Kansas native builds California soccer power

Kansas City didn’t have any teams qualify for the 2013 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship Series, which continues through Sunday at the Overland Park Soccer Complex.

Still, that doesn’t mean Kansas City’s soccer community isn’t represented.

Josh Hodges, 35, who grew up in Overland Park, qualified three of his Legends FC girls squads from Southern California.

“I went to Shawnee Mission West,” Hodges said Monday after the National Championship Series welcome luncheon. “I was a Viking.”

Playing for SM West coach Gordon Wetmore’s high school team helped crystallize Hodges’ love for soccer.

“Growing up, I also worked at All-American Indoor Sports,” Hodges said. “I was a referee, so I was really involved in soccer there. I also played soccer and helped out with my brother’s team. Soccer’s always been part of my life.”

After graduating from SM West in 1996, where he played basketball for one season as a freshman with funnyman Jason Sudeikis, Hodges headed west to play for NAIA power Azusa Pacific.

“(Former Chiefs running back) Christian Okoye went there, but I went out there to play soccer,” Hodges said with a smile.

It was late in his college career when Hodges’ passion for soccer transitioned from playing to training youth players. He became a high school assistant coach.

After exhausting his eligibility with the Cougars, Hodges took that passion to a new level, starting his own youth soccer club, which came into existence as Glendora FC in 2002.

“The town I was living in had a need for a professionally run club soccer organization,” Hodges said. “It started there, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

At first, Glendora FC sponsored five teams, but in a little more than a decade, it’s grown to 50 girls clubs and 20 boys clubs and emerged as a powerhouse on the U.S. Youth Soccer scene.

Chivas USA took over a few of the boys clubs and in 2007 the organization morphed into Legends FC, which has seen nearly 100 players earn college soccer scholarships in the last four years alone.

Legends FC wore the National Championship Series Under-15 Girls crown last season, while the Under-17 team coached by Hodges reached the National Championship Series final.

Both teams are back for another go at the national title along with Legends FC’s Under-13 girls.

“Obviously, from Southern California, we don’t make a lot of trips out this way, so to get my kids who’ve been with me for nine years — my U18s — to come here to my hometown for the national championship makes it more special,” Hodges said.

This week also has become a family affair Hodges.

“My parents have been doing little goodie bags for the kids every day,” Hodges said. “It should be fun. I’m excited to be back in my hometown and hopefully we’ll capture a couple titles while I’m here.”