Raphael Cox replaces departing Ben Willis as FC Olympia women’s head coach


FC Olympia announced on its website Wednesday afternoon that they are hiring Raphael Cox as the new head coach of the USL Women’s team of FC Olympia, replacing Ben Willis, who will now be a professional soccer coach in the USL Super League. 

 Willis turns pro, leaves Artesians unbeaten in four games 

The 28-year-old Willis has been managing the Artesians to a clean sweep of four wins out of four in the current USL W season and now will sign as a gaffer to one of the professional clubs in the upcoming USL Super League, the Division 1 of the USL women’s soccer pyramid rivaling that of the NWSL, which will kick off their maiden season this August 2024. 

“I have really mixed emotions about leaving,” said the new pro soccer coach. “I’m so excited for my next step but I am really sad with leaving this amazing club, the players and the community.” 

At the time of writing, it is not clear where Willis will be headed to but there are USL Super League teams who still have their head coach position vacant, including Washington-based pro club Spokane Zephyr. It could be remembered that their men’s affiliate club, USL1’s Spokane Velocity, inked a deal with FC Olympia’s USL2 side in the off-season for player development opportunities. 

His last game for the Artesians was this Wednesday evening’s match against Lane United FC at the South Sound Stadium, which ended with an 8-0 whipping from seven FC Olympia goal scorers, a fitting farewell to a short yet successful Artesian stint for the young coach. 

“Bittersweet but I’m excited for Ben,” said FC Olympia principal owner Ryan Perkins. “We feel this is symbolic of this level of play and reinforces USL’s message to players, coaches, and executives that the USL W and League Two are truly paths to professional soccer.” 

FC Olympia’s USL W head coach Ben Willis will be leaving the Artesians to coach a pro team in the upcoming debut season of the USL Super League
FC Olympia’s USL W head coach Ben Willis will be leaving the Artesians to coach a pro team in the upcoming debut season of the USL Super League

Cox takes over after Willis's exit 

With the departure of Willis to the pro ranks, FC Olympia has announced the signing of Raphael Cox as the new gaffer to oversee the Artesians USL W team. 

The 37-year-old Cox is currently the assistant coach of the University of Washington Huskies and has a sizeable CV in his playing and managing career to bring this summer to the Artesians. 

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a talented group of players from across the country,” said new FC Olympia USL W head coach. “They not only possess incredible talent but, more importantly, they demonstrate exceptional dedication and hard work.” 

Deployed as a defender, the Tacoma native played for the Huskies in his college days and was a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree and was named to the All-Pac-10 first-team as a senior, while also playing for the Colorado Rapids U-23s and the Tacoma Tide FC on the NCAA off-season. 

He was then drafted to the MLS side Real Salt Lake in 2009, where, in the same year, he was part of the Utah-based club’s success in winning the 2009 MLS Cup, as he was on the side that won against a David Beckham-led LA Galaxy on penalties. 

After a year of success, he was waived by the MLS to other clubs and became a journeyman joining pro clubs such as the Tacoma Tide, Atlanta Silverbacks, and Tampa Bay Rowdies, collecting silverware with the latter as he and the Rowdies won the now-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL) trophy back in 2012. 

After retiring from outdoor soccer in 2015, he tried out arena soccer for the Tacoma Stars in the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) while building his coaching career. He became part of the coaching staff of his former institutions Highline College and Stadium High School, before joining the UW Huskies technical staff for the men’s team in 2019 and for the women’s team in 2023. 

“The most exciting aspect of taking over such a top team is the existing momentum within the team and organization,” said Cox. “I am to introduce a style of play that’s both fun and exciting to watch and our goal will be to dominate every aspect of the game and create as many scoring opportunities as possible.” 

Cox was present in the crowd in South Sound in the Artesians' win against Lane United last Wednesday and will take over the club’s USL W coaching duties on their next fixture on Saturday, June 8 against Tacoma Galaxy at Tacoma, a visit to Cox’s hometown.  


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