Aside from their immediate, Houston-based rivals, Corpus Christi FC becomes the latest in a growing number of Lone Star State-based clubs, including Brazos Valley Cavalry F.C., FC Cleburne, Houston FC and Texas United. Corpus Christi FC brings a passion for the growth of soccer in the U.S. with a deep love for the community it calls home. The originator of that community-centered approach is the owner and founder of Corpus Christi FC, local pediatrician Dr. Kingsley Okonkwo.
Among the first moves made by Dr. Okonkwo was one clearly rooted in that community-centric view, the appointment of Corpus Christi-local Sammy Giraldo as the team’s first head coach. Since that time, Corpus Christi FC has continued to gear up for their inaugural 2018 season by engaging with community leaders and working to engrain the club into the city’s DNA, while simultaneous building out the first roster in team history. During this busy time for the club, Dr. Okonkwo took a moment to discuss the club’s progress and aspirations with USLPDL.com
A part of the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the Division II USL, the newly-announced USL Division III and Super Y League, the PDL has served as the proven stepping-stone for aspiring professionals.
Nearly 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections since 2010 have PDL experience, including a total of 59 alums chosen in 2017. Among the many players to have played in the PDL before making their professional debuts include Newcastle United FC defender DeAndre Yedlin, 2017 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Tim Melia, 2017 MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara and U.S. Men’s National Team members such as Darlington Nagbe, Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream.
PDL: What factors led you to seek PDL membership in 2018?
Dr. Kingsley Okonkwo: “There were several factors at play in our decision to join the PDL. First, our desire to help expand the development opportunities for local Corpus Christi players was best matches by the PDL’s high-quality national presence. We also believe there is an untapped potential for Corpus Christi to be a prominent soccer market in this country. The PDL is an incredibly competitive home for collegiate-based players and we look forward to competing against our local rivals in the state.”
PDL: How was your first experience at the PDL Winter Summit?
KO: “The PDL Winter Summit was an incredible experience. We had the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other teams in the league and receive useful advice and guides on operations and building a successful club.”
PDL: How are you approaching early 2018 in terms of preparation for the upcoming season?
KO: “We are deep into preparations on multiple fronts heading into 2018. From nailing down our roster and coaching staff, to taking care of operational considerations like marketing, communications, broadcasting and volunteers, to making business arrangements with local sponsors and logistical partners. We intend on being fully prepared to compete at a high level in year one.”
PDL: What are you most looking forward to in your inaugural PDL season?
KO: “We’re most looking forward to stepping on the field for our first match and launching the new home of player development in Corpus Christi. Facing off against our rivals for the first time will be a treat and we hope our community enjoys the high-quality entertainment we plan on offering.”
PDL: You join a growing PDL footprint in Texas, with Brazos Valley Cavalry F.C., FC Cleburne, Houston FC, Texas United and the AHFC Royals all in-state. How does having regional rivalries such as those with Brazos Valley and Houston FC benefit the club?
KO: “We believe the local rivalries in the state help our team in a multitude of ways. The proximity of clubs like the AHFC Royals and Houston FC enable our fans to travel relatively short distances to support the club on the road. Likewise, it allows the fans of other clubs to come to Corpus Christi and experience our wonderful community and growing soccer culture. Finally, we believe it’s very helpful to player development to have local clubs to gauge themselves against and compete against, and we look forward to trying to establish ourselves as one of the region’s best teams.”
PDL: What are some goals you’d like to achieve as a club in 2018?
KO: “Our primary goal is to make sure our club is up and running at 100 percent capacity for our debut season. We want to create an enjoyable, smoothly operating atmosphere for our fans to enjoy week in and week out. We hope to build ourselves into an integral part of this community and build our support to the level of having a packed house every match. On top of that, we of course want to be as competitive as possible on the field, and hope to make the playoffs and compete on a national scale for a PDL Championship.”