The SOCA Challenge program is unique in the youth soccer landscape in that it provides an elevated level of team play completely within a particular locality. Teams are almost entirely formed from players who live in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Teams train and compete with one another for an entire year within local confines, and at the end of the spring season, venture outside of the area to compete in various tournaments throughout the state of Virginia. Tournament play provides Challenge players with an opportunity to compete against teams from other communities and begin to form an understanding of the greater soccer world. Results can be mixed for teams, but in general the tournament experience provides an exciting and challenging experience.
This year, of the fifty-four Challenge teams in the program, twenty-seven finished their tournament experience in the semifinals or better. Ten teams were division champions, and an additional twelve finished in the runner-up position. A list of the finalists sorted by event is shown below.
Challenge coordinator summed up the tournament results by saying, “The overall results suggest that the Challenge Program is developing an impressively large pool of talented soccer players in our area. When you compare the population of the Charlottesville area with those of Richmond, Northern Virginia, or Tidewater areas, with whom we compete in these events, ours is much smaller. Additionally, most Challenge age groups are divided into ten or more teams. We often end up competing against Travel teams formed from much larger recruiting areas, while our Challenge team may be formed out of a small locality such as the Ivy area or the Cale school district for example. When you couple these results with our highly successful travel program, I think it adds up to something that is really worth celebrating.”
Congratulations to all Challenge players on completing another great Challenge year. Please visit our facebook page for some images taken from these tournaments.
VSTC Autumn Challenge
Champion – R28 White Galaxy
Champion – R23 Purple Impact, F24 Sky Blue
Finalist – R20 Yellow Crew
Finalist – R21 Orange Dynamo, F41 Orange Dynamo
Finalist – F20 Yellow Blaze. R39 Maroon Rapids, R42 Red Fire
VA Soccer Festival
Champion – R22 Red Fire, R24 Sky Sounders, R2B Silver Whitecaps, F29 Maroon Surge, R31 Orange Dynamo, R32 Red Fire, F38 White Breakers
Finalist – R2A Royal Eathquakes, R29 Maroon Rapids, F26 Black Lions, F35 Green Thorns, R40 Yellow Crew, F45 Green Thorns
SOCA announced today the winner of the 2015 Quest-Ntanga Musie Grant. The annual grant has been awarded to Kathleen McPhillips of the U-14 Girls Elite team. Sincere congratulations are offered by the club to Kathleen for her achievement.
Several grant applications were received from members of both the boys and girls U-14 Elite teams, both of which are traveling to Europe this summer. The applications were each thoughtful and uniquely remarkable. The evaluation committee members were pleased with the consistently high quality of the essays, offering praise to each of the applicants for their quality work.
The merit award grant is provided annually by Quest Sports Travel in honor of Ntanga Musie, a SOCA player who passed away on the soccer field in 2009. Ntanga was a beloved member of the SOCA family and the grant is awarded in his honor to a player each year who demonstrates his qualities of scholar, athlete, teammate and ambassador.
Each summer SOCA sends its U-14 Elite teams to Europe where they play friendly and tournament matches, while experiencing another culture. The grant is applied to reduce the cost of the trip to Italy. Quest Sports Travel is SOCA’s tour provider, and is a key partner in enhancing the travel program experience. SOCA is grateful for Quest’s generous support.
Executive Director, Bill Mueller, commented, “SOCA wishes to sincerely thank all applicants for their earnest efforts. The quality of the submissions indicates the outstanding nature of the players and families participating in our club. We are truly proud of our young players, and grateful for their participation in the grant application process. Congratulations to Kathleen, as her application was found to be finest among all the outstanding efforts.”
SOCA extends best wishes to all the players traveling to Italy and San Marino this summer for a memorable experience.
