SoccerNation is spotlighting youth clubs from all over these United States of America. Powered by soccerloco, the SoccerNation Club Spotlight Series will take us all around California and to special soccer spots across the country.
Our next stop is The Great City by the Bay, San Francisco, as our own Nate Abaurrea talks with Mike McNeil, the Director of Coaching for SF Glens Evolution.
In the two part interview, we learn all about the unique San Francisco club, delving into its strong Irish-American roots and its connection with the diverse local soccer culture. We learn about the history of SF Glens Evolution, talk soccer idols and footballing loves, and take a broader look with McNeil into the current climate and happenings of youth soccer in the United States.
Here’s part 1 of the conversation.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Mike, thank you so much for joining us. First off, tell us a little about the history of your club, its founding, and what you see as some of its most important moments thus far.
Mike McNeil (SF Glens Evolution): Good to be here, Nate. San Francisco Glens Evolution is the largest soccer club in the city. SF Glens Evolution is the result of two clubs merging, SF Glens and Evolution FC to become one of the most competitive clubs in Northern California.
The SF Glens was founded as an adult men’s soccer club that participated one of the oldest soccer leagues in the United States, the SFSFL. The Glens was formed by Irish immigrants in San Francisco and experienced success at the adult amateur level. They made the finals of the USASA Amateur Cup in 1979 and 1990, losing both times to Atlanta Datagraphic and St. Petersburg Kickers respectively.
The SF Glens started the youth program in 2011. Two Irish Americans, Leo Cassidy and John McCormack, were the two responsible for the start of what is now the largest club in SF. I was hired as then technical director, now assuming the role of Director of Coaching to lead the organization. The club was grown from five teams with volunteer coaches to over 50 teams with high quality talent and top coaches prior to the merger.
Evolution FC was founded by Dave Anderson, his brother Chris Anderson, and SF native and Irish American, Pat Maguire. Dave and Chris started the club in remembrance of their late father who sadly passed away. Evolution FC quickly became one of the most competitive clubs in San Francisco and one of the only clubs to successfully bridge the gap between the all the different ethnic communities in San Francisco. Evolution FC were pioneers in the San Francisco soccer landscape. They were one of the first San Francisco clubs to register in US Club Soccer.
In 2015, leaders of both organizations came together and merged the 2 clubs together to create the strongest program in San Francisco. Today, San Francisco Glens Evolution is the only program to offer every level of competition to its members. With over 80 teams in the club, SFGE has recently been awarded a place in the US Soccer Development Academy.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Tell us more about the growth of SFGE, and what you are most proud of in terms of how you’ve seen the club advance over the years.
Mike McNeil (SF Glens Evolution): The growth of the club has been incredible. The easiest way to measure our growth is obviously just the sheer number of players we have in our club. Today we have almost 1000 children playing in our club in addition to two adult teams.
From a technical stand point, the growth of our coaching staff is what I feel we are most proud of. We have grown from a club of volunteers to now having the most licensed coaches in the city. In the past 12 months alone, we have five coaches who have completed there USSF D License, four who have completed their USSF C, two coaches who have completed / renewed their USSF A License, one coach who has completed a UEFA B, and we have one coach leaving next month for the UEFA A License. This represents magnificent growth within our coaching ranks.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): With the direction you’ve seen things go, here in 2017, what would you say are some of the biggest strengths of SF Glen Evolution?
Mike McNeil (SF Glens Evolution): Our biggest strength as a club is definitely the community that we have built. I take great pride in the growth of our coaching staff and the depth of their qualifications, but it is important to note that we still have an incredible number of volunteers who care about this club and soccer in San Francisco.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): What are some of the biggest challenges you face in running your club? San Francisco is such a fascinating place in regards to the beautiful game, and while the the 7×7 layout of the city has its benefits from a tight-knit camaraderie standpoint, it must also be difficult to deal with as an organization.
Mike McNeil (SF Glens Evolution): There are obviously a number of challenges for every club. But yes, as you rightly point out, with us being in San Francisco, we definitely struggle with actual training space and game fields. San Francisco is landlocked and there is only so much space for recreation. It forces us to be creative with our training spaces. When it comes to proper field space, all of our teams are only allotted a quarter of a pitch, twice a week for 1.5 hours at most. That’s why we are major advocates of utilizing basketball courts and gyms for futsal, as well as some of the large beaches on nice days to play beach soccer.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Mike, what would you say is the mission of SF Glens Evolution?
Mike McNeil (SF Glens Evolution): The mission of our club is very simple. We want to continue to be the premier destination club for player development. Whether you are a recreational player, competitive player, or part of our USSDA program, we want that player to be proud to be a part of this club. We want them to be happy and proud to be part of the San Francisco soccer community.
(Stay tuned to SoccerNation.com for Part 2 of our conversation with Mike McNeil of SF Glens Evolution, and for more in our ongoing SoccerNation Club Spotlight Series powered by soccerloco.)