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Blueprint of a Development Academy

 

On Location: Blueprint of a Development Academy Club in the Windy City

 

MNT by Scott Powers on Jun 7, 2016

 

In his 30-plus years of coaching, David Richardson has never had a soccer player come through Sockers FC in Chicago and later find success without seeing them overcome some sort of adversity.

Richardson, who will turn 50 later this year, has helped develop nearly 50 professional players and even more collegiate ones during the course of his career. He’s seen them all face various obstacles.

It’s that community within Sockers FC, which is a U.S. Soccer Development Academy club, that Richardson often turns to with his current players – there are about 800 players in the club now – to help them overcome their own hurdles and attempt to reach new heights in their development.

“A strength to being a part of a community for 30-plus years is you have a library of times where you can go back and say I know what you’re facing,” said Richardson, who is Sockers FC president and technical director. “I have seen other players go through this. Look at what they did and this is what he does now and you can do the same. We have been stable in this community for a very long time, and that’s because we have a stable program that has been about placing players for a very long time.”Sockers FC President and Technical Director Dave Richardson

Richardson has stories for Sockers FC alumni Jay DeMerit, Mike Magee, Will Johnson, Baggio Husidic, Jonathan Spector and many others who went on to play professionally. The one example that especially grabs the attention of his current players is Michael Bradley, who will be playing in Chicago with the U.S. Men’s National Team against Costa Rica in the Copa America Centenario at Soldier Field on Tuesday.

Bradley played for Richardson for about five years when he lived in the Chicago area while his father Bob Bradley coached the Chicago Fire. Richardson fondly remembers Michael spending a lot of long days after school training or hanging out at the club.

“Here’s the thing: Michael is somebody all the kids in our program can identify with,” Richardson said. “I can tell many stories with Michael about how many challenges and obstacles he faced. They only see him as the captain of the National Team and a guy with opportunities to play in Europe and now leading a MLS club back home here. Their eyes and ears perk up.

“I can tell you this – those are the unique things about it. You can give perspective to some young players that don’t realize even for the best guys it wasn’t so easy from the beginning, wasn’t so easy all the way up. They had challenges. They weren’t the strongest guys. They sometimes had injuries. They sometimes made mistakes, had deficiencies in their games.”

How Sockers FC came to be what it is today began with the vision of Richardson and Nilton Batata, Sockers FC’s vice president and director of operations. They began building the club in the late 1980s while they were still playing professionally. In time, they transitioned from part-time coaches to full-time ones.

Richardson and Batata were very much on the same page for what they wanted their club to be.

“I would say we were very passionate about the game,” said Richardson, who moved to the Chicago area from England when he was eight. “We were passionate about wanting to teach the game. We were passionate about wanting the kids to have an experience I don’t want to say different, but it was just something we loved to do – training a lot, traveling and doing things with groups. Putting it together wasn’t difficult because it was the vision we started with.”


Sockers FC has been developing youth players in the Chicagoland area for more than 25 years and is now a well established member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

Richardson and Batata have always placed an emphasis on player development. The club has won its share of tournaments over the years, but that’s never been their focus. Richardson believes the creation of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in 2007 has swayed many other clubs to that mentality as well.

“I think about soccer now nine years later,” Richardson said. “The boys game is in a much better place where success is ultimately measured. It’s done a lot of good things to guide the thought process to move away from the result-based success model to people thinking about the actual development and the actual placement and actual performance level you can get a player to.

“I always say the responsibility of the club is to be a launching pad for the players, not the players being a launching pad for the club. That’s the essence of who we are and what we should be doing and how we are measuring our success.”

Richardson holds many duties within Sockers FC from on the field to off it. He’s considered himself a mentor for players for many years. In the coming years, he’d like to be the same with coaches within youth soccer.

