Cascadia - CONIFA

Written by: Alun Macer-Wright
Twitter: @alunmw221

Cascadia’s opening match against Ellan Vannin at the CONIFA World Football Cup on 31 May willm ark a watershed moment in CONIFA history, as the first ever representatives from the Americas begin their maiden campaign.

Cascadia is a bioregion spanning the American states of Oregon and Washington, and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Cascadia Association Football Federation President Aaron Johnsen said: “We are thrilled to make our debut. Our hope is to lead by example and pave the way for other regions of North America to become members of CONIFA.”

Not only will the game in Sutton at the end of May be Cascadia’s first game in CONIFA competition, it will also be the side’s first official international game.

Cascadia are still expected to compete at a high level at the World Football Cup, with players of significant calibre. “Players for fans to watch will be former MLS standout James Riley as well as Josh Doughty the former Manchester United prodigy,” Johnsen said.

Riley is set to captain the team, off the back of a career which included 235 MLS appearances for the journeyman defender. Jordan Wilson, of second-tier Danish side Nykobing, will also be pulling on the Cascadia jersey.

The region’s MLS sides, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders, are renowned for the passion of their fans, who often unfurl eye-catching tifo displays. Matches between the sides can be particularly spectacular.

Supporters of each of these teams have set aside their differences to get behind the Cascadia project, and fulfil the team’s stated mission of promoting the area’s ‘distinct cultural identity’. The federation is clear however that its aims are focused on culture and sport and are not political.

The idea for a representative football team for the region goes back many years and Cascadia have been CONIFA members since 2013, so their first match will bring a long wait for a taste of international football to an end.

They will be coached by James Nichols, an experienced figure in non-league football in the north of England. Nichols holds the UEFA B license, and has been involved with teams such as Kendal Town, Northwich Victoria and Penrith, as well as the England futsal setup.

Nichols told the US football publication Prost Amerika: “I am delighted to be appointed as head coach of Cascadia and feel this is a fantastic opportunity for the region to make an impact on the world stage.”

Cascadia mean business this summer. As Johnsen said: “We anticipate having a very strong showing. We plan to do very well and challenge for the trophy.”