The SOCA U17 Boys Elite fell just short on their journey towards a state title this afternoon at the newly christened VYSA Virginia Soccer Training Center in Fredericksburg. After conceding early in the state semifinal matchup with fellow CCL member Virginia Legacy, the SOCA boys couldn’t quite find the equalizer they needed to extend the match. Despite dominating large segments of play and coming agonizingly close on a number of chances, time eventually ran out on a match that statistically didn’t match the final 1-0 score line. The Virginia Legacy will move on to play the Arlington Impact in the State Cup Final on Sunday.
Despite the disappointment of this result, the U17 Boys Elite still have much to play for in a tight race to defend their CCL league championship. The team is currently undefeated and untied in league play and controls its own destiny as it attempts to ward off the challenges of all 3 other state semifinalists who each sit just one game back in the standings. Congratulations to the boys on another great cup run and good luck with the remainder of the season.
The SOCA U17 Boys Elite team will be in Fredericksburg this weekend looking to take care of unfinished business. Last year, the squad advanced all the way to the state championship game. After finishing the game tied with Arlington SC the match advanced to overtime and eventually penalty kicks, where the team came up on the short end of the contest. Losing in PK’s can leave a sour taste in a team’s mouth as it often has the feel of a lottery rather than a real game.
Having stewed on that result for the past year, the SOCA squad now finds itself back in familiar territory as it prepares for another State Cup Final Four. In two of the past three years, SOCA has advanced to the state title game and come up short. In addition to last year’s match the team lost in overtime to FC Richmond as U14’s and as U15’s the group did not compete as a team as players were rotated to a variety of other SOCA teams for developmental purposes.
The track record of this group of players is impressive. Since their initial season as U11’s, the team has lost only one time at home, compiling a 53-1-1 home record in their time together. In addition to finishing runners up in the State Cup last year, the team finished in first place in the state wide Club Champions League, drawing again with their rivals Arlington en route to claiming the league title.
This year the team has picked up where it left off, getting out to a quick 7-0 start in league play that puts it in sole possession of first place again. Along the way SOCA won a hotly contested rematch with Arlington 3-2 to gain a measure of redemption and stake an early lead in what will surely prove to be a closely contested league table in CCL play.
More than anything though, this group would like to capture the one title that has repeatedly eluded it: the VYSA State Cup. This weekend will provide an opportunity to do just that and earn recognition as the best in Virginia.
Lying in wait will be three familiar foes. In addition to Arlington and SOCA, two other CCL league members have advanced to the state semifinals, Virginia Legacy out of Williamsburg and Beach FC from Virginia Beach. All four of these teams currently occupy the top four positions in the state wide Club Champions League so there will be no surprises this weekend.
The State Cup Final Four will have extra excitement this year as it marks the grand opening of the state of Virginia’s own training center and field facility. The VYSA Soccer Training Center features nine full size championship quality fields including a showcase, stadium pitch. Located in Fredericksburg, VA the VYSA Soccer Training Center will be the permanent home to VYSA activities such as ODP events, Coach Education and State Cup matches.
SOCA plays Virginia Legacy in the semifinal tomorrow, Saturday, November 1 at 2pm on Field #8. The championship match should the team advance will be Sunday at 12:30pm on Field #7.
Consider a trip to Fredericksburg this weekend to support the royal and red. Go SOCA!
Each year the operating budget for SOCA continues to grow as the club brings quality soccer to more players, and the demands and expectations on the organization increase. With the merger of the Augusta and Charlottesville regions under SOCA, the 2015 annual budget has reached $2.45 million.
An important source of income, and a means to contain player registration fees, is SOCA’s robust sponsorship program. Supporting the club’s efforts are a group of sponsors committed to assisting SOCA in its mission to provide excellent soccer programming for all interested players in our community.
Leading the way is nTelos Wireless, a Virginia-based company actively involved in supporting community sports programs. As an important local business, nTelos Wireless has taken a leadership role in supporting SOCA by sponsoring the entire SOCA Travel program, along with the youth WISL program, the Winter Day Camp, the Blue Ridge Residential Soccer Academy and both the Frostbite Tournament and Sunburn Recreational Tournaments. The Elite, Premier and Classic levels of the Travel program are all supported by the telecommunications company.
