Colorado Rush Turn to UPSL to Augment Youth Development

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Colorado Rush Turn to UPSL to Augment Youth Development

For many years, the Colorado Rush organization has been involved in elite youth soccer development. Forged by a merger between two powerhouse youth cl

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For many years, the Colorado Rush organization has been involved in elite youth soccer development. Forged by a merger between two powerhouse youth clubs, Lakewood United SC and Club Columbine, the club is home to more than 5,000 youth players. With dozens of affiliate clubs around the world, Rush is widely known as one of the premier youth clubs.

As the infrastructure to support youth development continues to grow around the country, it is only natural that Rush would look at add to its formidable organization with a “first team” that enables players to pursue a pathway to a professional soccer career within the youth club environment they were raised in. With the like of Harry Kane at Tottenham, Marcus Rashford at Manchester United, Jordan Morris from the 2016 MLS Cup winning Seattle Sounders, and so many more homegrown players from clubs all around the world, it would be unnatural for Rush to not have integration for alumni like Lindsay Horan and Kekutah Maneh to thrive within.

According to Joe Webb, Director of Coaching – Adults, Rush, like most youth clubs, has almost always had some sort of adult team. In the past, the team was generally made of up ex-collegiate players, club coaches, and local alumni of the Rush program, but it was always “more of an in-house thing where guys just played for the love of the game.” The adult team was by no means a focal part of the development pathway within the Rush curriculum.

That began to change two years ago when the adult team registered for the U.S. Open Cup. The change in format of the competition sparked interest from Rush, and with a deep well of potential talent within the club, including ex-collegiate players and coaches with professional experience the club realized there was a serious opportunity to field a very competitive team.

The “one and done” knockout nature of the cup presented a different sort of challenge to this newly formed Rush first team. One slip, one bad game, and the campaign would end. With so many qualifying rounds before an amateur team enters the tournament proper, it became imperative for Webb’s Rush team to stay fit, sharp and active in order to be in tip top condition for each round of the Odyssey that is an Open Cup run.

Enter the United Premier Soccer League. The UPSL, as it is generally known, is a rapidly expanding member of the United States Adult Soccer Association’s National League and have announced a North East and Midwest Conferences just this last week.

The league was initially formed in 2011 by Leonel Lopez in Los Angeles with just 10 clubs. Now, the UPSL has grown to include more than 60 men’s club from across California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Colorado and a target of more than 70 in 2017.

The Colorado contingent of UPSL clubs is led by Don Harmon, the Conference Operations Manager and now the WUPSL director too. Harmon also doubles his league roll with one as the General Manager of FC Boulder who compete alongside Colorado Rush, Colorado Springs FC, Club El Azul, FC Greeley, Indios Denver FC and Logrones FC. The UPSL is distinct amongst other pro-development leagues in that it is dedicated to implementing a promotion and relegation style of organization. As the various conferences across the country continue to add strength in depth, the levels of competition will rise, again and again, spurring players to develop as individuals in order to remain competitive.

The constant competition in the UPSL, combined with the high caliber of regional opponents made the league a natural fit for Webb and his team. With a near year-round schedule, the UPSL serves as the perfect outlet for Colorado Rush’s First Team to refine their skills and has proven to be an excellent outlet for promising players.

Colorado Rush’s UPSL team will play their home matches at Shea Stadium Littleton, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, just a mile from the Titan Complex, where Rush’s operations will be centralized in the coming months. The UPSL team will serve as the capstone to a developmental pyramid within the club as it grows into a truly professional soccer club.

With Rush’s massive network of affiliated clubs across the country, the potential for growing regional development centers around the nation is significant. The UPSL has recently announced a Women’s division(WUPSL), and the capacity Rush has for developing youth soccer players into elite athletes is near legendary. There has never been a better time to be a participant in soccer in this country, and there has rarely been an organization better poised to have a widespread and meaningful impact on the growth of the game.

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