. He played for the city’s previous pro indoor team, the Cedar Rapids Rampage, and is now the Raptors general manager.
“I think it’s a very, very slept-on market in the soccer community,” Gurson said. “I think there needs to be changes to let the youth have a ladder growing up and having somewhere to look at to play for. As a young kid, having an end goal, saying, ‘I want to play there one day’ is something that to me is very important to have for a kid.”
This isn’t to say the Raptors are the only option for soccer in the community.
Youth clubs like Cedar River Soccer Association, FC United and AYSO field recreational and competitive teams. The Cedar Rapids Inferno also have a men’s team in the Midwest Premier League.
Gurson’s pitch is the Raptors offer something new. The variety of age groups and teams has been the plan since the club’s 2020 inception, but the pandemic and derecho slightly delayed that.
“We started with outdoor and we just kept being patient, keeping what we could afford and what we could handle,” Gurson said. “We feel that now is the right time to get the things going for the youth side as well as on the indoor side and keeping soccer going year-round in Cedar Rapids.”
Soccer fans in the area will recognize players on this summer’s rosters, like 2021 Iowa high school player of the year Kenzie Roling, now at the University of Iowa. Coaches, too, like women’s head coach Curt Lewis, the Cedar Rapids Prairie boys’ coach (and PSC Iowa coach).
“That’s huge for us. That’s our main goal,” Gurson said. “We’re trying to create a family atmosphere where you’re not afraid to come up to a Coach Curt or you’re not afraid to approach this person. That’s the kind of thing we want.”