“We’re delighted to have the support of nTelos Wireless across such a wide array of our programs,” said Bill Mueller, SOCA’s Executive Director. “As an important wireless provider in Virginia and the region, they are a perfect fit for SOCA, who makes such a big impact at the state and regional levels. The folks at nTelos have been great partners in helping us provide opportunity for all our players. By expanding their sponsorship they are supporting programming year-round and at every level of the club.”
Additional key players on the SOCA sponsor team are Charlottesville Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center, Harris Teeter, DuPont Community Credit Union, Total Soccer, and Coventry Health Care. Charlottesville Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center is sponsoring SOCA’s unique Challenge program. The local oral medicine experts have committed to supporting SOCA’s young players as they advance and develop in the singular Challenge program. “Charlottesville Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center is a great fit for our Challenge program”, said Mueller. “The folks there have personal experience in the Challenge program and are committed to supporting our players in that special program.”
Harris Teeter, the regional grocery chain giant with a reputation for excellence, has provided ongoing support to SOCA’s largest group, the Charlottesville Recreation program. Harris Teeter will be sponsoring over 3700 players during the course of the soccer year. As a company committed to supporting important community institutions, Harris Teeter has proven its commitment by joining with SOCA to bring Recreational soccer to youth players of all ages throughout the Charlottesville region.
Joining SOCA this spring is the DuPont Community Credit Union, who are supporting the fast-growing SOCA-Augusta Recreational program. The DCCU has a genuine commitment to the well-being of the community, and demonstrates their dedication to affecting positive change by supporting the Augusta region’s recreational players. DCCU has been committed to community service since 1959.
Entry level players ages 4-6 in the Charlottesville region are sponsored by Coventry Health and Total Soccer. Coventry Health is a welcome addition to SOCA’s sponsor list, and Total Soccer has been a longtime advocate of the club. “Coventry Health found a great fit in supporting our youngest players, and we welcome their involvement. Total Soccer and Downtown Athletic Store have been faithful supporters of SOCA for more than 25 years, and it is always a pleasure to have their assistance,” praised Mueller.
In addition to the major program sponsors, SOCA welcomes the support of over 90 individual team sponsors in Augusta and Charlottesville.
More than a dozen sponsors are now sponsors of SOCA’s beautiful South Fork Soccer Park. “We are deeply grateful for the support of all our valued partners. We are glad to involve local businesses at many different levels, each of which contributes to SOCA’s ability to deliver on our mission of providing great soccer opportunities for all the interested players in our community. We’re looking forward to continued success with the help of all our sponsor partners,” Mueller said.
SOCA provides sponsorship opportunities for many of its programs, tournaments and teams. More information on SOCA sponsorships options can be provided by contacting Lecky Stone in Charlottesville, at Lecky.Stone@SOCAspot.org, or Mark Yurish in Augusta at Mark.Yurish@SOCAspot.org.
2014 saw another great class of talented players graduate out of the SOCA Elite travel program, including many players who decided to continue their soccer careers at the collegiate level. Spanning different programs across the eastern seaboard and at every different level of intercollegiate play, the players continue to represent the SOCA community well.
Leading the way, former U18 Girls Elite member, Morgan Mays is making an impact at Division 1 program Marshall University. Seeing playing time in every match, Mays has found a niche as a spark off the bench for the Thundering Herd, garnering high praise from head coach Kevin Long at the start of the season, “Morgan I’ve seen play a lot of times. You can see she’s got a motor and she’s technical. She’s got some vision that not everyone on the field has, so she’s able to put through some great balls and she’s really dynamic with those. It’s great to see a freshman carry not only her own load, but the team as well. It’s great to see from a young player so early in her career.”
Last year’s U18 Girls Elite coach, Matt Wilson echoed those sentiments saying “It was a pleasure working with Morgan last year. She not only was a special player with a genuine creative spirit in the attacking third, but she was also a great leader and teammate.”
