EUGENE, Ore. - A local youth soccer club is launching a revamped website this weekend as part of its new connection to the Portland-based professional soccer team, the Portland Timbers.
The Eugene Metro Ftbol Club in January joined a partnership of six regional youth soccer clubs that will work closely with the Timbers to improve and strengthen soccer for kids. The other clubs are from Portland (Westside and Eastside), Salem, Medford, Bend and Vancouver, Wash.
Jurgen Ruckaberle, director of coaching at ETFC, helped create the partnership.
"It's super exciting because the Portland Timbers are very successful at the top level," Ruckaberle said. "Our kids are really excited about having that Timbers connection because a lot of us watch their games at the stadium or on TV."
The partnership means the Eugene club will change its name to Eugene Timbers Ftbol Club (ETFC), wear Timbers colors, and have access to Timbers resources. The club's website will be renamed eugenetimbers.com.
"Soccer has grown tremendously over the last eight years," Ruckaberle said. "There is a lot of growth and depth in the club for each age and gender, which allows everyone to play."
The Eugene soccer club was formed in 2006 by Mac Wilson and a number of other committed parents and coaches.
In its first year, the club had three teams. Today, there are nearly 30 teams across the ages of 8 to 18. The club also has a semi-pro women's team, Azul.
The seven Timbers youth clubs will share resources to send top players to showcase tournaments across the country, giving kids more exposure to competition and college coaches. Kids will also have more opportunities to attend events and camps at the Timbers stadium, Providence Park, in Portland.
Mike Smith, co-director of the Timbers Youth Academy, said kids are the future of soccer.
"It's massively important," Smith said. "We have a thriving youth department, and we're trying to reach out to every part of the community."
Last weekend, the Eugene Timbers U-15 boys team, Juventus, wore the new red and black Timbers jerseys at its game at Lane Community College in Eugene.
Juventus head coach Bryn Dennehy said, "We're really excited about the partnership because it gives these guys something to work towards. It's really inspiring for the young kids because it shows them that there is an opportunity to play at the next level."
The Eugene Timbers soccer club also runs camps, clinics and tournaments for all ages throughout the year. Its next tournament is the 3v3Challenge Cup at Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene, Ore., May 31, 2014.
For more information go to eugenetimbers.com.