(Ed. Note: Today’s article is by guest writer Heather Ryerson)
In 2022, soccer came to Knoxville. Through the vision of Drew McKenna, Knoxville created its first semi-pro soccer team-One Knoxville SC. The community rallied around them in a big way and showed up for games bringing energy and excitement. They finished the season with a 13-3-1 record under head coach Mark McKeever, an outstanding record for their first season.
From the outset, One Knox has determined their club will use soccer not only to compete, but to do good in their city. In their inaugural season, they partnered with United Way of Greater Knoxville. The UWGK logo and mission statement, “United for Change,” were prominent on the season one kits. Proceeds from the sale of the kits (jerseys) benefited organizations funded through United Way and was the first of the many ways One Knox wants to give back and support the community.
In October of last year, they announced One Knoxville SC has advanced to USL League One, meaning that Knoxville has its first professional soccer club. The club will now go from a three month season to a seven month season playing around 32 games, 16 of which will be home games. You can watch them play at the University of Tennessee Regal Stadium beginning Saturday, March 18, when they face off against Lexington SC. Upon completion of the Smokies Stadium, the team will play their home games in downtown Knoxville.
Sam Weisbrod was the first hire at One Knoxville SC. He had been with Chicago Fire (SLC) for 8 years before joining One Knox. His background in grassroots and professional soccer and passion for serving the community makes him a perfect fit for the branch of the club called the One Knox Collective. The collective offers an adult rec soccer league and are now overseeing Knoxville’s youth soccer clubs, formerly Knoxville FC Crush and Knoxville Reds. Leadership from each club continues to operate the One Knoxville youth program. They launched a USL Academy USL-19 boys and girls this year. Their website states, “The USL Academy in Knoxville will grow to include age groups for U13 – U19 players, including league games this fall against other USL Academy clubs.”
The mission of the Collective “is to give every kid in Knoxville access to the benefits of playing the game in a fun, safe and welcoming environment; to break down all socioeconomic barriers between aspiring athletes and programs.”
One Knoxville SC, in partnership with United Way of Greater Knoxville, has developed a new program launching today called Goals for Good, which uses soccer as a platform to give back to our local Knoxville community. At all 16 home games in 2023, Goals for Good will champion and support Knoxville-area nonprofits. Fans and sponsors will have the opportunity to pledge a dollar amount per goal scored by the One Knox team, and the generous donations will benefit local nonprofit programs. The first five home games will support the work of Community Schools, an initiative that uses public schools as a hub for organizing community resources to improve neighborhood health, safety, and student academic success. The other 11 organizations will be announced later.
Vine Middle School, a community school, has already reaped benefits of having a soccer program in their school, and that success went on to benefit the students at Austin East High. “Vine Middle, through collaborations with existing youth programs and generous donations from community partners, was able to restart their soccer program, which had been dormant for 20 years. The main reason for bringing it back was to provide a space for refugee students to belong and to give them a community to join. Those same Vine players who helped re-start the Vine program led the Austin East High School soccer team to a State Championship in 2021.” said United Way’s Brewton Couch.
From the press release:
We are so excited to continue our partnership with One Knox SC through the Goals for Good campaign,” shared Matt Ryerson, United Way of Greater Knoxville President and CEO. “This program is a great example of the innovative ways we can all come together to pour into our community and have a huge impact.
Goals for Good kicks off Saturday, March 18, in support of The Community Schools Initiative – a program that uses public schools as a hub for organizing community resources to improve neighborhood health, safety, and student academic success.
“We are passionate about using soccer as a force for good in Knoxville,” says Sam Weisbrod, Executive Director of One Knoxville’s newly formed nonprofit arm, the One Knox Collective. “Through Goals for Good, we hope to encourage our fans to join us and collectively champion the local causes we care deeply about.”
Season tickets are available here! To order merchandise, click here. To stay up to date on One Knox Collective and matches, follow their social media on Facebook and Instagram. Consider becoming a supporter now and look forward to the day the team is based in downtown. For any questions on One Knox Collective, reach out to Sam Weisbrod at firstname.lastname@example.org.