Soccer in Iowa could be about to enjoy a boom period in the next few years. This is because the new USL franchise based in Des Moines is set to make its debut in 2024.
However, there are already some players from the state who are playing the sport at the pro level, or have done so in the past.
Who are the players from Iowa that have made a mark in the soccer world and where are they now?
Tega Ikoba – Portland Timbers
Born in Bettendorf in 2003, Tega Ikoba is a forward who joined the Portland Timbers academy in 2018. At the start of 2022, it was announced by the Oregon franchise that he’d signed for the team as a homegrown player. This was a considerable achievement, as he became only the fourth player from their academy to make the step up in over a decade.
Tega played his college soccer at the University of North Carolina and scored 6 goals in 10 starts while there. Giovanni Savarese is the head coach of the Timbers, and he said that the forward “brings a different dynamic to our attack” and also spoke about the huge level of potential that he has. The coach was keen to thank the player’s family for helping the deal go through, and he said he’s looking forward to helping him develop.
He previously joined the team for their preseason training camps and scored his first goal for them in a game against Phoenix Rising in the 2021 Visit Tucson Sun Cup. In 2020, he played 7 games for the Portland second team and grabbed his first MLS appearance in 2021. Hopes are high that the forward will soon add to his minutes played in the MLS and get a chance to shine.
We are excited to announce the signing of #TimbersAcademy forward Tega Ikoba as an MLS Homegrown Player for the 2022 season! 💚💛
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) January 11, 2022
Jennie Clark – Assistant Coach for Minnesota Aurora
Jennie Clark played as a defender for several pro soccer teams. Most notably, she headed to Europe to sign for 1. FFC Frankfurt and SC Freiburg, who both play in the German Frauen Bundesliga. She also played for Sky Blue FC in the WPS League during an interesting playing career.
At the start of 2022, it was announced by the new Minnesota Aurora franchise that the Norwalk-born player had moved onto their staff as an assistant coach. This community-owned club joined the Heartland Division of the USL W League this year. This came after they raised $1 million in funding through crowdsourcing.
Jennie’s link to Minnesota comes from the fact that she graduated from the University of Minnesota before turning pro. Despite putting her graduation on hold to get her playing career started, she finally graduated from Minnesota. After that, she then played for the semi-professional New York Fury before heading to Germany to take her next steps.
But no one can coach alone ….. so please welcome @jenlarrick and Jennie Clark as our assistant coaches! We have the best crew in the country. Learn more about these incredible women > https://t.co/lRV9MFVIAO#fortheW #woMNsoccer pic.twitter.com/hucd7MkwCI
— Minnesota Aurora FC (@MNAuroraFC) December 16, 2021
Charlie Bales – Co-General Manager at Des Moines Menace
Charlie Bales was born in Cedar Rapids and played his college soccer at Western Illinois University. He played over 70 times for the Leathernecks and scored 11 goals in this time, as well as getting a total of 10 assists for them. He also played for Des Moines Menace in the Premier Development League while studying.
He later joined Charlotte Independence in the USL before moving into the indoor soccer scene with the Cedar Rapids Rampage. A spell as a graduate assistant at the Western Illinois Leathernecks between 2016 and 2017 prepared him for the management and coaching side of the sport. He went back to Menace in 2018, working in a variety of commercial roles before becoming a co-general manager.
— Des Moines Menace ⭐️⭐️ (@MenaceSoccer94) May 30, 2018
Brandon Fricke – Greenville Triumph SC
Brandon Fricke is another soccer player from Iowa who has played for a variety of teams across the US. He was born in Grimes and attended Butler University, where he played college soccer while appearing for Des Moines Menace during the same period. Brandon went pro in 2015 when he was picked by the Colorado Rapids in the 2015 SuperDraft for MLS teams as the 83rd overall pick.
Rather than playing for the Rapids, he was sent to their USL affiliate, Charlotte Independence. He also played for some time in Sweden, as well as going back to appear for Des Moines a couple of times. Brandon was with Lansing Ignite when the team folded, at which point he joined Greenville Triumph in the USL League One. The player was named defender of the year for the league’s 2020 season.
