Letter from Chairman Phil Wright to US Club Soccer members: US Club Soccer – an example of adaptation

Letter from Chairman Phil Wright to US Club Soccer members: US Club Soccer – an example of adaptation

Dec. 9, 2016


Dear US Club Soccer member,

In 2000, U.S. Soccer brought six Directors of Coaching from around the country to Chicago to talk about player development. These DOCs came from small, medium and large clubs and had one thing in common: their clubs had produced players for U.S. Soccer national teams. After two and a half days of open discussion, it was clear the Federation was supportive of changes in youth soccer but was not going to take the lead. From that conclusion, US Club Soccer was formed.

Derek Armstrong, from the Nomads Soccer Club, was the first chairman of the Board of Directors, and I was the incorporator and drafter of the initial bylaws. In 2015, I was elected to serve my seventh two-year term as Chairman of the board. At that time, I announced that it would be my last term as chairman and what a two-year period it has been for US Club Soccer.

During the past two years, we have hired Kevin Payne as our new CEO (replacing long-time CEO Bill Sage who retired), launched our Players First initiative, transitioned our technology platform to SportsEngine – which was then acquired by NBC Sports, entered into a new management and marketing agreement with CSM Sports & Entertainment – a global leader in the business of sports and entertainment, and rolled out our initial coaching education program through our partnership with LaLiga.

At our last Board of Directors meeting, the board asked me to stay on until they can find the right person to take over as chairman. I have agreed to do so. Because I am the last person from the original six DOCs brought to Chicago in 2000 who is still on the board, I thought it appropriate to share some history and thoughts about US Club Soccer.

The concept in 2000 was fairly simple and straightforward. A board of soccer club professionals setting policy; management and marketing professionals running the day-to-day business of the organization. While the separation of duties between the two entities was clear and critical, the board wanted business partners who were knowledgeable and passionate about soccer. Our first two hires – Ken Chartier and Bill Sage – met these two criteria perfectly. Ken and Bill gave us the business and political acumen to get our organization started. Virtually every hire we have made since then has also met these two criteria. We have been and are truly blessed to have the most knowledgeable and passionate staff of any soccer organization in the country, in my opinion.

So, what have I learned in my almost 17 years of being on the board? That youth soccer in the United States continues to be fragmented; we still are not producing the level of players we need to produce; many people have strong and divergent opinions about what needs to be done; and, most clearly, that the youth soccer environment keeps changing and is likely going to continue to do so. The good news is that US Club Soccer was built to adapt to change quickly and easily. In addition, US Club Soccer is a member organization, so if our member clubs do not think we are going in the right direction, they have the ability to change that direction.

During our initial years, US Club Soccer had to form leagues and run tournaments in multiple states in order to qualify to be a member organization of U.S. Soccer. In doing so, US Club Soccer had to deal with various obstacles thrown at us by other youth soccer organizations who perceived us as a threat to their existence. We adapted to these various challenges. Also, fairly early, on we had a relationship with the USL for their Super Y League to be a part of US Club Soccer. When they left, we lost some clubs and players, but we adapted.

When U.S. Soccer started the boys Development Academy, we thought we would be their administrative arm, given that most of the clubs on the initial Academy list were members of US Club Soccer and U.S. Soccer had no experience directly registering players and/or running a youth soccer league. As you know, that did not happen and we lost some clubs and players, but we adapted. When the Academy system went down to include 12-Us and 13-Us and decided that Academy players could not participate in our id2 Program – a program we started at the request of U.S. Soccer – we adapted.

In 2016, U.S. Soccer announced that it is going to start a girls Development Academy program in 2017. Again, we may lose some clubs and players, but we are adapting. The ENPL is just the latest example of US Club Soccer adapting to changes in the youth soccer environment in the United States. Is it perfect? Probably not.  As Kevin Payne and I said in our letter to you a couple weeks ago, there will be some difficult decisions for clubs and leagues and players to make, and I am sure that there will be some bumps on our road to adapting to this latest change. When we see/hit these bumps, we will further adapt.

As I said earlier, we are the only soccer organization in the United States with a board of directors made up entirely of soccer club professionals, and a management and marketing company made up of business professionals who are knowledgeable and passionate about soccer. And most importantly, I am optimistic about our future because of you – our members.

Hope to see you all in L.A. at the NSCAA Convention,

SIGNATURE - Phil Wright

Phil Wright
Chairman, US Club Soccer