Domestic soccer club directory
My Role: Creator
Tools: Sketch, InVision Studio, Glide, Google Sheets
I originally had the idea for pitchmaps years ago. After watching the 2010 Men’s FIFA World Cup in packed sports bars around Chicago and speaking with other viewers about their support of local clubs (or lack thereof) - I realized that there was a huge knowledge gap about the domestic game.
The World’s Game
If we look at viewership numbers in the US for the last several Men’s World Cups, we can see that interest in the game of soccer is not only on the rise but is also directly tied to the presence of a United States National team.
The United States Men’s National Team failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and US Viewership fell dramatically. We can talk about the rising popularity of foreign leagues (EPL, Serie A, La Liga, etc) in the US, but it is pretty clear from these numbers that there is a desire to support domestic soccer.
The Domestic Game
Professional club soccer in the United States has had a wild wild ride of ups and downs.
The first successful professional soccer league in the US and Canada was the original North American Soccer League which operated from 1967 to 1985. The league filled stadiums with tens of thousand fans who came to see incredible stars like Pele, Johan Cruyff and George Best.
Since then, the soccer landscape has changed wildly and regularly. Below you’ll see how the number of clubs and leagues has changed between 2006 and 2019.
In the visualization above, no two years are the same. Not only does the number of clubs change year after year, but whole leagues come and go with ease. How on earth are casual sports fans supposed to follow and support something with such an extreme level of volatility?
The United States Soccer Federation does little, if anything at all, to help the situation. Their website features all levels of national team information - Men’s, Women’s, Youth of all ages, even Beach Soccer - but nothing of substance about club level soccer in the United States.
There is no one place to go to see the full scope of soccer in the United States and Canada.
When I began to think about what I could create to help bridge the knowledge gap, I started thinking about a tool that would help people identify their local club for them. I thought about something along the lines of a store locator. The vision was that users would find the tool and be able to enter in their address or zip code and have the system return the 5 closest clubs.
The initial sketches were for a phone but the idea was not that this would be an app. It could be down the line, but the starting premise would be that this would be shared amongst friends at the bar or passed around social media. This would need to be a responsive website to allow for easy and quick access.
After sketching different versions on various pieces of paper over the years, I finally put together a simple prototype for what it all might look like.
The problem at this point was getting it built. Over the last several years I have become a father to two wonderful children. On a directly related note - over the last several years I have had less and less free time.
I initially tried to code it myself, but there were database and mapping elements that would need to be created that I just didn’t have the time to learn about. I also didn’t feel like I had the time to go back and forth with someone in what free time I had to have them build it.
Sure, these are probably just a bunch of excuses but thankfully the story no longer ends there.
Delivery - sans code
Recently I was introduced to a tool called Glide. It allowed me to take a Google Sheet - the database I had been making of all domestic soccer clubs - and instantly turn it in to an app. The roadblocks that I had been running in to were now wiped away and I was able to get a fairly extensive first pass created over the weekend.
As you’ll see in the video below, there is a big difference between the current product and what I had been prototyping previously. Currently with Glide, I am not able to have the store locator functionality. It is a disappointment but I think the current structure gets us 90% of the way there.
Using the global navigation in the form of a tab bar, I have created sections for clubs, locations and leagues.
Clubs: A list of every single club in the United States and Canada. All in alphabetical order and searchable.
Clicking through to a club provides you with the club crest, the club website and twitter and stadium name and address with a link to Google Maps.
Locations: A list of every state and province. Clicking through takes you to a list of all clubs for that location.
Leagues: A list of all leagues. Clicking through to takes you information about the league and a list of all clubs that belong to it.
Not only does pitchmaps allow you to find a club based off of a general location, but it also allows you to see entire leagues and potentially most importantly, the complete picture of club soccer in the United States and Canada. It has gone from something that could be passed around during National Team events, to a resource for all soccer fans.
When the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup gets underway and you’re looking at a sea of lower league teams you’re unfamiliar with - probably because they just started play this year - pitchmaps will be there to get you the information you need!
There are over 200 hundred clubs listed on Pitchmaps so far but shockingly, that is not even close to all of them. I will be continuing to document all of the rest and doing my best to maintain it during the offseason with the inevitable changes that will bring.
There are also aspects of the experience that I am working to improve. The one of the biggest aspects would be implementing empty states for locations without associated clubs.