Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kitsap Pumas

The Pumas were playing in the USLPDL, and tearing it up. They had won 2 championships from 2014 and 2019. They were known as one of the best teams in the league. The USL was looking to expand to bigger markets not taken up by the NASL. Teams in cities like New Orleans and Buffalo were popping up. There was a rumor started that Kitsap was going to make the jump to the USL. Everyone dismissed this as the team trying to spark interest in order to make the move. But the team had no idea where the announcement came from. Turns out, some people at the Sounders started it in an attempt to bring up a team in the Seattle market to send players to. At first, the USL denied this move. But together, the Pumas and Sounders worked out a deal and pitched it to the league. The deal included an expansion to Bremerton Memorial Stadium to make it 10,000 seats. They were accepted and the Pumas would begin to play in the USL in 2020. 

The small time team was helped out a lot thanks to the Sounders. In the 2020 season, the Sounders had their brightest academy midfielder start in Kitsap for the first year. Playing a relatively weak league, the Pumas made the playoffs their first year. They continued to get better with the support of the MLS side, and people closer to Kitsap preferring to go to the USL games than drive to Seattle and see the Sounders. The deal hit the climax when Kitsap won the 2023 championship with 7 Sounders in the starting lineup. The teams of the USL were upset due to the Sounders using Kitsap as a minor league team, instead of the Pumas just having their own team. Fan groups in the league began calling them “Sounders Jr.”. After one more championship run, and a loss in the finals to Buffalo, US Soccer started a rule where MLS teams can only have 6 players from one team on loan to another. This rule hurt Kitsap because they couldn’t draw many free agents. They were near Seattle, but they weren’t a big team to draw players. They signed 2 players that were knocked out of Seattle’s lineup, but they would leave 2 years after to their respective MLS sides. A player from Senegal came to Kitsap and scored 12 goals in his first 24 games, and became a fan favorite. Kitsap has decreased in skill and attendance, but still has the chance to contend with the Sounders in a few years. It might be unlikely, but with the new system, anything is possible.

Kitsap is one of those PDL teams I know about that I just kind of like. Their logo is simple and smart. I could’ve easily put a team in Tulsa or something, but I wanted this team in my league because I like what they’re about. A small team in a market of a big team. That would be a cool rivalry if either team was in the same league. I did a Puma jersey with the white and blue hoops, pretty simple. The clash is black with the same piping as the home.

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