CHICAGO (March 8, 2022) - Chicago Fire FC today announced the outline of a series of new youth soccer development initiatives aimed at increasing access and pathways for players and coaches in the Midwest to engage with Chicago Fire Academy.
Beginning this summer, Chicago Fire Academy and youth soccer staff will begin offering numerous unique programs and events for the youth soccer community. With a focus on expanding the Academy’s talent identification platforms, the path to the professional ranks begins with the newly established Emerging Talent Centers before players are invited to join the Academy. These talent centers are supplemental to a participant’s regular club programming and will offer players from 9 to 12 years old the opportunity to receive additional high-level training from Chicago Fire FC coaching staff and be evaluated over an extended period each season.
Talent center players may also have the opportunity to represent the Fire in one-off competitions. The Academy will also launch a series of Fire Festivals for U9-U12 teams to participate in a highly competitive environment at Chicago Fire FC training facilities.
“Through our reimagined Emerging Talent Program, we have an opportunity to identify and develop quality players,” said Chicago Fire FC Technical Director Sebastian Pelzer. “The amount of talent that is in Chicagoland is immense. We’re looking forward to working with a larger pool of players in the hopes of one day having them represent the Fire at Soldier Field.”
The Fire have a rich history with signing local talent with 22 Homegrown signings, including 10 currently under contract with the Club through the 2022 season. In 2021, Javier Casas Jr., Brian Gutiérrez, Mauricio Pineda, Alex Monis and Gabriel Slonina, all earned minutes with the Fire’s first-team.
Along with developing player talent, Chicago Fire FC will invest in coaching education initiatives which will include a series of educational programs to add value to a coaches’ professional development and support coaching pathways. With the support of Major League Soccer, Chicago Fire FC will offer opportunities for formal licensing and in-formal continued education workshops with the Fire’s first team and Academy coaching staff. A new digital coaching platform will also be launched, which is aimed at providing the best training concepts for youth coaches to take into their own environment.
"We're thrilled to have these new programs now be an extension of the Fire's Academy, as we as staff come together to help identify and grow the player and coach talent pool across the Midwest," said Chicago Fire FC's Senior Director, Youth Soccer Development Jamie Lyons. "The success that our current programs have had in graduating players to the Academy is at an all-time high and we are now looking to grow that number further through these newly established initiatives.”
In addition to working with players and coaches, Fire staff will also form a youth alliance network aimed at providing soccer clubs the opportunity to engage with the Fire through our professional staff, resources, and meaningful services to aid club development. As part of this, Chicago Fire FC aims to host an annual Youth Soccer Summit & Coaching Symposium as well providing additional alliance only benefits. More details regarding all these new initiatives will be announced in the months ahead. Those interested in receiving more information should complete a brief form by clicking here.
As a part of this transition, Chicago Fire FC will move away from its Fire Juniors affiliate model at the end of this season. Further details on these changes will be announced by each Fire Juniors club in the coming days.