Could the South Bronx become a breeding ground for the next generation of soccer stars?
The idea might not be so far-fetched.
Local squad South Bronx United has been named a youth affiliate of the New York City Football Club (NYCFC), the new professional soccer team that will play its 2015 season in Yankee Stadium.
Adding big resources
The Bronx-based team will become one of eight youth organizations citywide connected to the big club. But South Bronx United is the only one of those teams that practices on Macombs Dam Field –in the shadow of the Yanks’ digs and next to a site on E. 157th street and River Avenue that NYCFC has reportedly eyed to build a new soccer arena.
“We’re very excited,” said Andrew So, South Bronx United’s executive director. “The pride that these kids have now is incredible.”
South Bronx United will now get access to coach training, clinics and camps run thorough NYCFC’s parent team, the English Premier League juggernaut Manchester FC.
The added resources will go a long way, So said, in helping an organization that is staffed mostly by volunteers.
“We don’t have a lot of the financial resources that the other teams do,” said So. “To have access to that kind of high-level training will really help.”
Not just soccer
South Bronx United started as one team of 15 players back in 2009, and has since grown to 600 players as young as 4 and as old as 19.
Besides playing in both recreational leagues and more intense travel leagues, SBU players also have access to afterschool tutoring and college prep courses.
The vast majority of the team comes from the Bronx, and many of the players come from immigrant families.
Those players will benefit from the added resources that come with being under NYCFC’s wing, So said.
And hey, why not, he added—maybe one of those young soccer studs will one day make it all the way up the ladder to the big stadium next door.
“I think that one day it might happen,” said So. “We might see a kid from the South Bronx make it up there.”
The announcement was the new team’s first attempt at reaching out to youth groups in the community, but more neighborhood outreach could be on the way.
NYCFC also announced that Paul Jeffries, former director at Downtown United Soccer Club, will be named Director of Community Development.