By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
The Miami FC’s most eventful year as an organization to date ended with an investment in the future and its community.
After joining the National Premier Soccer League, winning its National Championship Game and becoming a part of the NPSL Founders Cup, Miami FC announced the launch of its new Youth Academy Program on December 6th. The club’s goal has long been to ingrain itself in South Florida and its culture, and Miami FC has now made its mark.
“This has been an initiative since the inception of the team,” Miami FC CEO Sean Flynn said. “We always knew that we wanted to develop a youth program at some point. It’s been a long process but we wanted to make sure we did this right. Moving forward, we feel this is the foundation of our club and we needed to make sure this step was made in the right matter.”
The club considered starting a club from scratch but eventually settled on taking over the site of Real Miami FC, South Florida’s most reputable non-profit boys’ and girls’ youth soccer academy. Over 300 members are currently signed to the program and The Miami FC aims to grow the membership to over 1,000 in a five-year plan.
Miami FC Head Coach Paul Dalgish will help all he can in building the youth program. He has experience writing youth curriculums for programs including Lone Star Soccer Club, one of the biggest clubs in the country, and the Houston Dynamo academy. Dalgish knows he’s unlikely to see any of his incoming youth players up on the first team for a long while, but he knows it’s a process.
“I think the youth soccer market is a little bit fractured in Miami,” Dalgish said. “We wanted to try to make sure we showed our commitment to the area not just on the professional level but on the youth level. Ultimately, the dream is to try and develop players for the first team. First and foremost, it has to be a fun environment.”
The long-term impacts of the youth academy will be cultivating connections for years of classes of soccer players and their families. Most club programs in Miami have been smaller in the past with the talent spread out among them. The Miami FC Youth Academy will now be the only club with a professional affiliate. The program will also provide top-level curriculum and training for local coaches.
There are short-term plans in place to integrate the Miami FC brand into the youth training grounds and to get new branded game and training kits for the coaches and players.
“Short-term, we have hundreds of kids out playing in Miami FC kits representing our brand on the weekend when they’re playing and after practices with the practice kits on being part of our family,” Flynn said. “The immediate impact is adding 200 kids and their families to the Miami FC family.”
Miami has long been one of the United States’ great untapped soccer markets. South American and Central American culture mix with Americana in South Florida. Miami is always near the top of television ratings for viewing top-level soccer.
Soccer has a bright future in South Florida, on all levels.
“Kids may not have ever played this sport, but a five-year old comes out and kicks a ball in some kind of semi-organized manner and has a great time, that’s the best,” Flynn said. “To introduce them to something they may have a passion for for the rest of their life.”
Photo Credit: Orovio Photography