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Too much of a good thing?

Posted: March 23, 2008 1:51 a.m.
Updated: May 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.
It wasn't that long ago when there were two soccer clubs to choose from in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Now, there are four, and at least one or two more could be on the way.

Club soccer in this valley has come a long way. But to some, it seems there is still so much further to go.

"When I first started there were basically two clubs out here. Now there are (four), which is good and bad," said Joel Govea, who has been coaching in the SCV for 10 years and is currently a coach with Santa Clarita Valley Magic. "It's good in that more kids get an opportunity to play. The bad thing is you've got the talent spread in (four) different places as opposed to a situation where the top players play in one place. There's a lot of competition in our valley."

While having choices is rarely a bad thing, having so many club options in the SCV may be part of why elite players in the area generally don't stay here.

Many drive some 45 minutes away, and in some cases further, to play for top soccer clubs.

This isn't an area short on talent, either.

The Foothill League is widely considered to be one of the top leagues in the Los Angeles- area for girls soccer. It's deep and talented and numerous girls have moved onto play soccer at the NCAA Division I level, including Valencia High's Shari Summers at Stanford, Canyon's Nini Loucks at USC, and Hart's Erin Misaki, who played at Portland.

As for the some of this season's outgoing seniors, Saugus' Marina Constantinou and Jamie Havelin, along with Hart's Sarina Coutin will be playing for Cal State Bakersfield next season. All three of those girls play for Valley United Stars, a team based in the San Fernando Valley.

There are four clubs in this area: the longest-running of the group Santa Clarita United, SCV Magic, Milan Soccer Academy, which opened in July, and Select Cities Soccer Club which has been around for a year and a half.

Of the group, only one club has premier teams and that's Santa Clarita United. They have two. To be a premier team, one must be one of the top eight club teams in an area that spans from the Central Valley down into San Diego.

Below premier in descending order are gold, silver, and bronze. To move up a level, you have to finish in one of the top spots in your league. Most of the teams in Santa Clarita play in the Coast Soccer League.

Both the Stars and Blazers, who will play Under-19 girls and Under-16 girls in the upcoming club season, play premier. They are part of Santa Clarita United.

"That's what sad. There should be three to four teams and there are only two," said Clint Greenwood, the technical director for Santa Clarita United.

Greenwood has played at the professional level in Europe and has trained players such as Landon Donovan, one of the top players on the U.S. men's national team.

He currently coaches the Blazers, who won nationals this past season.

"Our job as coaches and directors of coaches is to get them to play premier so they can get exposure to college coaches," Greenwood said.

For the Select Cities Soccer Club, their goal isn't as much to produce premier-level teams so much as it is to prepare players to move on to that level.

The majority of the club teams at SCSC are bronze-level and some have moved into the silver level.

One of the coaches in SCSC is Nicci Leon, whose father Jose is the president of the club. Nicci graduated from Hart in 2005 and played on the high school team. She said she played for nearly every club team here and as so many players do, moved on and played for So Cal United.

That club is now called Real So Cal.

"I agree with that there's very good players that go out of the city to find better teams," Nicci Leon said. "The best part of our city is we get these kids prepared to move on."

The Milan Soccer Academy is the newest addition to the SCV, getting off the ground in July 2007. It is connected with the Italian soccer club A.C. Milan, one of the top and most famous soccer clubs in the world.

Still, most of the teams in the SCV are bronze and silver, forcing many of the area's elite players to leave the valley in order to play, for a top club and get the desired exposure to college coaches. And Greenwood is one person who wants to see that change.

"That's a problem. It's a disaster to be honest," Greenwood said. "It's the mentality of the clubs who won't relinquish their power.

"It's never going to change until the other main clubs merge and have the best players play on one team," Greenwood said. "It will always be like that."


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