For five days in early January, Chicago will become the focal point of the American soccer landscape.
Over 13,000 visitors are expected when the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Convention descends on Chicago's McCormick Place from January 9-13, and will also host both Major League Soccer's SuperDraft and the National Women's Soccer League's College Draft.
- Buy Now: Chicago Fire Holiday Pack
"Chicago -- and Illinois in general -- has such great soccer tradition from having both a men’s and a women’s pro team to the number of great youth teams they have, and high school and college programs," Lesle Gallimore, President of the United Soccer Coaches Board of Directors, said. "Obviously, U.S. Soccer House is in Chicago as well. I just think the city and the state are steeped in soccer tradition and we’re happy to finally bring the Convention there."
Coaches and attendees can expect everything from live field demonstrations, panels, lectures and workshop sessions, networking and social functions, award presentations, and more over a jam-packed week in the Windy City.
Among the group will be Chicago Fire Academy Technical Director Cedric Cattenoy and Director of Performance, Advisory and Support Services Brian Roberts to discuss topics like session building, game modeling, and holistic player development. Academy and Chicago Fire Juniors players from the West, South and City programs are set to take part in 25 demonstrations. Additionally, the Chicago Fire will host a lounge alongside the 2018 MLS SuperDraft setup for fans to visit.
"We’re at about 230 education sessions, 30 meal and social functions, and between 500-600 meetings of various organizations," Geoff VanDeusen, the organization's Director of Operations and Events, said. "We have about 400 companies that will exhibit. We’ve grown from 6,000-7,000 coaches eight years ago to about 14,000 today. We’ve been able to make this the largest gathering of soccer coaches, administrators and companies in the world."
For VanDeusen, even more so than the event's programming schedule, the ability for coaches in attendance to exchange ideas with peers from every level is the hallmark of the convention.
"I feel strongly about the access that the coaches have," he added. "It’s amazing that a youth coach that’s coaching U-12 can be walking down the hallway and have a conversation with an MLS coach. It’s that access and that environment, that networking atmosphere."
At the heart of the event is United Soccer Coaches' mission to inspire coaches and ignite their passion for the game so they pass it on to players and others in the soccer community. As the sport continues to expand its footprint in the United States, coaching education and mutual support becomes an even greater focus.
"If there’s one thing soccer needs in this country it is to be united," said Lynn Berling-Manuel, CEO of United Soccer Coaches. "It is to come together in a common way -- all the various organizations, all the various levels -- and really focus on the good of the game. The foundation of our association has always been uniting coaches around the love of the game. This is the one place in the entire American soccer constellation where that’s really true."
"The kindest thing we can do to support our coaches is to help make their clubs better, so we try to bring a lot of folks to the table that support that experience. We now offer a Club Administrators Professional Certificate program as just one of those elements."
For more on the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Convention and to register to attend, visit unitedsoccercoachesconvention.org.