Otto Orf has done just about everything in the sport of soccer. He’s had success at every step of the game and been a star at the domestic and international level. Here in Northeast Ohio he is an absolute legend, a veteran of nearly 350 appearances with the Cleveland Force and Crunch. He’s clearly a soccer icon here and has a golden touch when it comes to stopping shots and growing the game.
His latest project is a big one, the Futsal Copa North America. The event takes place from April 14-16, 2017, a true three-day futsal extravaganza. Orf is excited about the event’s potential and what it will offer fans in attendance.
“The competition will be the highest professional competition in the U.S. or Canada to date. The Canadian champions and American champions will both be here with a very strong team coming in from the Caribbean. ABK from Grand Rapids has one of the most comprehensive futsal academies for youth and professionals and Columbus Futsal are the reigning Great Lakes Regional Champions. The officials at this tournament are the very highest quality and the largest gathering of FIFA futsal officials at any men’s or youth futsal tournament ever held in the U.S.”
Simply put, fans are in for a treat. It’s something anyone in Ohio or even the Midwest should experience. Orf hopes that the event will also raise the profile of futsal here in Ohio.
“Ohio North Soccer Association has committed its resources to bringing this event to Northeast Ohio to expose its membership to the game of futsal and the unparalleled value the game of futsal has in developing its players. Ohio North wants to show all of the recreational and travel soccer associations how easy it is to facilitate the game of futsal and make sure they understand that the children who play futsal at a young age have a huge advantage over those who do not when it comes to skill development and quick decision-making.”
The Futsal Copa North America should offer a plethora of great futsal action, especially when you consider the level of competition and the quality of play that will be on display.
“The reigning Canadian champions Toronto United and the American champs Safira (Lowell, Massachusetts) are the favorites, but the rest of these teams are coming in to Cleveland knowing they are the teams to beat. FAX Futsal from Guadeloupe is an unknown, but they have been preparing for this event for months. When I watched them in Guadeloupe last November they were a very talented, big and strong futsal team. There are two Great Lakes region teams which also deserve recognition in this event and have a great chance of taking the title. ABK Futsal is a dedicated futsal-only club that has become a leader in the game over the past 3 years and Columbus Futsal beat ABK in the Regional finals with Junior Zanelatto and a few other Brazilian futsal veterans so this should be a great showdown.”
When asked about the overall growth of futsal in North America, Orf pointed out a number of factors that are driving futsal higher.
“Futsal is not as well-known in the U.S. as it is in South America and Europe or Asia, but the sport has grown by leaps and bounds in the U.S. in the past few years. There is a large untapped indoor soccer market. There are multiple national leagues and now there are three pro leagues as well. I am excited that the Professional Futsal League (PFL) is slated to start in 2019 and Major League Futsal (MLF) is exposing cities to the high level game right now. This is great for the development of the game and it gives players an end game to work towards for those who are extremely passionate and talented.”
Orf suggests that futsal is more fan-friendly than other versions of soccer. Those that despise low scoring and slow play will absolutely love futsal. You won’t find 0-0 or 1-1 draws after 90 minutes here.
“Statistics show futsal provides more shots, more goals, more transitions and the skills on display are phenomenal,” Orf commented. “Any soccer lover will enjoy watching the game of futsal as it is built for the American fan.”
The end result of the Futsal Copa North America should be increased visibility for the sport, hopefully to the point where many take notice and things start to change.
“I hope that grade schools, high schools and eventually the NCAA adopt futsal programs for men and women,” Orf added. “When this happens you will see the soccer talent level in this country peak.”
The advantages of futsal are easy to point out when you consider a player’s development. Orf is a big proponent of using futsal to improve the skill sets of players, indoor and out.
“First off, futsal is fun. Kids love it because they have the ball much more frequently and they are always engaged in the game because the court’s small and the goals are always close. Players get to try and succeed or fail many times more than on an outdoor or indoor fields and because of this they get better faster.”
As you can see the development opportunities are endless and Orf sees great value in futsal for all.
“Personally I believe the game of futsal should grow with soccer and assist in the development of all of our soccer players. In addition I believe the younger we can start them the better it will be for us all. Change is a very hard thing for most people anyway but many of those who are invested in other versions of soccer are reluctant to jump on the bandwagon. In time the low cost, ability to play futsal anywhere, the undeniable developmental advantages and of course ‘the fun factor’ for players will make futsal a staple in the U.S. and as popular here as it is anywhere else in the world.”
The Futsal Copa North America is the first step in making that happen. It’s easy to see that fans across the Midwest have a genuine chance to see world-class futsal right in their own backyard. It’s truly amazing stuff and a great opportunity.