By Mark Stokes
Manchester United may have outlets all over the world, but Chelsea F.C. are clearly making inroads into the United States these days, as was evidenced this week by the London club's announcement of partnerships with two established clubs in the South.
Sereno Soccer Club of Phoenix and Solar Soccer Club of Dallas have become the latest youth clubs to join Chelsea’s growing U.S. network, a venture which, according to all parties, will not only benefit the Blues long term, but will also contribute to the development of soccer in America.
As part of the network, Sereno SC and Solar SC will learn the Chelsea FC coaching doctrine, host training sessions and camps with coaches from Stamford Bridge, reap the benefits from tournaments sponsored by the London club and participate in player exchange programs.
“Our youth club network is designed to create long-term growth and sustainability of soccer in America by supporting elite youth clubs that provide the best soccer instruction and experience for local players," said Chelsea Chief Executive Ron Gourlay. "Sereno Soccer Club has been developing soccer for more than 30 years in Arizona and this partnership will assist them in taking it to the next level and expanding their reach and impact on the game.
"Dallas is a great sports city in America and the growth of soccer there at both the youth and professional level is significant," Gourlay added "Partnering with Solar allows us to continue to help the development of soccer in Texas by staying closely connected to the community through a top club. Solar’s mission of Soccer Excellence Through Development is perfectly aligned with our youth club network goals.”
Sereno Director of Coaching David Robertson expressed enthusiasm for the partnership.
"We see this as a very positive step forward for our players and coaching staff. Getting access to the Chelsea FC Youth Academy programming and coaches will help us to ensure that our training programs are world class. We're also excited to give kids from all over the Valley access to Chelsea FC coaching through Sereno-Chelsea sponsored events, camps and clinics right here in Phoenix.”
Ranked tops in youth soccer in Arizona, Sereno SC is one of the leading soccer education and training organizations in the U.S, producing as they have over the past three decades 46 state champion boys teams, 80 state champion girls teams, nine regional champions, three national finalists and one national champion.
Solar also has produced multiple national champions since its inception, while its past players include Corben Bone (Chicago Fire), Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids), Shea Salinas (Philadelphia Union), and Kenny Cooper (recently of Dallas but now plying his trade with Paul Mariner's Plymouth Argyle).
Chelsea announced its first youth soccer club partnership with CASL of North Carolina in July 2008. The 'Pensioners' also include Match Fit Chelsea of New Jersey, LAFC Chelsea of Los Angeles, the Baltimore Bays and the Le Jardin Academy, based in Hawaii, among its foreign academies.
Locally, Mass Premier Soccer, run by Irish transplants Joe and Peter Bradley, is perhaps the flag bearer for youth soccer in New England. They have had several talented youngsters go through their hands over the last decade and, according to Joe, were in the mix when the English Premier League club came calling to New England recently.
"Chelsea are aware of us," Joe Bradley said. "We've looked at international partnerships and player development, but decided against partnering with Chelsea.”
MPS is warming up to another leading European outfit.
“We've had ongoing talks with Sporting Lisbon and we like their approach to player development. It's in the developmental stage with them at the moment,” Bradley said.
Sporting already has a network in place in Massachusetts and it appears as if a merger with the Portuguese outfit may be a better fit for the Waltham-based club.
Be it Chelsea, Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United or whomever, all of Europe's top clubs continue their search for talent, the type of talent that was under our noses for so long here in Massachusetts.
Caio Correa was a high-schooler in Nantucket up to a year ago. These days he is burning it up in Brazil and, according to reports, is set for a very lucrative career with one of Europe's top clubs.
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