CHICAGO (April 17, 2014) — The Chicago Fire Soccer Club and Illinois Youth Soccer Association have announced a long-term strategic partnership to support the growth of grassroots soccer throughout Illinois. Through a variety of collaborative programs and educational initiatives, both the Fire and Illinois Youth Soccer will work together to positively impact every level of youth soccer within the area.
"From the youth levels on up to the professional ranks, we have a responsibility to grow the game of soccer in Illinois,” said Fire Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla. “A key component of this growth is the continued development of the youth game, and Illinois Youth Soccer does a tremendous job engaging thousands of players, coaches, and referees each year. Together through our new partnership, we will align our collective efforts and resources to elevate the overall youth experience.”
One of the largest youth sports organizations in the state, Illinois Youth Soccer currently reaches over 75,000 players, 10,000 coaches and 5,000 referees through its development programs. Serving the Illinois community since 1975, Illinois Youth Soccer focuses on the development of players at all levels: recreational, competitive, and Olympic development. The organization will now look to enhance its player development programs through the new partnership with the Fire.
“The Chicago Fire are an important presence in the soccer community and critical to the development of the sport,” said Illinois Youth Soccer President Gus Bender. “Our new initiatives will benefit our members by enhancing coaching education and player development throughout Illinois. We look forward to working together to inspire the next generation of players.”
The partnership between Fire and Illinois Youth Soccer will consist of several new joint initiatives. Beginning this summer, the Fire will serve as the Official Recreational Camp Provider for Illinois Youth Soccer and will host the 2014 Illinois Soccer Expo at Toyota Park on August 9.
The Fire and Illinois Youth Soccer will also collaborate on new opportunities through the Club’s “Soccer in the Community” initiative that supports the continued education and development of players, coaches and referees throughout Illinois. Soccer in the Community, which includes free clinics and other grassroots programs, will be extended to over 82 recreational leagues, ensuring the Fire and Illinois Youth Soccer are at the forefront of the next generation’s soccer experience.
As the Fire continue to see success from the Illinois Youth Soccer talent pool, especially after Homegrown products Victor Pineda, Chris Ritter and Harry Shipp have made their way to the Fire’s first team, the Club looks forward to working with the organization to further enhance the technical curriculum of the Olympic Development Program (ODP) and groom more local players for successful professional careers.
For more information regarding the joint programs and initiatives, visit www.chicago-fire.com.
ABOUT ILLINOIS YOUTH SOCCER ASSOCIATION
Illinois Youth Soccer is an educational organization that provides approximately 75,000 youngsters in Illinois with the opportunity to play soccer, making Illinois Youth Soccer, Illinois’ LARGEST youth soccer organization. Illinois Youth Soccer is the official State Association and charter member of the US Soccer Federation and US Youth Soccer and the administrative body authorized to carry out the Federation's and US Youth Soccer's programs to youth players in Illinois. Programs include: Soccer for Success Inner City programs, Olympic Development Program (ODP), Illinois State Cup/US Youth Soccer National Championship Series, Presidents Cup, Illinois Cup, Copa Chicago, Chicago Beach Soccer Tournament, Soccer Expo, coaching and referee education. For more information on Illinois Youth Soccer, go to www.illinoisyouthsoccer.org
ABOUT CHICAGO FIRE SOCCER CLUB
The Chicago Fire Soccer Club is a premier franchise of Major League Soccer (MLS). We provide an engaging and authentic soccer experience for the city of Chicago and for all of our supporters around the world. The Fire enters its 17th season in 2014 looking to continue its winning legacy both on and off the pitch. The Club proudly embodies the spirit and diversity of our sport, and since its inception in 1997, the Fire have captured an MLS Cup in 1998, and remains the only MLS team to have won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup four times. The Fire's home venue is Toyota Park, a world-class soccer stadium located minutes from downtown Chicago in Bridgeview, Ill. For more information on the Fire and to purchase tickets, please visit the Club's official website at www.Chicago-Fire.com.