There is something Cascadia, a bioregion and proposed country located in North America, and Carlisle City Football Club have in common: They are both managed by Jim Nichols.

In one of football’s quirkier stories, Nichols became head coach of the Cascadian national team last summer, ahead of the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup - an international tournament for all associations outside FIFA - which was held in London.

Despite taking the role with NO players, Nichols, who brought Penrith AFC players Shaun Gardner and Stuart Dixon along as part of his coaching team, managed to get a team together of Cascadian-qualified players for the CONIFA World Cup in a matter of months.

There, Cascadia reached the quarter-final where they were beaten 3-1 by eventual winners Karpatalya who were representing the Hungarian minority living in Carpathian Ruthenia - a south-west area of modern-day Ukraine.

Now, Cascadia - captained by MLS star James Riley - are preparing to take on the Chagos Islands on Saturday at Whyteleafe Football Club’s ground in Surrey.

After that, they will make history as they play Darfur, a region in western Sudan, at the Frenchfield Stadium in Washington on July 27 in their first-ever home fixture.

While former Kendal Town player and coach Nichols is excited for another big couple of months in his unique footballing journey, having initially been put in touch with Cascadian officials by a friend from his time at Kendal, he concedes he has had to make changes to his squad for the Chago Islands clash.

He explains: "We haven’t played for a year, so it’s, obviously, been a long time. And we have a lot of new players.

"Last year when we played, about 12 or 13 of the players were based in the United States or Canada, and the rest of them were based in the UK. But, because of the financial side of it, everybody is based in the UK this time.

"We have about eight or nine new players in the squad and it gives us the chance to look at some of them. We have a real mix of ages. We have a guy playing called Gavin McCallum who has played for the Canadian national team.

"Then, we have lads who are at the start of their career, as well, so we have a real mixed bag.

"I’m looking forward to it. It’s very different to what I’m used to because their football upbringing is very different to ours.

"A lot of them, technically, are very, very good footballers. But perhaps, they aren’t used to the physical, non-league type of game. It’s very different to what I’m used to."

As things stand, Cascadia are well ahead of the Chago Islands in the CONIFA World Rankings.

But Nichols reveals: "They won their first game for four years the other week, so I think they are improved on where they have been.

"They are currently ranked something like 36th in the world. We are currently 10th.

"If I’m honest, I think we are better than 10th when we have all our players available. But, again because of where we are situated and where a lot of the games are, because there aren’t many North American sides, we are probably slightly weaker over here than we would be if we were to play home games all the time.

"Our world ranking is a little bit false but, over the next few years as we grow momentum behind it, I think we will move up.

"I think we’ll end up nearer the top, that’s certainly the aim anyway."

Perhaps predictably, Nichols’ experiences during his Cascadian adventure are unlike anything he has ever come across in football before.

"My knowledge of football in this country is non-league football. It’s mainly been Evo-Stik Premier and Evo-Stik One level," he says.

"But our Cascadia captain [Riley] has been at some massive, massive MLS clubs.

"He was at Seattle Sounders when they first formed, he has played for DC United where Wayne Rooney is, he was at LA Galaxy, so he has been at some huge clubs. He has won the Open Cup in America, which is like the FA Cup, more times than anybody else.

"So, you are working with players who have played at unbelievable levels. We also have a lad, Josh Doughty, who was sort of the next big thing in football, really.

"Man United paid a lot of money to bring him here from Real Salt Lake City and every club in Europe wanted him. He just walked out of his deal to go back home. So, we had some unbelievable players.

"Quite a lot of lads went on to get good deals off the back of it [last year’s tournament]. One lad has just signed in the Canadian Premier League. They are from all over.

"Some have some huge, huge backgrounds and some of them have come over here [to the UK] from America just to be play football, to be honest.

"We had a lad who is playing for Nykøbing who are in with a shout of going into the Danish Premier Division."

The teacher at Carlisle’s Gillford Centre, who is still to visit Cascadia himself ahead of their first-ever home fixture in July, adds: “Last year, we got off the plane on the Wednesday and we played our first game on the Friday.

"Nobody had ever met each other before that.

"But we played really well and got to the quarter-finals and we were in with a realistic chance of winning it, we just blew up a little bit, to be honest. But as I say, we had some really, really decent players and we are constantly looking to add to that.

"We have a massive, massive catchment area.

"It’s just a case of finding people in the UK area who are good enough to play and fall into being eligible.

"Everything I have done with it so far has been really, really enjoyable. When they asked if I wanted to keep on doing it, I wanted to because it was something so different to what I’d done, really."

And the “brilliant relationships” the Cascadian football team have managed to develop is not just restricted to the football field, either, though clearly, time zone differences do present some additional challenges when they try to catch up.

“Last year, we ended up making these brilliant relationships with lads from the over side of the world. I still talk to a lot of them quite regularly," Nichols enthuses.

"Interestingly, because of the time zones, we can end up on calls at 2am and 3am. But it will be fantastic to go over there.

"Probably about 100 came over from Cascadia last summer and they were really, really passionate.

"As far as they are concerned, their clubs are the best clubs in the MLS and the best clubs in America. They really want their area of the USA to do well.

"There are some parts of it who want Cascadia to be their own separate country but, for the football side of it, it’s about putting them on a world scale and trying to increase the interest in the area. I think, hopefully, it’s done that.

"We have quite a lot of success in terms of players, a lot going on to bigger clubs. One has signed in the Canadian Premier League, Josh Doughty got himself a deal. He hadn’t played for two years since he’d left Man United but he has now got himself a deal with FC Arizona.

"And there is one lad in Denmark who is on the verge of going up with Nykøbing.

"Max Oldham, who was the player of the tournament for us, he had loads of trials at Football League clubs but he didn’t get anything. Hector Morales who is a Cuban international but went to university there, he has just signed for FC Miami.

"So, we had some really, really good players and some success from it.

"The positive is we know what we are doing this time. Last summer, it was a bit of a guess, really! We are getting more and more interest in it, probably by the week, really."