CHICAGO, IL (March 6, 2012) - The Chicago Fire Soccer Club today announced a strategic partnership with Louisville-based Mockingbird Valley Soccer Club to become the Kentucky Fire Juniors. Kentucky Fire Juniors becomes the seventh member of the Chicago Fire Juniors family and fourth club outside of the Chicagoland area. Since 2008, the Fire’s youth development program has grown from 400 to over 6,000 across six states.
“The addition of Kentucky Fire Juniors to our player development program allows for our club to grow and develop youth soccer players under the Chicago Fire banner,” said Chicago Fire Vice President of Soccer Operations Guillermo Petrei. “Our partnership in Louisville provides young players access to a professional environment while providing opportunities to join our Academy and first team similar to the Juniors programs in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana and Mississippi.”
The Chicago Fire Juniors program was formed to train area youth in a professionally run environment and has since expanded to include branches in Chicago, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana and now Kentucky. Through the CFJ program, players from eight-years-old up to 18-years-old receive professionally developed curriculum to help build skill and knowledge of the game. The Juniors program has seen direct results, including the signing of Mississippi Fire Juniors product Kellen Gulley to the first team in 2011.
"Our affiliation and training agreement with the Chicago Fire represents a unique opportunity for Kentucky youth soccer,” said Kentucky Fire Juniors owner R. Wayne Estopinal. “Our focus is to grow the sport in the United States and in the Louisville area and Kentucky Fire Juniors represents a continuum of training and competitive play at the highest levels from age 8 to MLS. Nothing of this scale has happened before for serious soccer players in our area."