“I do see my role moving forward to develop and mentor others within our program, start to take on those functions and those responsibilities and in that way in terms of culturally, methodology,” Richardson said. “Where I’ve mentored players for 32 years, now I think I start to take on that role how to mentor and how to help develop other coaches and leaders within the youth profession.”

Among what Richardson will pass on to those coaches is just how much influence they can have on a player.

“It’s very humbling you realize how important the role of the coach is not just X’s and O’s, but in being able to provide hope for the player and motivation for the player,” Richardson said. “Those things are critical. Sometimes coaches don’t understand that the right word at the right time can make the biggest influence in a kid’s life. Just like the wrong word at the wrong time can make a difference the other way. We all must know we have a huge responsibility because we’ve been entrusted with this.”

 

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Sockers FC's Chris Mueller

Chris Mueller Early Favorite for Rookie of the Year

 

When Orlando City drafted midfielder Chris Mueller with sixth pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft, they knew they were getting someone who could contribute immediately.“One of our focuses for this pick was not to pick somebody that we thought we could develop over several years,” said Jason Kreis following Mueller’s selection. “It was to pick somebody we think can contribute in 2018 and we definitely think that about Chris.”

With 11 starts, 3 goals and 4 assists you could say that Mueller has certainly lived up to those expectations. You might even say Mueller is the favorite for Rookie of the Year.

 

When Orlando City drafted midfielder Chris Mueller with sixth pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft, they knew they were getting someone who could contribute immediately.

“One of our focuses for this pick was not to pick somebody that we thought we could develop over several years,” said Jason Kreis following Mueller’s selection. “It was to pick somebody we think can contribute in 2018 and we definitely think that about Chris.”

With 11 starts, 3 goals and 4 assists you could say that Mueller has certainly lived up to those expectations. You might even say Mueller is the favorite for Rookie of the Year.

 

How has the rest of Major League Soccer’s rookie class performed?

To start, Mueller has played more minutes this season then the 5 players drafted ahead of him combined. Of those 5 only the first overall pick, center back Joao Moutinho, has been a consistent contributor. He has started in 6 matches for LAFC, adding a goal to some consistent defensive performances.

Of the rest of the first round selections, only Chicago’s Mo Adams (10th overall) and Seattle’s Alex Roldan (22nd overall) have found consistent playing time. Adams has 9 starts on the season but has yet to find the score sheet. Roldan recorded an assist in the first of his 7 starts, but hasn’t contributed on the score sheet since.

If the vote was today, Mueller would likely be the unanimous choice for the award. At the moment, there is no rookie that is providing his team with anywhere near the level of production that he is.

We’ll see if any of Mueller’s fellow rookies can make this a race at the end of the season.

 

Read more

 

World Class Legacies

WORLD-CLASS LEGACIES: PROVEN PLAYER DEVELOPMENT PATHWAYS AT SOCKERS FC, STRIKERS FC and CROSSFIRE PREMIER

For more than 30 years, David Richardson has been working to develop world-class soccer players. As the Academy Director of Sockers FC, he's seen players like Jonathan Spector and Jay DeMerit come up through the Chicago area club's youth ranks and blossom into U.S. Men's National Team stalwarts. When Bob Bradley became the first head coach of expansion M.L.S. club Chicago Fire in 1998, Richardson was at Sockers to welcome 11-year-old Michael Bradley, who was already eager to work as hard as he could to become a professional soccer player.

As Richardson pushes to raise a new generation of world-class players in Chicago, the stories of those who came before are invaluable tools.

"We have so many stories that we can tell our guys about players that are relevant at the next level," Richardson said. "Michael was with us at 11. We can talk about what his weaknesses were as a youth player, what his challenges were. He wasn't the top guy in some parts of his game. We look back at our history so we can use it as a tool for our guys to understand what they're going through."

The same tales can be told at Strikers FC of Irvine, Calif., where players like Bobby Wood and Benny Feilhaber spent time as youth players. At Seattle-area Crossfire Premier, not only are there similar stories about players like DeAndre Yedlin, but alumni like Kelyn Rowe might be spotted training with the U-18/19 squad during breaks in the professional schedule.

