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Futsal takes Turlock by storm
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Futsal209 player Eliza Roque prepares to take a shot at the U.S. Youth Futsal Regionals in January.
Futsal isn’t a new sport by any means, but the soccer-like phenomenon is picking up steam in Turlock. The city’s first league and club were recently formed, cultivating a futsal culture in the Central Valley that is sure to grow.

Most are familiar with soccer, which is played outdoors on large fields with 11 players on each team. According to Turlock resident Gabriel Bolton, who also happens to be the most successful coach in Stanislaus State women’s soccer history, futsal is just like the internationally-beloved sport — but faster, and possibly even more fun.

Played on a hard court with a smaller, heavier ball, futsal provides fast-paced action compared to soccer since it takes place in a smaller space and only features five players on each team.

“It’s a totally different sport. It stands alone,” Bolton said. “You touch the ball 600 times more in futsal than in soccer.”

Bolton regularly uses futsal when his soccer team is out of season during the winter, giving the women a chance to finetune their skills indoors. There’s plenty of carryover from the sport into soccer, he said, with most players sharpening their decision-making while playing the much quicker game of futsal.

“When you go back outdoors to play soccer, it feels like you have all of the time and space in the world,” Bolton said.

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Emma Price cheers on her teammates as part of the Futsal209 Girls team.
Plenty of travel and youth soccer teams use futsal as part of their winter development as well, he added, and the enthusiasm Bolton saw in regards to the unique sport inspired him and his wife Kathy Bolton to start a league locally. The Central Valley Futsal League’s first season started in December 2019 and ran through February 2020 as the area’s largest futsal league with 43 teams and over 400 players.

“We saw this subculture of people who wanted to just keep playing futsal, and they wanted to do it eight months out of the year instead of eight weeks,” Bolton said.

Inspired by his daughter, who also wanted to play futsal, Bolton and Kathy also created a club team, Futsal209, which now consists of eight boys and girls teams in four different age groups. In January, after completing a rigorous vetting process, Futsal209 was selected as an expansion club for United Futsal — one of only 24 clubs in the nation and the only club from Stockton to Bakersfield.

As a United Futsal member, Futsal209 can compete in the top futsal competition in the nation, the Champions Cup Series.

“We were ecstatic, because now we can provide something to the Valley through our club,” Bolton said. “We just want to give those hardcore players that want to play at the highest level that opportunity, and hopefully send them back to their outdoor clubs as better players.”

Players come from as far as Merced, Modesto, Tracy and even Stockton to play for Futsal209 in addition to their own soccer teams, he added, and open trials for the team were held in February. Over 100 players were selected for the program and began practicing in early March before COVID-19 shut the show down.

Since then, coaches have been able to remain on the payroll thanks to Futsal209 families coming together to donate funds. Teams have continued to train virtually on Zoom during the shutdown, and also use the time to complete challenges, participate in competitions and even engage in anti-racism dialogue.

“This fit with our vision — build ballers on the court and in life,” Bolton said.

In February, the club partnered with the City of Turlock to paint two futsal courts at Columbia Park, and it’s Bolton’s hope that more will pop up throughout town in the future. For now, the teams look ahead to the future, which hopefully means playing in the CCS Regionals in Santa Clara this December.

While Bolton hopes to see the community’s love for the unique sport grow, he also aims to make futsal in Turlock an activity that everyone can participate in, regardless of income.

“Our goal for this club is to eliminate the ‘pay for play’ model of youth sports. What that means for us is that eventually, what we hope for the club is that nobody ever has to pay for anything in order to play in our futsal club. We’re a little way away from being able to have that environment, but our first step is that nobody gets turned away for not being able to play,” he said. “We’re here for the community, we’re of the community and it’s critical to us that everyone has this opportunity.”

For more information about the Central Valley Futsal League or Futsal209, visit or contact Bolton at

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Camila Correa-Campos of Merced dribbles down the futsal court during the U.S. Youth Futsal Regionals.