CHICAGO, IL –The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced Friday a strategic merger between Naples Youth Soccer Club and the Florida Fire Juniors program. The expanded Florida Fire Juniors are one of eight clubs in the Chicago Fire Juniors family and one of five outside of the Chicagoland area. Since 2008, the Fire’s youth development program has grown from 400 to more than 10,000 across seven states.
“The creation of the expanded Florida Fire Juniors under our player development program will give youth soccer players the opportunity to grow and develop under the Chicago Fire banner,” said Chicago Fire Vice President of Soccer Operations Guillermo Petrei. “This merger strengthens the Florida Fire Juniors program, and through this partnership, young players in Florida now have access to a professional environment while providing opportunities to join our Academy and first team similar to the Juniors programs in Indiana, Louisiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Mississippi.”
In 2010, Florida Fire Juniors were formed by the union of Florida Premier Soccer Club, Gulf Coast Soccer Academy and Southwest Florida United Soccer Academy in an effort to provide a long-term development pathway for its players. The Florida Fire Juniors maintain the infrastructure for player and team development that produces the highest quality player and team results. It was this strong player development philosophy that encouraged the Naples Youth Soccer Club Sharks into developing a partnership with the Fire.
Founded in 1978, the Naples Sharks have been a community focused club with 350 players that take part in all levels of soccer in the state of Florida.
“I am excited by the opportunities that will be afforded to area players by the combination of the different organizations,” said Naples Youth Soccer Club Director of Coaching and Operations Gavin Spooner. “Our players will be able to play soccer in a fully integrated full-service club. We now have the opportunity and resources to help our players reach their potential.”
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 Kentucky. Through the Juniors program, players ages eight-years-old 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.