Pitt State Women’s Soccer to impact recruiting, student life, community 

After learning that women’s soccer, one of the fastest growing team sports in the U.S., will be added to Pittsburg State University Athletics for the 2024-25 season, a Kansas City area recruiter is among those most excited. 

Soccer is the number one youth sport in Kansas City — home to numerous state title winners in girl’s high school soccer and national level club teams.  

And there, Dana Blubaugh, a recruiter with Pitt State’s Office of Admission, has lost great students to other universities with women’s soccer teams. 

“To say I’m excited is an understatement,” she said. “It seems like every little girl in this area starts playing soccer around age 4 or 5, and with the success of the KC Current women’s team, the sport is only growing. I’m thrilled Pitt State is now in the mix!” 


Milestone moment 

The announcement — a milestone moment at Pitt State — was made Wednesday in a press conference held in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. 

“This is the first women’s sport we’ve added since 1986, and that’s a big deal,” said Jim Johnson, director of Intercollegiate Athletics. 

Johnson estimates the addition of the sport will bring 25 to 30 competitive student-athletes to Pitt State who would not otherwise enroll here. It likely also will bring many more students to Pitt State who won’t compete, but for whom soccer is part of their lifestyle. 

“For many areas of our country, for many populations, and in many other countries, soccer is the primary sport,” said President Dan Shipp, whose three sons are active in the sport as part of club teams that play across the Midwest.  

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we relevant? Are we focused on the needs of today’s population?’ We want to be more inclusive," Shipp added. “The absence of soccer sends a signal to the market, and having its presence here also sends a signal.” 

In addition to being the number one youth sport in Kansas City, it’s also at the top of the list in Omaha, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa. The popularity extends beyond the field to the stadiums, where fans crowd in with tremendous support. 

“Athletics provides a heartbeat of spirit and tradition for a campus and a community,” Shipp said. “This adds more beats to our heart.” 

soccer stadium 2

Artist's rendering

Economic impact 

The addition will have a positive economic impact to the region, but at very little cost to the university. 

“We have a good business plan to make this affordable, with private funds and many great local partners helping us with this,” Shipp said. 

Johnson said it’s been on the university’s to-do list for awhile, but cost was a factor. 

There has been a need for us to grow our athletic program — we just needed to find the right time, the right direction, to do that,” he said. “This is it. It was a natural choice. We are the only MIAA school that doesn’t yet play.” 

A Gallup poll in 2019 asserted that 52 percent more adults considered themselves soccer fans compared to 2012 — a growth that outpaces the other four “major” American sports of ice hockey, basketball, baseball, and football.  

In 2021, there were just six days on which a soccer game was not broadcast on TV in the U.S., with more than 4,600 individual matches that year — a staggering statistic. 

More than half of those matches were broadcast in Spanish, a popular demographic for the sport and the fastest growing population in the U.S. for the past decade. 

Similar polls show the game is quickly becoming the choice sport for young people, with high school soccer participation growing 32 percent from 2002 to 2019, beating out baseball, hockey, basketball, and football. 

And globally, it’s been one of the world’s most popular sports for decades, followed by an estimated 3.5 billion people — or half the world. 

In 2026, the FIFA World Cup will come to North America. 

soccer gear

Championship level 

Pitt State has earned national championships in football and track and field. 

The university will approach soccer no differently by “jumping in to be a national champion,” Johnson said. “We’re one of the top D-II athletic programs in the country, and this sport we intend to be no different. It will be a great thing for us to have another sport to play at a championship level, another opportunity for female student athletes to come to Pitt State. 

“We’ll recruit at an elite level and will build out an extensive youth camp program that aligns with it, thanks to our excellent facilities and location.” 

Those youth camps got a jump start this summer and were a tremendous success. 

Nuts and bolts 

The university will hire a coach following the 2023 season.

Work will begin this year on plans to build a soccer stadium and facilities at the Gene Bicknell Sports Complex — home to the Pitt State Baseball and Softball programs. 

The season takes place in the fall semester and will feature an 18-game regular season schedule. The top eight MIAA schools advance to the MIAA Postseason Tournament, with the champion earning an automatic berth to the NCAA Division II National Championships. 

The addition of women’s soccer brings the total women’s offerings to seven: basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, volleyball, and indoor and outdoor track and field.

The university offers six men’s sports: baseball, basketball, cross country, football, and indoor and outdoor track and field. 

soccer stadium

Artist's rendering

Expert help 

Consulting for the program will be Marcus Kelcher, a longtime elite soccer coach, competitive soccer camp director, and current director of Club and Player Development at Kansas City Scott Gallagher. He holds both USSF and USC Licensing and Diplomas and is highly respected across the country in the soccer community, Johnson noted. 

“This is a pretty special place,” Kelcher said. “When I got here, I was just blown away by the facilities and the community.” 

“I do think we will be winning a lot sooner than everyone thinks. I think this is the perfect location, and we have a group of people who want this program to succeed. We have a plan in place to put something in place on that field in 12 months that everyone will be proud of.”


Watch the archived livestream of the announcement