In addition to Mays, two other players from last year’s U18’s are making early on-field contributions to their respective teams. Rachel Cooke joined ODAC powerhouse and the #6 nationally ranked Lynchburg College Hornets, and after recovering from an offseason injury, is beginning to return to form. Having now tallied 1 goal from 6 matches played, Cooke should only continue to impress as the opportunities develop within the undefeated squad.
Former teammate Alexis Hucek has played in every match of the season for the Franklin and Marshall Diplomats, a Division 3 program in Pennsylvania. Hucek who found the program late in her senior high school year, is rounding into an important part of the young team, starting 3 matches from 8. Coach Wilson was particularly pleased with Hucek’s start to the season. “I knew Alexis could play collegiately, but sometimes it is difficult to find the right mix of school and soccer program for every player. It appears that F&M has been that for her.”
The U18’s were not the only team to graduate players into the college ranks last year. The U17 Girls Elite had 2 players join College programs; Hannah Kengerski joined Pennsylvania’s standout Division 2 program Slippery Rock, and Sarah Grupp made the trip up to New York’s D3 SUNY Oswego.
Grupp in particular has jumped right into the mix with the Lakers. The dual sport star (ice hockey as well) has started every match this season and has logged the third most game-minutes of any member of the team. Scoring her first 2 collegiate goals in the last week prompted this reaction from SOCA’s Director of Coaching and U17 Girls Elite Coach Dan Ensley. “Sarah Grupp is the type of player you can build a team around, and it comes as no surprise to me that this seems to be exactly what they are doing in Oswego. She not only has the potential, but the ability to be a great contributor to that program”.
In addition to those players already mentioned, the 2013-14 SOCA Girls Elite produced the following college program members: Kelly Hansen and Megan Wenger at Division 3 Randolph Macon and Tina Wulin at Division 2 Davis and Elkins.
SOCA’s Elite Travel program continues to provide the technical and tactical training necessary for players to play at the next level. In addition, SOCA’s participation in the Club Champions League and Atlantic Soccer League college showcase events provides the recruiting opportunities necessary for players to form valuable relationships in the vast world of college recruiting. Congratulations to last year’s graduating class and good luck with the remainder of their respective seasons.
Six members of the boys 2014 Elite travel program graduating class are presently pursuing their college soccer dreams on playing fields from Maine to North Carolina. The 21013/2014 U18 squad was a talented group who won the VYSA State Cup at the U16 age group and maintained a close-knit team environment as the roster composition evolved over their final years with SOCA.
Bill Mueller, who coached the team in their final year with SOCA, praised the group for their ability on and off the field. “This was a really terrific group of young men. Many of them had been with the club right from the beginning, starting at Hots Shots, continuing through Recreation, Challenge and eventually to the Elite level of travel soccer. Added to that core group were other gifted players from surrounding communities who joined in and contributed to the team. These guys were talented on the field and mature and responsible off the field, and had great academic accomplishments. I am not surprised by the success some of the graduates are having in college soccer.”
Battling last year in the inaugural state-wide CCL campaign provided the players solid experience for college level play. Competition in the top quality regional league is fierce at the high school age groups. Competing in top level tournaments, State Cup play and the Disney Showcase further tested the team’s mettle and honed skills.
“I used to tell the boys that there were no easy games left,” said Mueller. “Every league match and every single tournament and Cup game was going to be a challenge. At the U18 age group, only serious players and serious teams remained playing at our level. They were tested in each match, and they grew as a result.”
SOCA’s current Elite level teams are similarly being tested by top flight competition and are getting prepared to advance to college soccer and beyond.
