SoccerCity Scores Again with Shannon MacMillan
from San Diego Union Tribune – Kevin Acee
The SoccerCity coalition has added another of the sport’s stars in its efforts to not only bring an MLS franchise to San Diego but to grow and solidify the region’s development of soccer players.
FS Investors, the group trying to build an MLS stadium and surrounding development in Mission Valley, announced Thursday that Shannon MacMillan has joined the group as a member of its advisory board and as an investor.
It’s another exceptional PR move that also demonstrates the group’s commitment to bettering the community.
You almost feel like you have to apologize for praising this effort again and again. it’s just that they kind of know how to make friends and influence people the right way.
Seriously, if their MLS team can score like this, San Diego will be home to a champion before too long.
MacMillan, a graduate of San Pasqual High, played 176 games for the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1995 to 2006 and is a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Her primary role will be teaming with former U.S. Men’s National Team star Landon Donovan in the creation of a youth soccer academy program.
“It was a powerful opportunity to be able to be a part of it and bring professional soccer and a professional club that will be run properly with the mindset of creating a legitimate pathway for the kids,” MacMillan said. “… This is about the kids and the game and growing the game — doing something good for the city and giving San Diego something to embrace.”
It’s one thing for Nick Stone to say something about wanting to do what is best for the soccer community, no matter how much you believe in the earnestness of the FS Investors’ public point man.
It’s another thing when the message is coming from someone who has spent almost her entire life traveling the world playing soccer and has spent the past decade coaching at the collegiate and youth level and is widely held to be not only an expert in the game but a wonderful human being.
MacMillan is executive director of the Del Mar-Carmel Valley Sharks youth soccer program, which she joined eight years ago after two years as an assistant coach at UCLA. She is acquainted with the youth soccer landscape in the county going back to her time growing up in Escondido.
The strategies for the MLS group’s youth program are in the embryonic stage, though both Donovan and MacMillan are intent on moving quickly.
“My plan is that on Nov. 8 we are moving full bore ahead,” said Donovan, who joined the FS Investors group earlier this year and has become one of its main spokemen.
The SoccerCity development is part of a special election slated for that date. If approved, the group plans to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site with a stadium that would open in time for the 2020 MLS season. The development would also include park area, retail, office and housing.
Donovan has begun meeting with members of the club soccer community and will accelerate those efforts with MacMillan on board.
“I will be leaning on Shannon,” he said.
Donovan might the best soccer player in U.S. history, but he acknowledges he has much to learn about working within the youth soccer community.
“I am far from the expert as far as how to implement it from this side,” he said. “On the other side, I am the expert being that I lived it every step of the way.”
Separately, Donovan and MacMillan both talked about their passion for building better people through soccer, with the game as a teacher and a catalyst for other endeavors.
Now, too, there is no question Donovan wants players from the academy on San Diego’s MLS team. And he means beginning when the team takes the field in 2020.
“There’s too much talent here for that not to happen,” he said.
All MLS teams have academies, generally including under-12, under-14, under-16 and under-18 programs. There is no cost for players who are selected for these teams, which set them apart from other elite-level clubs.
The goal here, as stated by Donovan and MacMillan, is to collaborate with the existing extensive network of youth clubs and create a collaborative environment where it is considered an honor for a player to be selected to play for the MLS franchise’s youth program.
“This isn’t to come in and be a competitor with all the youth clubs,” MacMillan said.
Donovan, who was a member of the first U.S. Soccer youth residency program class at the IMG Academy in Florida, has nothing less than the best in his mind.
“I want there to be a region-wide sense of pride and benefit to everyone involved,” he said. “So when any kid from San Ysidro all the way up to Oceanside comes to the academy, every kid is excited, every parent is excited, every club is excited.”
With another of America’s greats at his side, it doesn’t seem silly to think it can be accomplished.