Last week, the Chicago Fire announced their academy affiliation partnership with well-known local youth club FC United. Through this partnership the Fire and FC United will share coaching philosophies, training curriculum, host clinics and more. This partnership is a new encouraging sign of the Fire's intent to invest in their academy.
When looking at this partnership, it's a small but significant step forward for the Fire and their academy. FC United is a well-known club based in northern Illinois that has produced quality teams and players such as the Fire's own Chris Ritter. In reality, this partnership will help give the Fire more insight and scouting into one of the area's established club programs where they might be able to find the next Chris Ritter.
One of the common themes when looking at academies across the country is that a lot of kids slip through the cracks. In countries such as England and the Netherlands, they have much smaller population numbers and land to cover. In the U.S., we have a blessing and a curse in our size. We have access to a larger talent pool but as seen in the past, a lot of kids don't get discovered by the proper coaches and teams which leads to unfilled potential. This is a theme that doesn't just exist in Chicago but for every MLS team.
This new partnership is a first for the Fire but hopefully not the last. Since the kids that play for FC United are eligible for the Fire academy, the Fire will be able to get scouting reports and first looks at their best kids. Hopefully this is a test-run partnership done by the Fire and its academy that can be expanded and improved going forward.
The Fire has recently seen their academy begin to show fruits with the signings of Chris Ritter and Harry Shipp. It can only be beneficial for the Fire to strengthen ties with prominent youth clubs because it is unrealistic for the Fire to be able to scout every team and tournament in the region. By establishing relationships with clubs and coaches, the Fire will be able to better know the youth set-up and hopeful continue the recent influx of quality youngsters joining the first team. As many of us know, the Chicago region is a hot bed for youth soccer with high-profile teams such as the Chicago Magic PSG and Sockers with players such as Brad Guzan, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Spector and many more played for these clubs. Partnerships with youth clubs can help bring these players into the Fire's scouting network. It's obviously unrealistic for all of these clubs to partner up with the Fire because they compete for these high-level players, especially the Chicago Magic PSG, but the more partnerships, the better.
Going forward, this partnership is an exciting sign that the Fire is committed to their academy - and hopefully the discovery of the next Harry Shipp.
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