Leading the list of 2014 graduates is Forrest White, who now plays for D1 Virginia Tech. White has played in six of the teams seven matches to date, getting the starting nod four times. White has played nearly 60% of the available minutes for the Hokies, who play a hugely demanding national schedule. The squad presently has a winning 4-3 record after posting a big win over Wake Forest the other night. Look for White to continue to make contributions to the squad in the remainder of the season. Follow Tech soccer here: http://www.hokiesports.com/msoccer/
At D3 Christopher Newport University, two SOCA grads are enjoying being ranked sixth nationally in men’s soccer, with a 6-1-1 record to date. Henry Gotay and Girma Baker are both getting playing time on the outstanding Captains squad. Gotay has played in all eight matches, starting two and logging a single assist in the scoring column so far. Baker has seen action in four of the matches as the Captains have faced competition from around the country. Check out CNU soccer here: http://www.cnusports.com/index.aspx?path=msoc&tab=0
Michael Nafziger, co-captain of the SOCA U18’s last year, has been a major contributor at D3 Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. The Garnet have posted an impressive 6-1 record, with Nafziger seeing action in all seven matches, starting six, having played 75% of the available minutes in regular season competition. Find more Swarthmore men’s soccer info here: http://www.swarthmoreathletics.com/index.aspx?path=msoc
Further afield, at Bowdoin College in Maine, 2014 co-captain Frankie Ahrens has earned a roster spot on the Polar Bears squad (http://athletics.bowdoin.edu/sports/msoc/index) while in North Carolina, Scott Christman has earned a roster spot on the D2 Belmont Abbey Crusaders (http://abbeyathletics.com/sports/msoc/index).
“It speaks well of these players and their preparation through the club, that so many are not only playing college soccer, but are major contributors as freshman on high-level teams,” said Mueller. “Other members of last year’s team have opted to prioritize their academic pursuits at great schools like Yale and UVa. I am really proud of all the 2014 U18 team members. The represented SOCA with class and quality as a team, and are now great ambassadors for the club in their new pursuits.”
SOCA provides excellent exposure opportunities for Elite players through CCL and ASL events, top tournaments and VYSA State Cup play. SOCA maintains strong relationships with college coaches throughout the region and enjoys a favorable reputation for developing quality players and quality team members at the college level.
Coming next: report on 2014 girls Elite graduates in college soccer.
Soccer is often referred to as “a player’s game”, and certainly players are central to SOCA’s mission. Player development is the essential activity of the club. However, players do not develop in a vacuum, and appropriate quality matches do not happen spontaneously. To successfully operate the variety and complexity of programs that SOCA offers, the club has made a substantial continuing commitment to training and developing the coaches and referees required at all levels.
SOCA offers comprehensive coach development training options with year ‘round offerings. Similarly, the club organizes an annual cycle of referee training classes for new and returning referees. The club’s commitment has paid dividends by continually adding, refining and improving the resources in both the coaching and refereeing departments.
Each summer, SOCA hosts VYSA sanctioned coach certification courses, in addition to providing programming of its own. SOCA conducts an “F” course prior to the start of each Recreational season, and in late August 21 SOCA coaches from both the Charlottesville and Augusta regions earned their entry level certification. The “F” course is targeted to Recreation coaches, and offers age specific training from U6 to U12.
Earlier in July, 13 SOCA coaches took the ambitious step of earning their “D” license. The course requires serious commitment from the coaches, who receive instruction over three days during the first portion of the course, and then spend a season applying their new knowledge, before returning for three days of evaluation in December. The “D” course is targeted to older youth players and higher levels of play. SOCA alternates hosting an “E” and “D” course each summer, allowing local coaches to plan their ongoing development.
SOCA further supports the coaching efforts by providing fee support to SOCA coaches. Once past the “D” level, coaches are guided individually through the advanced national licensing program.
Additionally, SOCA conducts the World Cup Camp Coaching School each summer, where the SOCA staff can connect directly with club coaches and provide training specific to the club’s player development model. This summer eight candidates in Charlottesville worked under the guidance of Coaching Director Dan Ensley at the week long camp, while five more candidates from Augusta spent the week training with Augusta Regional Director Nora Maguire White.
Ensley also conducted a new program this year, a three night pre-season training program for all SOCA Travel program coaches. The training allowed coaches from both SOCA regions to work together, share information, and develop methodologies for improving team and player performances.
