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The Voice of the Black Community
Charlotte youth soccer clubs merge under single roof
Independence umbrella for amateur-to-pro pipeline
Published Tuesday, April 23, 2019 2:48 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Charlotte Independence President Jim McPhilliamy, third from left, announced formation of Charlotte Independence Soccer Club, a collaboration of youth organizations and the USL Championship team. Organizers say approximately 12,000 amateur players will be part of merger.

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Youth soccer in Charlotte is merging under a larger umbrella.

Lake Norman, Carolina Rapids and Discoveries soccer clubs are now Charlotte Independence Soccer Club, an organization of approximately 12,000 players. The collaboration takes effect in August, impacting recreation level soccer through Women’s Premier Soccer League and USL teams currently within the three organizations.

“In the youth soccer industry, the season really ends in May, and the successful teams are going to nationals in June,” said Carolina Rapids Executive Director Thomas Finlay. “The legacy clubs—Carolina Rapids, Lake Norman and Discoveries—will finish out that season under [their current] logos and names. The process starts full force in late July/August, when the new teams all come back in.”

Finlay is shifting into the role of CEO with the Independence Soccer Club, and over the last month has already begun assimilating what he described as “policies, operational stuff, coaching staff, philosophies, curriculum and all that.”

“The youth portion is a nonprofit organization,” Finlay said.

Said Independence President Jim McPhilliamy: “It’s a marketing and athlete performance relationship.”

McPhilliamy alluded to the creation of a youth-to-professional system in December when the USL Championship side hired head coach Jim McGuinness. McPhilliamy noted that former Independence general manager and now special advisor Tom Engstrom’s focus would shift toward creating the youth pipeline rather than the first team. Former Independence head coach Mike Jeffries replaced Engstrom as general manager. McPhilliamy also pointed out the Independence’s connections with the Rapids and Charlotte Soccer Academy. The latter is a 6,500-plus-player organization that is not involved in the merger.

“We were not approached,” said CSA Executive Director Brad Wylde.

American youth soccer has long been criticized for its pay-to-play system. Finlay noted that their first priority is to ensure fees do not increase due to the partnership, and the pay-to-play model was one of their initial conversations.

“Collectively, when you look at the youth clubs combined, we are going to make sure that we have a financial assistance fund of $210,000,” Finlay said, which sponsors Adidas and Novant Health will helping finance.

“That’s this current year, and that will probably increase,” Finlay said. “By pulling our resources together, like the tournaments, etc., we can absolutely help develop fields and facilities and at the same time, not pass that expense on to our members.”

Their ideal scenario includes grant writing, city and community support to address pay-to-play.

“We have to strategically look at saying, ‘OK, how do we put the prices down, and reverse the trend?’” Finlay said. “Pay-to-play model is not the best, but it is part of the structure. It’s part of the expense that provides services, but we don’t say no to anybody who can’t afford it. If they want to be part of the Charlotte Independence Soccer Club and they are struggling to afford the expenses associated with it, they’ll be able to play. No doubt.”





Still scratching my head how they get to 12,000 players.
Posted on April 25, 2019

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