Grand change

Westfield Youth Soccer Association and Carmel United Soccer Club announce combinaton plans

The opening of Grand Park Sports Complex this spring will change the youth sports climate in Westfield; however, a potential merger will radically change the soccer communities of two Hamilton County cities.

The Carmel United Soccer Club and Westfield Youth Soccer Association board of directors voted to form an affiliate soccer club with the Chicago Fire Soccer Club and Major League Soccer. WYSA has voted to support the plan but it is pending approval by CUSC membership which is currently slated for a vote in early March.

“WYSA will stay intact, Carmel United will dissolve,” WYSA Executive Director Mark Webber said. “It’s a very unique soccer playing opportunity.”

 What it means for players

As the clubs pursue this reorganization, officials said their commitment to the players remains the top priority. The clubs said that this combination is clearly in the best interest of player development for every player and represents an unparalleled opportunity to offer a better environment for player and coach development.

“This affiliation would create one of the most comprehensive youth soccer environments in the Midwest, if not the country, for our players and families,” CUSC President Ken Yerkes said.

When looking at the pyramid of play of youth soccer, Webber said the biggest piece is recreation, then academy (U8-U10) at the community level and third is regional travel.

“Westfield is extremely strong in those three categories. Carmel has been stronger in the elite level programs. By combining the clubs, you’re providing the best opportunities for kids from 4 (years old) all the way up to college,” he said. “One club at one location. I’m not sure you’ll find another club to make that claim.”

Webber said there will be multiple teams in every league.

“In the various age groups there will be four to eight teams in every group. In the senior age group, five teams of U13-U15; three to four in U16-U18; and six to eight teams in U12 and below,” he said. “There will be a place for everybody to play that wants to play.”

Webber said the reorganization would only affect the travel and developmental levels of WYSA – CUSC does not have a recreation league.

“U8 to U18 will play at Grand Park. The WYSA rec league will split time between Shamrock Springs Elementary School and Grand Park,” he said. “The recreation league is not exclusively at Grand Park because that is how the membership wants it. It’s so big it is a really easy place to get lost. It’s a lot easier to control rec kids at Shamrock Springs.”

 Chicago Fire

The Chicago Fire is the professional MLS club based in Bridgeview, Ill., with an extensive network of player development-focused programs in the Chicago area and in nine youth soccer affiliates around the nation. Grand Park, which has 31 soccer fields, will be the home base for the Indiana Fire Juniors, the MLS club’s 11th affiliate.

“The Chicago Fire will help us stay on the leading edge of soccer education and methodology,” Webber said. “Their affiliation also includes potential player development programs and programs for the club and its members. The Fire’s contributions will be used to improve local player opportunities at every level of play.”

Officials said the new affiliation will include programming to meet the needs of every player, at every age, gender and level of ability. The Indiana Fire Juniors will offer one of the most inclusive, well-rounded player development platforms in the United States.

“The Carmel United Board and staff look forward to working together with WYSA and the Chicago Fire in this joint venture for the betterment of youth soccer in Indiana,” Yerkes said.

Organizers said the affiliation provides professional support for coaching education and development, marketing and sponsorship, player curriculum enrichment and opportunities to participate in MLS affiliate exclusive programming such as the MRL-Pro Youth Soccer Division and Chicago Fire Coaches Club.

“Chicago Fire contributions will directly impact player, coach and club development at every level,” Paul Cadwell, Chicago Fire’s director of youth soccer, stated.

 Parents’ reaction

Westfield parent Dave Turner, whose son plays for the U14 Select Soccer Club, is concerned about the influx of players this plan proposes.

“I just don’t agree with that,” he said. “I don’t understand why Westfield needs Carmel. That’s an awful lot of kids.”

Turner said he understands why the Chicago Fire is interested in having Grand Park as a home base, but said the timing so close to its opening is questionable.

“Westfield pays taxes on the place. It’s just frustrating,” he said. “I agree with the Chicago Fire being affiliated with the club, but I think Westfield is more than capable of making that happen by themselves. I don’t know if we need a whole club dissolving and bringing in a whole club’s kids to Westfield.”

Carmel parent Anthony Lodato has been involved with the CUSC for the past three years after moving from Michigan. Lodato, whose son plays on the U12 team, said having the best coaches and good facilities are key ingredients for creating a winning program.

“I’m excited for my son. It means good coaching, and when you play with good players you become a better player,” he said. “Every parent wants what is best for their children.”

Lodato said Westfield has a better recreation program which is good for the future of the club, and the merger means kids get to play with good players under the Fire umbrella.

“The kids are kind of excited to wear the Chicago Fire uniforms,” he said.

The combination of the two clubs is not an issue for Lodato who said players on his son’s team come from Zionsville, Fishers, Indianapolis and Kokomo.

“A lot of the kids in Carmel United aren’t from Carmel. As long as the facilities are good I don’t think most people will have an issue with that (playing in Westfield instead of Carmel),” he said. “It will attract a lot of good players in the area.”

Know more

The Carmel United Soccer Club was formed in 1995 through the merger of three Carmel-based youth soccer organizations. Today, Carmel United serves almost 700 players U9-U23 and has a tradition of player development and club success that includes three national championship titles, multiple regional titles and hundreds of state cup championships. The Westfield Youth Soccer Association was founded in 1982. In the beginning, WYSA was purely a recreational league, but the club grew steadily and added a competitive travel league in 1984. Today, more than 1,900 players participate on WYSA soccer teams. Ages 4 to 74 play in its recreational program, academy program, travel program and an adult program for those who wish to continue playing after their competitive days are over.