Three SOCA staff members made the huge step of earning their USSF National Youth License this summer, in addition to maintaining all their regular obligations. Charlottesville Recreation Coordinator Don Dolinger, Charlottesville Technical Director Sam Miller and Nora Maguire White all succeeded in passing the comprehensive, demanding course. The National Youth License is targeted to youth club leaders who need to have a broad knowledge of the various stages of youth development and must be able to provide nuanced guidance to coaches working under their direction. SOCA is delighted to have these three leaders gain further expertise in their field.
Coaches interested in participating in future instructional opportunities should contact Dan Ensley (Charlottesville: Dan.Ensley@SOCAspot.org) or Nora Maguire White (Augusta: firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Of course, no serious soccer match (no matter how fun) can take place without certified referees. Prior to the start of the fall season, SOCA conducted USSF Grade 8 referee training courses in Augusta and Charlottesville, with 22 and 28 referee candidates respectively. In late August another 62 (that’s huge!) candidates were trained in the USSF Grade 9 course. As a result, more than 110 local referees have been trained to take the field this fall, providing the officiating guidance required to ensure a safe and fair match. The Grade 9 course is the entry level training for youth Recreation referees, while the Grade 8 course prepares candidates for older and more advanced play. Referee development allows for committed referees to advance through a series of levels, each more rigorous in its demands, as they prepare for high level youth and adult matches.
Maintaining referee certification requires an annual re-certification process to keep all match officials current with FIFA laws changes and interpretations. SOCA conducts seasonal re-certification classes to help local referees maintain their status each year.
Lecky Stone, certified referee instructor and assigner, coordinates the referee training efforts locally. Persons interested in learning more about referee training should contact Lecky at Lecky.Stone@SOCAspot.org.
SOCA’s indoor Belvedere soccer facility project has cleared another important hurdle with the recent acquisition of site plan amendment approvals from Albemarle County planning authorities. The site plan refinement effort was initially expected to be much shorter, but the process expanded to nearly a year to resolve regulatory requirements.
With the critical milestone reached, the badly needed project will lurch forward to meet the demands of the local soccer community.
SOCA Executive Director Bill Mueller is pleased to be visibly moving again to develop the unique facility. “The site plan revision issues took longer to resolve than expected, but not for lack of effort. There was a great deal of activity to get us to this point. I am looking forward to providing regular updates to our families and supporters on our continued progress. We have assembled a great team of design, engineering, development and legal expertise. Our team relentlessly pursued the successful resolution of the site plan so that we can present the best possible project to our club and to the community. Now we can shift to refining the architecture and really focus on the fundraising aspect of the project.”
The architectural plans, developed by Stoneking von Storch Architects, have reached the end of design development and will be entering the construction document phase at the end of the summer. “Stoneking von Storch have been involved with the project since its inception and they have been critical in helping us to articulate the vision. This will be a unique soccer facility able to accommodate practices, matches and specialized training. Additionally we’ll have lecture and meeting spaces for coach, player and referee training, and our club offices. We have always envisioned the project as a complete home for all of SOCA’s essential functions,” Mueller said.
Located in the village center of the Belvedere community, the new facility will house a fully conditioned 60 yard x 40 yard indoor turf field space, which can be further divided into either two or four smaller field spaces, all of which will meet USSF futsal regulations. A viewing balcony is planned to surround the field allowing spectators to view the action from above. Locker rooms, a trainer room, and fitness rooms will support the on-field training environment. The full field can accommodate regulation U-10 matches and training for all ages. Indoor league play for youth and adults is planned in a dual cross-field configuration.
“We are presently refining the design and finalizing the proposed project budget. We expect to have a solid budget cost by the end of July. Our fundraising efforts will commence with the start of the fall season activities,” reported Mueller. Fundraising Chair John Gobble is eager to begin making presentations to the SOCA family.
SOCA has engaged the services of Stonehaus to serve in the project management role. With enormous expertise in the development process, they will bring valuable assets to the team effort. Local site engineers and landscape architects, McKee-Carson, helped to shepherd the project through the difficult approvals process labyrinth. “I am really pleased with the design and development team we have working on this project. Their commitment has been key to our success so far.”
