There’s a new national gay soccer league launching with the backing of various advisors from New York and Chicago – US LGBT Soccer. It’s being administered initially by the Minneapolis-based TC (for Twin Cities) Jacks Soccer Club board of directors and Jacks president, Ryan Adams. As the new league’s president, Adams says an independent board will be formed eventually but there are already opportunities to join and/or volunteer.
I had an opportunity to talk with Adams not only about launching the new league but also to learn more about him and the sporting experiences that influenced who he is today.
Compete: What sports did you play growing up, Ryan?
Ryan Adams: I played the “Minnesota standard” of three seasonal sports – hockey, soccer and tennis. I played goalkeeper for both soccer and hockey. And I believe playing doubles tennis has some similarities to that position since playing the net has always been my favorite spot.
C: Did you continue to play into adulthood?
RA: No – I played soccer until I was 17 but later picked it back up at the age of 26. Since rejoining soccer as an adult, I’ve played for the TC Jacks, Minnesota’s only LGBT and allied soccer club. I started with the club three years after hearing about it but I wish I had rejoined sooner. But I had to overcome some obstacles of fear and bias from my youth playing days.
Once I started playing adult soccer, it only took about nine months to develop a real desire to get more involved. I’d just started a master’s program for sport management and felt it was a great opportunity to apply my education and skills to this amazing soccer club with a great message on the pitch as well as off the pitch. It was growing a social football (soccer) community for LGBT athletes and others in the community.
C: Did it all work well for you and the league?
RA: It did. I spent from 2013-2015 facilitating league and competition growth for the Jacks, and today we operate seven-plus teams in local leagues that have opened over 100 roster spots for players. The team has been able to send traveling teams to three national LGBT tournaments and three local ones while also eyeing up the 2017 OutGames in Miami and the 2018 Gay Games in Paris. And we now offer co-ed open soccer free to the community that’s open to all skill levels – you can play without the pressure of a league match.
At the time I was elected Jacks president in 2016, I was also elected communications director for the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) where I served six months growing publicity and social media for the international league. I also provided critical growth and leadership plans for the IGLFA World Championships being held this month in Portland, Oregon as well as plans for the Unity Cup at the 2017 World OutGames.
C: Being so heavily involved already on the local and international levels, what prompted you to start US LGBT Soccer?
RA: While I was working with the international organization I realized there’s a gap between that group and the in-country teams. Given the size of the U.S. and its 18 (and growing) soccer teams, I realized there’s more I can do domestically for gay soccer and its players. So with IGLFA’s blessing, I left the communications post to build a strong U.S. league as a bridge between the local and international organizations.
C: When does US LGBT Soccer officially launch?
RA: We launch officially in August with many of our leaders and clubs being represented at the IGLFA World Championships in Portland from August 6-13. With us all in one city, we have the opportunity to kick-start and unify our efforts, launching big and strong.
C: Describe your role at US LGBT Soccer.
RA: Currently my role is jack of all trades. While I’ve been gathering resources and volunteers in varying capacities, I’m still the webmaster, the publicist, the deal maker, the advocate and beyond. I am now and will likely always be a volunteer. Fortunately I have a flexible career that permits my passion for volunteering and soccer. I also have a patient boyfriend who supports my soccer endeavors, often through administrative support and grabbing me a Red Bull to stay kicking into the wee hours of the morning.
C: What’s the best thing about starting US LGBT Soccer?
RA: I love the interest and energy of multiple groups and unifying it into one national group to promote the game of soccer in the U.S. while also providing international outreach, enabling teams to become ambassadors of the game worldwide. I also love the new opportunities for more individuals to play.
C: What’s the mission of US LGBT Soccer?
RA: United States LGBT Soccer is the national soccer association dedicated to participation in and the enjoyment and advancement of adult soccer across America for LGBT adults. We work to provide leadership, valuable resources, services and opportunities to support our member organizations. Most importantly, we’re combating homophobia in sport.
C: What are the short-term and long-term goals for US LGBT Soccer?
RA: Short term goals are to:
- * identify currently existing strengths and weaknesses in the LGBT soccer market
- * increase the number of participating cities and clubs by 50 percent over 18 months
- * affiliate with USSF or US Soccer to promote equality and combat homophobia by creating a safe space for fans, staff and players at all levels of soccer
- * earn brand sponsorship to support revenue necessary to ensure US LGBT Soccer can grow and sustain its mission and goals
- * Long term goals are to:
- * become the face of LGBT soccer in the U.S.
- * become a pivotal resource to major league soccer’s fan bases, creating a hub for LGBT soccer fans for various clubs
- * assist in replicating this association model to other counties and territories to create opportunity for LGBT community athletes around the globe to be out and proud playing the game they love
- * grow our association to greater than one club in every state to assure coverage and opportunity throughout the U.S.
C: What are your favorite sports?
RA: I find most sports pretty appealing; however I would admit soccer, hockey and tennis are ingrained in my DNA. Women’s volleyball is a growing sport in my life – I just bought season tickets to the University of Minnesota’s matches.
C: And your favorite professional and/or college sports teams?
RA: I tend to find individual players as my favorites. More and more I see teams voicing more than statistics, so I am falling in love with teams again. For athletes, I am a fan of Lauren Carlini, the center for the University of Wisconsin’s volleyball team. Abby Wambach and our ladies with team USA Soccer are certainly favorites, too. And we have the Minnesota Lynx who are incredible athletes and our only winning team other than the Minnesota United.
C: How about any other favorite pastimes?
RA: If I’m not playing soccer, I’m highly likely trying new craft beers, sitting on a beach or advocating against hate on social media.
C: Do you have people who positively influence you?
RA: I have a couple of people I look up to. One is Dr. Eric Anderson, professor of Sport, Masculinities & Sexualities at the University of Winchester in England. And the other is Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally.
Thanks for sharing your vision of US LGBT Soccer with us, Ryan. If you are interested in opportunities to join or volunteer with this new organization, go to
By Harry Andrew
Photos courtesy of US LGBT Soccer
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