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/Iz59Qj8zI1
— Brandon Fricke (@b_fricke5) October 31, 2020
Eduvie Ikoba – AS Trenčín
The brother of the Portland Timbers player Tega that we looked at earlier, Eduvie has also managed to carve out a career in pro soccer. Also born in Bettendorf like his brother, the forward scored 17 goals while playing his college soccer for Dartmouth College. He combined this with time at Black Rock FC, of the USL PDL.
Evie’s move to the pro game came in 2019 when he was the 63rd overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. He was chosen by FC Dallas but never played a game for them before being released. After that disappointment, his career took him to the Hungarian league before he signed a 3-year contract with the Slovakian team AS Trenčín in 2020, which is where he still plays at the time of writing.
— AS Trenčín (@astrencin) July 13, 2020
Angelo Kelly-Rosales – Pittsburgh Riverhounds
While he was born in Honduras, Angelo Kelly-Rosales grew up in Ottumwa after moving to Iowa with his family as a child. After going to Ottumwa High School, Angelo attended William Penn University. His college soccer stats for that time show 75 games and 18 goals, together with 20 assists. He then played in the Premier Development League before joining Charleston Battery in the USL as a pro.
After a successful spell in Charleston, Angelo signed for Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Championship at the start of 2022. Described as “experienced and durable”, the midfielder joined on a 1-year deal with the option of a further year after that. His USL stats show a versatile and consistent performer, and he helped Charleston reach the playoffs in every one of his first 3 seasons there.
— Angelo Kelly (@Angelo10kelly) July 2, 2022
Lance Rozeboom – Des Moines Menace
Born in Walker, this Iowan played for the University of New Mexico Lobos, playing regularly for them while also appearing for Des Moines Menace in the USL Premier Development League. His strong performances led to a second-round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft for MLS. DC United chose him in 26th place overall but he never managed to make a competitive appearance for that franchise.
A serious injury appears to have contributed to his failure to break through, and Lance joined Rochester Rhinos of the USL Pro in 2013. He then played for teams like Austin Aztex, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Ottawa Fury FC. In 2022, the veteran midfielder went back to Des Moines Menace and has been playing regularly for them since then.
— Des Moines Menace ⭐️⭐️ (@MenaceSoccer94) July 2, 2022
Mueng Sunday – FC Tucson
Another player who was born abroad but moved to Iowa as a youngster, Mueng Sunday impressed with Iowa City West High School, being named an all-conference player on three occasions and getting the Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa award as a senior.
He plays as a full-back or midfielder and his college soccer career came at Drake University, where he appeared 72 times. Mueng is another player from Iowa who had a successful spell with Des Moines Menace.
He joined OKC Energy in the USL Championship in 2021, making his pro debut with them the same year. In March 2022, Mueng signed with FC Tucson of the USL League One. His new head coach, Jon Pearlman, spoke of the player’s experience, his “great engine”, and the strong work ethic that he would be bringing to the Arizona team.
Mueng Sunday is coming to Tucson and bringing USL Championship experience!
— FC Tucson (@FCTucson) March 23, 2022
Whitney Sharpe – Sporting Iowa
While she retired as a player a few years ago, Whitney Sharpe remains one of the most successful female soccer players to come out of Iowa. Born in West Des Moines, she played college soccer with UCLA and was one of the highest-ranked players in the country. Indeed, she represented the American national team at several age levels and in several international events.
The highlight of her pro career was when she spent a couple of seasons with Ajax FC of the Netherlands, one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world. Following the end of her playing career, Whitney carried out an assistant coaching role with the Iowa State Cyclones. Her social media profile currently lists her as the Girls’ Director of Coaching for Sporting Iowa.
— Whitney Sharpe (@Sharpiee6) July 28, 2020
Will We See a New Generation of Soccer Players Come Through?
There’s no doubt that the success of Des Moines Menace and the prospect of a new Des Moines franchise joining the USL in 2024 should help to raise the profile of soccer in Iowa in the next few years.
This could lead to a new generation of stars breaking through to join those who’ve already managed to make their way to a pro career in the sport that they love. Who will be next to join this list?