The land for the project was generously donated by the Belvedere developers to SOCA for use in this exciting project. “Belvedere has been absolutely committed since the inception of the project. We would not be here without them. They stuck with the project during the most difficult economic circumstances in a lifetime, and now we are prepared to march forward,” Mueller enthused.
Current projections have the project beginning construction in September 2015 and prepared for opening in the autumn of 2016.
The indoor field project, the first of three phases at Belvedere, will provide badly needed year-round, all-weather training and playing opportunities for SOCA participants of all ages. SOCA leaders have researched soccer specific facilities and believe the Belvedere project to be uniquely positioned to serve both recreational and player development needs of the club.
The total proposed project at the Belvedere community includes three phases. In addition to the indoor arena and offices, a full-size, lit, outdoor, turf field is planned for phase two, and several natural grass fields are planned adjacent to the Rivanna River. Those future phases will be advanced as the community continues to develop.
The Board of Directors of Augusta FC (Augusta Futbol Club) and SOCA (Soccer Organization of Charlottesville-Albemarle) are pleased to jointly announce the merger of the two neighboring soccer clubs into a single entity serving both communities. The merger of the two clubs will take place this spring with operations fully merged during the summer months.
The new club will retain the SOCA acronym with the full name revised to “Soccer Organization of the Charlottesville Area”, reflecting an expanded and inclusive operational base.
The unified club will provide service in both regions, building upon the existing foundations while increasing the opportunity for all players. A club office will be opened in the Augusta region, with dedicated full-time staff, increasing soccer resources in the community. Oversight and direction for the Augusta office will come from the joint leadership of the unified club. Over time, the programming and operations of the two regions will mirror each other under the guidance of the single club, with allowance for local variation. There will be no operational changes to current spring programming.
The united club will offer single Elite youth teams beginning at the U13 age group. Players throughout the two regions (Charlottesville/Albemarle and Staunton/Augusta/Waynesboro) will be able to seek selection to the club’s Elite teams, which represent the highest available level of play. By merging resources the combined Elite teams are expected to make an increased impact at the state and national level. Additionally, each region will continue to offer Premier and Classic level Travel teams from within their respective communities. Recreational, Challenge and Hot Shots programs will continue to separately serve each community.
“We are very excited about this merger,” said Bill Mueller, SOCA Executive Director. “The leadership of AFC approached us and invited SOCA to make a proposal to expand opportunity in Augusta. We were delighted to be invited and made a serious effort to understand the benefits for both communities. We are convinced a single club serving the two regions will unite resources and elevate possibilities for players.”
Benefits for players at all levels include shared programming opportunities and cross-over play, where appropriate. This summer there will be shared camp options, in addition to summer camps offered separately in the two regions.
Coach education, player development, comprehensive programming and facility development will be immediately prioritized in Augusta. These efforts will build upon the achievements of AFC and draw upon the successful experience of the Charlottesville club allowing each player to pursue soccer to their highest level of ability and interest.
Augusta FC President, Britt Becker, is enthusiastic about the opportunity for his club members. “After careful consideration of a number of options for the club’s future, the AFC Board unanimously chose to merge with SOCA. Their history of strength, leadership, local programming and player and coach development at all levels will present both immediate and long-term opportunities for AFC players and families. We look forward to the continued growth of soccer in our local communities under a new united club.”
Town hall style meetings will be held in each community to present the merger plans and to answer participant questions. On Monday, March 31, a meeting will be held at Wilson Memorial High School cafeteria at 7:00 pm. A second meeting will be held on Thursday, April 3, 7:30 pm in the Lane Auditorium in the Albemarle County Office Building. All persons interested in learning more are encouraged to attend one of the meetings.
For more information on the merger, please view the AFC website at: www.augustafc.com, or the SOCA website at www.SOCAspot.org. A FAQ sheet has been placed at www.socaspot.org/about_soca.php to help answer questions.