Outstanding turnouts for the last tryout sessions two weekends ago for the Maine Sting and Maine Tide soccer teams has generated plenty of optimism for the upcoming season.
Cheryl Stokes, president of the Atlantic Sports Group which brought the teams to Bangor last summer, said there were approximately 25 men and 25 women at the tryouts at the Fields4Kids indoor facility on the Beal College campus in Bangor.
The Sting, which is the men’s team, plays in the National Premier Soccer League while the Tide, the women’s team, plays in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
These numbers far exceed the single-digit numbers for last year’s tryouts and for the first tryouts a few months ago.
“This lets us know that we’re generating interest in the program and that it is growing like we hoped it would,” said Stokes.
She said acceptance letters are being sent out to the players who have earned roster spots and they have until April 6 to respond. Stokes hopes to have both rosters finalized by April 10.
There will be 22 players on each roster and they may have a few more on a reserve list in case of injuries.
Stokes said there has been interest from players all across the country and in Canada, but she anticipates this year’s teams being composed of 50 percent Maine natives.
“Last year, it was probably 10 percent,” said Stokes. “Our philosophy is to grow the sport within the state. We want to have as many Maine players as we can. We want to find the local talent we know is here. We want to really focus on the players who came up playing soccer in the state of Maine. We’re trying to provide op-portunities for the true Maine-based players.”
The coaches, the husband-and-wife team of Jukka and Carmen Masalin, who are the assistant men’s and women’s soccer coaches at Hartwick College (N.Y.), will also bring in some players they are familiar with and there will be some returnees off last year’s teams.
Stokes expects the players to arrive in the area by May 11 and the first games are the following weekend.
The Tide women open their season at Bay State (Mass.) on May 15 at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., and will play the New England Mutiny the next day at Northampton (Mass.) High School, while the Sting play their first game on May 17 when they visit the Boston Aztecs at UMass Lowell’s Cushing Field.
The Tide will play their home opener against Soccer Plus (Conn.) on May 30 at 3 p.m. at Boucher Field on the Husson campus in Bangor, while the Sting will play their home opener as part of a doubleheader with the Tide on June 7 against Morris County (N.J.).
The Tide will play a total of 10 regular-season games and the Sting will play eight.
Stokes said they have housing available for the players but are still seeking more sponsors and jobs.
However, on the job front, she said team members will be running soccer clinics throughout the summer “at a variety of places.”
They will have free weekly clinics for 4- to 7-year-olds at the Sports Arena, which will sponsor the clinics.
Youth soccer players will receive a free pass to all the Tide and Sting home games, she said.
“We want the kids to be able to see a different [higher] level of soccer they can’t see anyplace else in the state,” said Stokes.