Ambassadors Cleveland\'s Two Sides Balance Soccer and Faith and It\'s Paid Off On and Off the Field
Published Jun 2, 2022
Written By:  Thomas Costello
             Central Region Contributor

When soccer supporters look at the WPSL’s Ohio Valley Conference, something sticks out. Within the Eastern Division are two eerily similar teams in Ambassadors Cleveland and Cleveland Ambassadors. Though, what’s behind the scenes isn’t eerie at all. In fact, it’s a team that excels on the field, has grown over the years and focuses on things far beyond soccer, like having a global impact.



Based on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland, Ohio is an underrated spot for soccer talent. Ambassadors head coach Caleb Fortune learned this in 2016. After the Ambassadors youth soccer organization requested another step in its soccer pathway, a team for college and older players, Fortune reached out to the community for athletes to fill the roster.

We just kinda figured we’d reach out to some good players from Cleveland,” Fortune said about recruiting. “It was really casual, not formal at all and we had a really good team and did really well.”

Really well was an introductory WPSL season of 11 wins, three draws and one loss. In those three losses, Cleveland never lost by more than a goal. Then, in 2018, Cleveland won the entire Central Region. It was a surprise to Fortune and the Ambassadors, whose goal as an organization is bound to the club’s faith.



Cleveland is one Ambassadors club within a parent organization called Ambassadors Football that spans over 25 countries across six continents. Each country that the Ambassadors enter is part of a vision to see transformation through football ministry in every country and culture.

Ambassadors Football has over 2,500 players worldwide and after Cleveland’s WPSL club started strong, and continued to play well in the league, other parts of the Ambassadors organization took notice. Each year, in July, Ambassadors hold a coaching clinic for coaches across the world.

After seeing Fortune’s Cleveland side train and play, the Cleveland Ambassadors went from a team that played in the WPSL in the summer to a team traveling the globe to compete. It’s taken the Ambassadors to Rwanda and Liberia to play national teams. On top of that life-changing experience for the young players, Cleveland’s played against Liverpool Women in 2019, while it was in the Women’s Super League of England, and the Chicago Red Stars and Gotham FC of the NWSL.


The competitiveness of the organization also strengthened its roster. Due to its success, universities wanted to send players to the club to compete in the collegiate offseason. As a result, the Cleveland Ambassadors had these players at its disposal, but using players from outside the Northeast Ohio area wasn’t an easy decision.

As time went by, we had to choose a direction,” Fortune said. “Do we choose players from Cleveland or from outside of the area? It’s very hard to build a team and make things sustainable.”

Fortune and the Cleveland club handled the influx of new talent and opted for allowing the best to play for the sake of playing. For instance, in Cleveland’s 2-2 draw to Liverpool in 2019, which Fortune contends to this day that his side should have won on a bad second goal by Liverpool, the Ambassadors featured Catarina Macario, Sophia Smith and Naomi Girma in its starting 11. Aside from their time on the United States Women’s National Team, each play professionally with Smith and Girma in the NWSL and Macario in France with Lyon.


All the added exposure of succeeding on the field and building a player pool of 70 to 80 players furthers the Ambassadors’ mission. Any proceeds that Cleveland receives beyond what it costs to run the organization go out across the globe to start clubs, give local kids an outlet to play and build up the communities around the team through resources and its faith message.

Within the WPSL, Fortune and the Ambassadors’ growing pool of players meant another outlet was needed for the club and last season, a second Cleveland Ambassadors team was born, giving each team its own dedicated group of players who share the same coaching staff.

In 2021, that success ran through both sides, earning first place for the “expansion” Ambassadors Cleveland and second for Cleveland Ambassadors. So far this season, the results haven’t followed the same script as 2021.


After three matches, Ambassadors Cleveland tops the Ohio Valley Conference’s Eastern Division standings with nine points while scoring 16 goals and only giving up one. However, the Cleveland Ambassadors started the season on a rougher note due to injuries throughout the team.

Ambassadors Cleveland, the first-place side, beat the Columbus Eagles 4-0 on Saturday, May 21 in its second match of the season. On May 17 and 24, the two Cleveland sides faced off to finish their head-to-head matchups early with Ambassadors Cleveland outscoring Cleveland Ambassadors 12-1 over the two matches.

Though, Fortune had these matches early by design. If playoff situations come down to the last match of the season, Fortune and the club don’t want outside teams thinking that one team will lose by a needed margin over the other.

Another peculiar piece of the 2021 standings so far is the number of matches played. Each Cleveland side already played three times, when most of their conference opponents have just one under their belts - another aspect designed by intent.

This is due to players from both teams heading to Mexico this summer to continue the organization’s mission. During the trip, they’ll play against professional teams including Puebla from Liga MX Femenil. Cleveland will face a second Liga MX Femenil team to be determined before its travels south to face Noria, a local regional team.


Many teams feature an identity and specific tactics that set them apart from each other. When Cleveland’s two teams are on the field, there aren’t unique formational or tactical differences – that’s by design. Fortune describes the teams as one with an open mind.

Instead of being known for passing or speed down the sidelines, the Ambassadors stress flexibility in style of play. Cleveland builds plays with its defense but will adjust what it’s doing on the field to take advantage of its opponents. This is a skill that’s tough to incorporate for a team of players from all different universities, but when it works as it has for the Ambassadors, it’s dominating. The fluidity of play also strengthens players for their return to most of their NCAA Division I colleges in the fall.

Talent stretches across both teams, but there are a few names to watch on the Ambassadors Cleveland 2022 WPSL roster. On defense is center-back Sydney Dawson. The Clemson defender isn’t only on the field to stop plays but build them. Dawson is known for high passing accuracy, often moving the ball at over 90% completion on sometimes over 100 passes a match.

In the midfield is Notre Dame’s, Korbin Albert. Albert entered Notre Dame as a freshman for the 2021 season as a top-10 recruiting talent in the country. With the Fighting Irish, Albert earned 12 goals and four assists in 22 appearances – 21 of which were starts. The ACC named Albert to its All-Freshman Team and Third Team All-ACC.

Albert made her debut for the Ambassadors on Saturday, against Beadling Soccer Club after missing the first three matches of the season attending the United States’ U20 camp.

Joining Albert in the midfield is former college standout, Megan Buckingham. The University of North Carolina alumna finished four years of college soccer in 2018 before moving overseas to play professionally. Buckingham has since hung up her professional soccer cleats, but still competes each season with Cleveland. Fortune says Buckingham’s ability shows how much she still loves to play soccer.

Both Ambassadors sides love the game of soccer and use it for more than competition – though the competition part is still important. Even though Cleveland’s been at the top of the standings for most of its five seasons in the WPSL, Fortune sees the division as highly competitive in 2022.

Whether it’s the experience of the Eagles, the fight of Century United or the experience and talent pool of Beadling Soccer Club, Cleveland plans on facing the challenge and working to repeat as conference champions. Ambassadors Cleveland and the Cleveland Ambassadors continue their season this weekend against expansion side Beadling Soccer Club.

Ambassadors Cleveland takes on Century United Saturday, June 4 at 4:00 PM ET and Cleveland Ambassadors face them on Sunday, June 5 at 2:00 p.m. ET.