Even before the 2007 launch of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, these clubs' legacy of player development provided insight for the foundation of the player development pathway standardized by the Academy. All three of the clubs will play in live-stream feature games this week at the 2017 Boys' Winter Showcase.

"It's about every day," Richardson said. "If you want to grow a flower, you don't fix a flower, you fix the environment around the flower. It's about the environment and it's about how you put that together. That's really the foundation of the club. From that, growth happens.

At Sockers, Richardson has helped produce countless players that have taken the next step, whether to the National Team, the pros or the collegiate ranks. He attributes Sockers' prolonged relevancy to the club culture, coaching methodology and the everyday player environment. The definition of "academy" is core to the club's success as he strives to help every player reach their individual potential.

"When you think of the word academy, you think of a school," Richardson said. "We're trying now to help the kids to a point where they move on beyond us. We want to make sure they have the necessary tools, skillsets, attitude, mentality, and mindset to really achieve at the next levels."

It's a similar long road of holistic development at Strikers FC. A strong technical foundation allows players to advance their individual tactical abilities, and the soccer skills are complemented by heavy emphasis on hard work and staying humble.

"It's very important that technically they're very good," said Sey Rosenstrauch, Strikers FC Academy Director. "Those are the tools of the trade. Without that you can't execute the decisions that you make. Every step is important in that development. We try to have humble players. We don't want them to feel they've arrived before they've arrived."

Since 2007, all three clubs have competed in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, the nation's highest level of youth soccer. Week-in and week-out, they match up against top clubs across the country, including the youth systems of Major League Soccer clubs. Unlike those professionally-backed academies, there's no first team at the top of the development pathway. That's not a detriment, but a benefit for Crossfire Premier.

"We can have a long-term vision, we can look out five, eight, ten years. We can stick to a plan." said Troy Letherman, Crossfire Premier U-18/19 head coach. "We can look at some of the best practices from around the world, take what we can learn, adapt it to our environment and go on improving our players."

The growth of MLS academies has challenged other clubs to constantly be at their best and continue to evolve. Letherman says it's a blessing to play in Cascadia alongside three top-notch MLS academies -- Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.

"The presence of the MLS academies is one of the best things that's happened to us," Letherman said. "It forces us to be better. We don't have a big name, a stadium full of people, a big regional draw like they do. We need to look for new avenues."

Strikers FC competes in talent-rich Southern California alongside LA Galaxy and LAFC, while two-time Academy champion Chicago Fire is a frequent foe for Sockers FC.

"You don't have to have a professional team to act and behave as a professional Academy," Richardson said. "We don't have one professional team that we have to guide our players into. We don't have one profile that we look for in our young players. There isn't pressure from above, but we put pressure internally on ourselves because we want to produce good quality."

Without the need to develop players for a professional first team, clubs are able to further emphasize individual player pathways. For some, the next step is the professional ranks, domestically or abroad. For many, college is the next rung of the ladder. There's a freedom to prepare players for any number of destinations.

"We look at ourselves as a launching pad," Richardson said. "The team for us is a tool in the process, it's not the ending process for us. We look at the players and say, 'What's the best pathway based on the profile?' We try to fit, try to make sure we help those kids with those next steps in that process.

While the trio of clubs has a history of producing top-flight players successful at the next level, it doesn't make the pathway any easier. Richardson takes pride that at Sockers, the most is asked of the most talented players. Bradley practically lived at the Sockers facility in his youth days, coming early and staying late, rivalling the hours of the coaching staff.

These are just three of many Academy clubs that have a bona fide legacy of high-quality player production, motivating their charges with tangible examples of success for youth players. As the Development Academy continues to grow in its eleventh year, the question isn't about the strength of the alumni base, it's "Who's next?"

