From the Denver Kickers to the Denver Dynamos, and from the Colorado Foxes to the Colorado Caribous, the sport of soccer has a healthy history in the Centennial State.
On the men’s side, players such as Conor Casey, Brian Mullan, Todd Dunivant, Collen Warner, and Nat Borchers were raised in Colorado. So too were Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan, and Jaelene Hinkle, who are decent bets to represent the USA at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. Highlands Ranch-born Janine Beckie could star in the colors of Canada (her club team is Manchester City).
CONCACAF Gold Cup matches have been played at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
DICK’S Sporting Goods Park has hosted World Cup qualifiers.
Colorado Springs is home to the U.S. Olympic Committee, while the state houses teams from all the leading professional sports.
And so, it makes sense, that one of the nation’s most prolific sporting states should bring together its two professional soccer clubs, the Colorado Rapids and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
“We’re in a very, very advantageous position, to be so close to each other with two professional teams, covering two different levels, while still being able to have the reach all the way across the Front Range,” explained Switchbacks General Manager and Rapids’ Senior Director of Soccer Development, Brian Crookham.
“I think that can be a galvanizing piece for soccer all across this region. I think we have the ability, with time and effort, to become a model of how these affiliations should be, and I think we’ll be looked to across MLS and USL, and beyond to the effectiveness of this.”
The Rapids are MLS originals, whereas the Switchbacks have just finished their fourth season in the United Soccer League. That said, they have a man at the helm who has deep connections with the sport in Colorado, and with the Rapids. Head coach Steve Trittschuh made 91 appearances for the Rapids, from playing in the club’s very first game on April 13, 1996.
The former US international was also an assistant coach with the Rapids, under Tim Hankinson and then Fernando Clavijo. He has been in charge of the Switchbacks since their inaugural season in 2015, and has ex-Rapids striker Wolde Harris as his assistant.
“If you look back to ’96, there were no development academies,” said Trittschuh. “That’s just been around for about the past 10 years, and so it’s grown big time.
“And I’ve seen it go to another level. This is one of the states US Soccer does look at for national team players, whether on the boys’ side or the girls.
“There’s top coaches in this state - I’ve seen it - and they’re developing these kids for that next level, and we want to be a part of that. We want to be a part of helping the Rapids get to that next level, also, (to help) get another championship for them, and so hopefully we can work together and it’s all positive.”
The Rapids’ first-ever homegrown player, Davy Armstrong, moved on to the Switchbacks after his time in Commerce City came to an end. Former goalkeeper Steward Ceus was in the Springs in 2018, while the likes of Micheal Azira, Kip Colvey, Conor Doyle, Charles Eloundou, Joseph Greenspan, Sam Hamilton, Niki Jackson, and Zach Pfeffer all had loan spells from the Rapids.
With this affiliation, so begins another, telling chapter with the world’s game uniting in the state of Colorado.