The Sweeper: Soccer Is Inevitable. But how?

Fire Academy

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Your editor is behind today, as  I spent last night meeting with Chicago Fire owner and chairman Andrew Hauptman, discussing many of the issues I raised in my open letter to Fire ownership last month. At the end of that letter, I asked Andrew to sit down with us to figure out how we can achieve the goals in Section 8 Chicago’s mission statement.  The meeting was positive and for those interested, Section 8 Chicago will be making a public statement later today outlining the steps we are committed to with ownership.

I realise that might not interest everyone, but it’s at the top of my mind and this piece in the Chicago Tribune today by columnist John Kass on the Fire made me think about the future of the club and the culture of soccer here even more. Kass interviews Frank Klopas, the Fire’s Technical Director and Ring of Fire inductee, who stated that “U.S. Soccer is inevitable,” (for some reason, I really love the finality of that phrasing).

But more important than that was Klopas’ explanation of how that can be achieved, as it’s not actually inevitable — it will take hard work and vision by people like Frank at the grassroots weaving the legion of youth soccer players into the fabric of MLS club soccer. And one thing myself and Fire ownership did easily agree on last night is how proud fans should be that the Fire has the #1 ranked MLS youth academy in the country.

The importance of this was emphasised by Klopas: “The key to the future is that we have a pyramid now, that leads up to the first team, just like any European club. We have the Fire Juniors, where an 8-year-old kid can wear a Fire shirt, and on up to the academy team, which is extremely competitive. The organization’s goal is that within three or four years, we want some kids from that academy playing in Toyota Park, wearing the Fire jersey. That’s when you have the commitment, when you have local kids playing, that’s when the people will feel, ‘This is our team.’ ”

This is exactly what we need to develop here and that’s exactly the kind of public leadership and commitment to such a goal that American soccer needs if it is indeed going to be inevitable.

A few quick-links now as I have to get back to the public statement mentioned above. . .

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The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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