"The current players become the next storyline," Richardson said. "They're the next group of guys that write the stories. They become the next opportunity to tell how they worked and overcame things, how they were able to achieve really good things in the game."

 

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Sockers FC Chicago Coaching staff has completed LaLiga Methodology Level 2.

When LaLiga signed a long-term technical partnership with US Club Soccer in August 2015, the international league instantly became a staple of the new platform. The partnership promised involvement in US Club Soccer player development initiatives, as well as the creation of new coaching education resources.

La Liga Methodology Level 2

The Prep Boot Camp starts August 6th-9th.

In early August, Sockers FC offers our annual Boot Camp to our members to prepare for the upcoming season.  After a long, fun summer the Boot Camp is the week before training starts, making it the perfect time for our members to get back into the rhythm of the Sockers FC environment.

 Register Here

Prep Boot Camp

Sockers FC win Iber Cup Barcelona for second year in a row.

Team Info

IberCup Winners
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SOCKERS FC TOURNAMENT EVENTS
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The Nike Labor Day Cup tournament provides a top level event on a holiday weekend and an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facility; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season.

The Nike Labor Day Cup tournament provides a top level event on a holiday weekend and an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facility; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season.

Sockers FC Chicago selects and operates many different environments for members to make sure that optimal player development is achieved and opportunities to showcase their talents are readily available. Many different events for high school players are available to aid college recruitment but other events for other members to socialize, compete in tournaments and to volunteer; giving our members great memories.

NIKE LABOR DAY CLASSIC
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Boys | Ages 8U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 8U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 8U - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages U8 - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages U8 - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages U8 - 18U/19U

Entry Fee $575

Entry Fee $575

Entry Fee $575

The Nike Labor Day Cup tournament provides a top level event on a holiday weekend and an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facility; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season.

The Nike Labor Day Cup tournament provides a top level event on a holiday weekend and an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facility; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season.

The Nike Labor Day Cup tournament provides a top level event on a holiday weekend and an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facility; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season.

NIKE CLASSIC CUP FALL
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Boys | Ages 8U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 8U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 8U - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages U8 - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages U8 - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages U8 - 18U/19U

Entry Fee $750.00

Entry Fee $750.00

Entry Fee $750.00

The Nike Classic Cup provides the top level teams around the region an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's - Olympic Park, Palatine Park District - Aspen Park both are multiple artifical all-weather turf and grass field facilities; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season. Grass fields at Connelly Park will be used depending on the number of teams registered for this tournament.

The Nike Classic Cup provides the top level teams around the region an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's - Olympic Park, Palatine Park District - Aspen Park both are multiple artifical all-weather turf and grass field facilities; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season. Grass fields at Connelly Park will be used depending on the number of teams registered for this tournament.

The Nike Classic Cup provides the top level teams around the region an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Fall season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's - Olympic Park, Palatine Park District - Aspen Park both are multiple artifical all-weather turf and grass field facilities; this event presents a good soccer environment during Fall season. Grass fields at Connelly Park will be used depending on the number of teams registered for this tournament.

NIKE ACADEMY SHOWCASE
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Boys | Ages 13U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 13U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 13U - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages U13 - 15U

Girls | Ages U13 - 15U

Girls | Ages U13 - 15U

Entry Fee $800.00

Entry Fee $800.00

Entry Fee $800.00

The Nike Academy Showcase is an elite level showcase event for 13U - 19U boys teams and 13U – 15U girls teams. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf field facility; this event guarantees a good soccer environment early in the year for competition before the Spring season.

The Nike Academy Showcase is an elite level showcase event for 13U - 19U boys teams and 13U – 15U girls teams. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf field facility; this event guarantees a good soccer environment early in the year for competition before the Spring season.

The Nike Academy Showcase is an elite level showcase event for 13U - 19U boys teams and 13U – 15U girls teams. Played on Schaumburg Park District's, Olympic Park; a multiple artificial all-weather turf field facility; this event guarantees a good soccer environment early in the year for competition before the Spring season.

