FRISCO, Texas (Sept. 18, 2019) – The 2018-19 season saw the state of Tennessee well represented at the top of the brackets within the US Youth Soccer Mid South Conference. Across all age groups for boys and girls, 47 percent of the top three conference finalists were from Tennessee, with 57 percent of the Mid South Conference Champions hailing from the Volunteer State. This is an impressive feat for Tennessee as the state makes up only about 22 percent of the Mid South Conference pool of teams, which contains heavy competition from the surrounding State Associations of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
With the 2019-20 season now underway, many of the teams from Tennessee are excited to be back on the field as they look to continue that success this year in the Mid South Conference. With many tough opponents from neighboring states, they know it is no easy task to equal the accomplishments of last season.
After producing so many titles in 2018-19, one could speculate that there is something in the Tennessean water, but others attribute it to hard work, determination and a passion for the game that is spreading across the state.
“The state of Tennessee is booming right now in terms of popularity in the sport of soccer,” says David McAlister, Associate Director of Coaching for Lobos Rush Soccer Club. “With Memphis starting a United Soccer League team, and Nashville about to move to Major League Soccer, the state is yearning for soccer and it can be seen by the amount of kids that are participating.”
McAlister coaches both the 2006 and 2001 boys teams for Lobos Rush Soccer Club.
“Both teams want to win the Mid South Conference again,” said McAlister. “It is one of our few measurable goals for the season. The boys love the competition it offers, not just the accolades of winning. They love being pushed and know that the Mid South Conference in US Youth Soccer is a difficult one.”
Some compliment the entire State Association for adapting to changes in the game.
”I have coached club soccer in Tennessee since 2004,” said Deni Ismailovic, head coach of Nashville United Soccer Academy’s 2002 Girls team. “I believe that the Tennessee State Soccer Association does a good job of trying to adapt to the changes in the game of soccer that occur and find the best ways to develop players in our state. A lot of clubs in Tennessee work very hard every day in developing players and teams, which has resulted in a lot of Tennessee teams being successful at Regional and National level, especially in last five years.”
Ismailovic discussed Nashville United’s own achievements by saying: “The main reason for the success of NUSA 02 Girls is the self-motivation of the players to get better individually but also to win as a team. It is a very tight-knit group, including the parents who also deserve a lot of credit for all the behind the scenes hard work that is necessary for a team to be successful.”
On his Nashville United 2002 Girls team being accepted into US Youth Soccer’s National League, Ismailovic said: “It means everything to us and is a big honor to be competing against the best teams in the country. This is exactly what we have been working for the last two years. It is also a big accomplishment to be the first team in the short history of Nashville United Soccer Academy to compete in the National League. I have always loved the idea of regional leagues and a national league within US Youth Soccer because you, as a team, have to earn getting into those leagues, it is not given to you just because you are a part of a certain club.”
Others chalk up the state of Tennessee’s success to its location, culture, and players subscribing to a certain philosophy.
“We have a good history of soccer in Memphis from back in the 90s,” said Carey Talley, Director of Coaching for Germantown Legends Soccer Club. “Memphis is an area that has always been able to produce good players. We are smack dab in the middle of the country, so we have a great mix of culture and people.”
On his club’s own success, Talley said: “It’s this group of kids that we have. It takes a team effort and everyone buying into what we want to do. Every game we play, we are undersized with our opponents having fantastic athletes. But, our players have bought into what we want to do, which is for them to be soccer players; to be problem solvers. At the end of the day, you need problem solvers. We have kids that are ready to compete at all times. We are well organized and tough to break down defensively. That gives us a leg up.”
Mid South Conference play continues this weekend at Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex in Montgomery, Ala.
For more information on US Youth Soccer’s Leagues Program and its conferences, click here.