This Don Quixote is tilting at futsal courts to boost U.S. soccer.
Sunlight pours through the south-facing windows of a massive Minneapolis warehouse that once housed a steel-finishing factory. Marshall Morehead looks up at the guys on hydraulic lifts, repairing the metal roof. He's waiting for the delivery of plastic composite flooring.
To most people, it looks like a vacant airplane hangar.
To Marshall Morehead, it looks like the first step in elevating the afterthought status of U.S. soccer. Morehead has leased the empty factory space and is converting it into Minnesota's first official futsal court.
Futsal, to the uninitiated, is a five-on-five version of soccer played indoors with a small, heavier ball that doesn't bounce so the game emphasizes ground-level foot skills.
Deriving its name from fútbol de salon (hall soccer), it sprung up in Uruguay in the 1930s and has become popular in South America and the rest of the soccer-worshiping world. FIFA, the Swiss-based international soccer federation, has run futsal championships for more than 20 years.
Enter Morehead, a mild-mannered financial services worker who grew up in Stillwater and was named the state's first Mr. Soccer 15 years ago. He's married to a Hennepin County forensic scientist and they have two boys, 3-year-old Fletcher and 1-year-old Finnigan.
He played soccer at Marquette and with the Thunder, but admits his love for the game deepened when he started coaching kids, including Lake Oswego children near Portland, Ore., five years ago. That's where he discovered futsal. Perhaps because of all the rain, Portland boasts its own official futsal court. Since moving back home in 2006, Morehead has dreamed of opening a similar facility in Minnesota.
"If this country is ever going to get better and be good on a global scale, we have to start treating soccer like a first- or second-tier sport instead of a fifth-tier sport," he says.
He's targeting kids 8 to 16 and dreams of developing talented Minnesota soccer players on his two regulation courts during the months of snow and muck that otherwise idle the state's best players.
He's already got a deal with the Minneapolis United soccer club to train at his facility and he's reaching out to Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference colleges and others. His warehouse is located at 900 SE. Sixth Av., just west of Interstate 35 and south of E. Hennepin Avenue near the University of Minnesota.
He hopes kids who go to the U and played soccer growing up might join daytime leagues to stay active in the winter. There will be adult leagues for men and women.
"I don't think I'm revolutionizing anything," he says. "I'm not re-inventing the wheel. I'm just providing an outlet for people that's not here. Being unique is always good from a business standpoint."
His passion is a bit quixotic, but who needs another empty steel warehouse when the next generation of global soccer stars need germination?
"This is a microcosm of what we need to do as a country to treat this game like it should be treated," Morehead says. "I'm passionate about that."
If all goes as planned, Twin Cities Futsal opens Dec. 2.