NIKE CLASSIC CUP SPRING
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Boys | Ages 9U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 9U - 18U/19U

Boys | Ages 9U - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages 9U - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages 9U - 18U/19U

Girls | Ages 9U - 18U/19U

Entry Fee 11U - 19U $750.00
Entry Fee 09U - 10U $700.00

Entry Fee 11U - 19U $750.00
Entry Fee 09U - 10U $700.00

Entry Fee 11U - 19U $750.00
Entry Fee 09U - 10U $700.00

The Nike Classic Cup provides the top-level teams around the region an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Spring season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's - Olympic Park, Palatine Park District - Aspen Park both are multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facilities; this event presents a good soccer environment during Spring season. Grass fields at Connelly Park will be used depending on the number of teams registered for this tournament.

The Nike Classic Cup provides the top-level teams around the region an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Spring season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's - Olympic Park, Palatine Park District - Aspen Park both are multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facilities; this event presents a good soccer environment during Spring season. Grass fields at Connelly Park will be used depending on the number of teams registered for this tournament.

The Nike Classic Cup provides the top-level teams around the region an opportunity to prepare for the demands of Spring season. Teams looking to test their players for Regional Leagues and State competitions should seriously consider this event. Played on Schaumburg Park District's - Olympic Park, Palatine Park District - Aspen Park both are multiple artificial all-weather turf and grass field facilities; this event presents a good soccer environment during Spring season. Grass fields at Connelly Park will be used depending on the number of teams registered for this tournament.

NIKE MEMORIAL DAY CUP
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Boys | Ages 8U - 18U

Boys | Ages 8U - 18U

Boys | Ages 8U - 18U

Girls | Ages 9U - 15U

Girls | Ages 9U - 15U

Girls | Ages 9U - 15U

Entry Fee 08 $500.00
Entry Fee 09U - 15U $600.00
Entry Fee 13U - Up $600.00

Entry Fee 08 $500.00
Entry Fee 09U - 15U $600.00
Entry Fee 13U - Up $600.00

Entry Fee 08 $500.00
Entry Fee 09U - 15U $600.00
Entry Fee 13U - Up $600.00

The Nike Memorial Day Cup provides all level teams around the region an opportunity to participate in a Spring event. The Cup will be a three day event allowing Monday off. Teams looking for a great event to test their players against teams from around the region should seriously consider the Nike Memorial Day Cup. Played on Naperville Park District's, Frontier Park; beautiful all grass fields.

The Nike Memorial Day Cup provides all level teams around the region an opportunity to participate in a Spring event. The Cup will be a three day event allowing Monday off. Teams looking for a great event to test their players against teams from around the region should seriously consider the Nike Memorial Day Cup. Played on Naperville Park District's, Frontier Park; beautiful all grass fields.

The Nike Memorial Day Cup provides all level teams around the region an opportunity to participate in a Spring event. The Cup will be a three day event allowing Monday off. Teams looking for a great event to test their players against teams from around the region should seriously consider the Nike Memorial Day Cup. Played on Naperville Park District's, Frontier Park; beautiful all grass fields.

Memorial Day Cup
Labor Day Classic
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Competition Platforms

Sockers FC strives to provide the appropriate level of competition to all of our members in an effort to optimize each player’s development with our unique environment and meaningful competition. Sockers FC are a US Soccer and US Club Soccer registered program and are proud to provide opportunities in the following platforms of competition for our members.

Sockers FC Contact Form

Soccer matches should be something special
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Soccer should be somethig special, let us teach you how to become the best...
 
 
 
 
 
(42.099777, -88.010411)
Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.
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Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.
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General Questions.

Address

545 Consumers Ave, Palatine, IL, 60074, United States

Email Address

Financial Questions: Leanne@sockersfc.net