Post-collegiate soccer has seen a boom in recent years in Northern California, and the next stop for a new team is right here in Stockton.
After 18 years of the San Jose Earthquakes being the only pro team in Northern California, Sacramento Republic F.C. broke in 2012 followed a few years later by the Oakland Roots giving men places to play. Now it is the women’s turn with the Stockton Cargo, an elite pre-professional team who will begin play in United Soccer League-Women in 2023.
The Cargo came into being because of the efforts of owner and CEO Lee Neves. He contacted various people in and around the USL and USL-W. When it became clear there was an opportunity for expansion, he acted.
“I had been in touch with (USL-W) and contacted them, formulated a plan, and got a team,” Neves said.
The USL, one sanctioning level below Major League Soccer, launched the women’s league in 2022 with 44 teams in the Midwest, South and on the East Coast. They are moving into Northern California with the Cargo and Oakland Soul next season. The USL and USL-W works as a pipeline league between colleges and the pros.
As a professional soccer fan of over 30 years, Neves was excited to get the opportunity to showcase the talented women of Stockton.
“In Stockton, it is something we needed. We have so many talented women who haven’t had time to shine in Stockton,” Neves said.
Among those talented women are Cargo co-head coaches Anahie Duran and Adrienne Sorenson, who has been coaching at Delta since 2010 and has either played or coached in the area for all of her life. Having this opportunity means a lot to her.
“There were just so few opportunities when I played, so one being more accessible would’ve been important to me,” Sorenson said. “It really could’ve impacted me positively both in my playing career and my coaching career. To see it happen now is kind of a full circle moment and just special for the women in this community.”
That accessibility is also important to Neves. He thought about the legacy he leaves behind and he wants this to be a team for women run by women for years to come.
“I had a liver transplant and there were times I thought I wouldn’t make it,” Neves said. “I want to leave a legacy and I want that legacy to be the creation of opportunities for the women in Stockton.”
Sorenson believes opportunity alone will be big for the women of Stockton and the surrounding areas.
“The opportunity being there is massive for young girls who are coming up in the game through this area. The players, as they go to college, have the ability to come back and train with this team. Playing games with this team next summer to prepare for their college season is huge,” Sorenson said.
For Sorenson, having that other expansion team in the area to start a rivalry with is also big for the team, and Neves is ready for the competition.
“I’m looking forward to kicking their (Oakland Soul) ass,” Neves said.
Sorenson has already been in contact with some of the top players in the area, but open tryouts will officially begin in April of 2023 with the first season in the summer of 2023. Even without a team set, Sorenson has a strategy and a main goal in mind.
“We expect to play a fun attacking style, a high pressing team. We want to play in a way that entertains the people of Stockton,” Sorenson said.