Players First Virtual Summit, sponsored by Verizon, provides educational and collaborative experience; on-demand sessions available

The Players First Virtual Summit, sponsored by Verizon, concluded last week after attendees from clubs across the country benefitted from a talented lineup of eight presenters with expertise in leadership, soccer, education, player development, culture, diversity and inclusion.

Normally an in-person event, this year’s summit – held Dec. 8-9 – was conducted virtually and made available for free to US Club Soccer’s entire membership.

Register for on-demand sessions:
For those who were not able to attend last week’s summit, we are excited to provide our membership with another opportunity to view sessions on-demand. Additionally, supplemental sessions focused on fundraising for youth soccer clubs and how technology enhances on-field performance will be available later this week.

The Summit began with an introduction from US Club Soccer CEO Kevin Payne on the importance of the five pillars of Players First before he handed it over to keynote speaker Seb Coe, an Olympic champion, head of the 2012 London Bid and subsequent organizing committee, President of World Athletics and Non-Executive Chairman of CSM Sport & Entertainment.

Coe spoke on quintessential leadership and how the job of a leader is to remove every inhibitor that would prevent the people one is leading from doing the very best piece of work in that moment. Speaking from his experiences, Coe provided the audience with several leadership takeaways to think and act on moving forward. 



Day one of the Summit continued with three more sessions from NorCal Premier Soccer President and founding member Benjamin Ziemer on “Developing Attacking Football Exercises and Games for the Final Third”, USWNT Head of Performance Ellie Maybury on “Long Term Athlete Development for the Female Youth Players” and ECNL President Christian Lavers on “Leadership in Sport.”

“Day one of this year’s Summit exceeded our learning expectations in multiple ways,” said Kevin Payne. “The expertise and advice showcased by today’s presenters was incredibly valuable for any individual in attendance.”


Day two of the Summit began with National Association of Elementary School Principals Senior Fellow Andy Jacks presenting on “Ways in Which Responsible Leaders Ensure Everyone is Welcome Uniformly.” Jacks provided the audience with several methods of creating an environment in which everyone on a team feels valued, and why establishing meaningful and positive relationships with each individual is critical for team success.


This presentation was followed by a technical session from LaLiga’s Sports Projects Coordinator Carlos Casal and a discussion with U.S. Soccer Foundation President & CEO Ed Foster-Simeon on the lack of diversity and inclusion in all areas of the game, and how to address that problem. Foster-Simeon discussed how it doesn’t have to be hard to solve but requires a different way of thinking in order to find a solution.

The Summit concluded with another notable guest, former USWNT star Kristine Lilly, who discussed the importance of team culture and how it plays a pivotal role in  success. As the most-capped player in USWNT history, Lilly explained her changing role on each team as she moved through her career, and the importance of understanding her changing job.



In his closing remarks, Payne urged the audience to recognize their ability to make positive and necessary changes and the roles they have within their respective clubs, taking what they have learned during this year’s Summit back to their memberships across the country.

“With leadership as the central message of this Summit, we hope each of the speakers allowed you to amplify your leadership skills on the field and in life,” Payne said. “Think about your role a little differently in the days ahead. New thinking is a good thing.”

While this year’s Summit was open to US Club Soccer’s entire membership, as well as the general public, it is important to recognize the Players First-licensed clubs that are part of a heralded group that have proven their commitment to the Players First philosophy and its five pillars. Players First is a branded, holistic club soccer experience for parents and players, which emphasizes the development of each individual to his or her full potential, and helps parents make better choices about where their children should play. This is youth soccer’s “Good Housekeeping Seal” and all 115 currently licensed clubs stand out locally and nationally as improving the club soccer experience.

When clubs apply to become Players First licensed, they’re extensively reviewed by US Club Soccer. Then, they’re either approved in the same term of which they applied, or their applications remain open for up to six months to allow them to meet any additional requirements necessary for licensing. To date, about one-third of all approved clubs have been accepted after their initial evaluations required them to raise standards. This process – and the results – overwhelmingly prove that Players First licensing is elevating standards in youth soccer.


A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer fosters the growth and development of soccer clubs in order to create the best possible environment for players of all ages.

Anchored by Players First and its pillars of Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Referee Development, Parent Engagement and Player Health & Safety, US Club Soccer offers registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms, player identification and a variety of other programming, resources and services.

US Club Soccer is sponsored by Nike, DICK'S Sporting Goods and Gatorade. | Facebook | X | Instagram | YouTube |