Michael Balluff thought the Tri-Cities would support a well-run adult soccer league, and it looks like his idea just might turn into something big.
Balluff has begun the State of Franklin Adult Soccer League, which begins play on March 17 at Henley Fields in Blountville, a complex owned by the Sullivan County Soccer Association.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Balluff said. “But we’re off to a great start, better than we ever expected.”
The league has two divisions, an open division for competitive players and an over-30 division. It’s expected to start with 12 teams made up of the 150 people who have already registered. The open division will play on Saturdays while the over-30 group will play on Sundays.
“We’re very happy,” Balluff said. “We’ve done it in six weeks. The response has been great. We have 307 people following us on Facebook. After we get going, we’ll see what people want for the summer session and we might add to what we’re doing.”
Balluff, who brought an extensive soccer background to Johnson City when he moved here from New Orleans two years ago, said he had some encouragement to start the league.
“Some of the people I talked to, David Strickland and Rick Kind, they’ve been saying this area is ripe for an adult soccer league, but nobody’s taken the time to do it and put it together,” Balluff said.
Each game will consist of 35-minute halves and the games will be played on a smaller field, 50 yards by 70 yards. The goals are slightly smaller than regulation size, but scoring should see an expected boost because there will be no offsides rule.
The games will be officiated by professional referees and each player will have an ID card bearing his or her picture. Each player will have insurance through Tennessee Soccer.
Teams will consist of male and female players. Women do not have to be 30 to play in the over-30 league.
Balluff said he sees the prospect for growth once the league gets going.
“Here’s the thing,” he said. “It has all been just word of mouth and Facebook, nothing else. When you think of the number of schools that have been pumping out grads with male and female players, we’ve only scratched the surface.
“There seems to be a market out there for it. We’re on to something and we expect it to grow and diversify. We’ve got French, Serbian, Russian, Hispanic, Liberian, Irish, Scottish, English ... it’s such a mix of people.”
The league is capped at the present 12 teams to start, but individuals wanting to play can still be placed on a team. The registration fee is $70.
For more information, contact Balluff through the league’s Website, www.sofasoccer.org.