Two years after the merger of the Wayzata Soccer Club and Plymouth Soccer Association, Fusion Soccer Club continues to grow, offering exciting new opportunities for local players. The club is one of the largest youth soccer organizations in the state for boys and girls, with roughly 5,400 players between age 5 and high school.
Fusion employs 18 staff members who are on-field soccer staff, and they manage operations and administrative tasks. The club is overseen by 10 board members, and there are between 350 to 400 volunteer coaches and team managers as well as hundreds of parent volunteers.
“The city of Plymouth and the Wayzata School District in particular have been great partners to us, and we are proud to be part of this community. The merger has allowed us to attract high level coaches and invest in their education and licensing, which in turn attracts players to the club as they know they'll be able to compete at the correct level and get professional training. This year in U15-U19 teams, we have players representing 37 different high schools,” says Fusion’s executive director Maureen Brick.
Playing the Field
“Over the past five years, we have seen an explosion of interest in soccer. More girls are trying out soccer, especially with the U.S. Women's National Team being so successful in the Women's World Cup and the Olympics. With those great female role models, more girls are trying out soccer in our recreation and development programs,” Brick says.
“Soccer has always been popular with boys, and has increased as more boys transfer from other sports,“ she adds. Now that our local Minnesota United FC is going to play Major League Soccer next season, that will only bring more excitement to the state around soccer.”
The club offers a recreational entry point to the game for children as young as age 5.
“It allows parents to provide a very safe, fun environment for kids to play and figure out how much they love the sport without making a huge full year and financial commitment required at the next level,” says Lawrence Tsoi, director of coaching and player development for girls competitive teams.
“Athletics offer a way for children to get involved outside of school-related activities and promote a healthy lifestyle. We have developed close friendships with many Fusion SC families and are grateful to be part of the community,” says Rachel Olson, a New Hope resident. She has three children in the program: Emily is on the girls U16 team; Morgan, is on the boys U13 team; and Olivia is on the girls U13 team.
“Throughout our time with Fusion SC, my children have continued to develop technical skills, knowledge of the game, team mentality and have been offered position-specific instruction,” Olson says.
Players begin to consider the competitive track around age 7 or 8, and they can explore the bridge program called the Fusion Development Program to decide if they want to enter the competitive track.
At age 9, players choosing the competitive track are formally evaluated and then placed on a team with paid professional coaches based on age and ability. The competitive track requires a year-round commitment.
Teams are announced in early August; the fall season runs from August to October, while high school players play on their respective high school teams. Starting November 1, players go through winter training, which might be up to four times a week at the highest level.
“During the winter months we also hold another informal evaluation process. In four months a young player can become very different physically and emotionally, and we want to make sure we’re always looking at players and placing them at their current developmental needs. Players who develop the most are going to have the proper blend of challenge and fun, so they stay motivated and excited,” adds Tsoi.
In the spring and summer, teams play three to five times per week against area clubs. There are also three to five tournaments in addition to league games, which depending on age group, might be in places such as Chicago, Iowa and Kansas City. The highest level players fly to Phoenix or Las Vegas.
Fusion recently announced a partnership with FC Kansas City, a professional women’s team that runs its own youth organization. As an affiliate, Fusion can leverage FC Kansas City’s youth development curriculum in addition to its curriculum from U.S. Soccer.
“Developing players is science and art, and it’s really about continuing to educate and provide more resources to our coaches — both paid and volunteer,” says Tsoi. “The best way for me to develop players is through my staff.”
“I’ve always been a big believer in life-long learning. So, even though I’m starting my 32nd straight year of coaching soccer, I appreciate the great group of coaches and directors that have been brought together at Fusion,” says parent and coach Reuben Mjaanes from Wayzata. “I continually find myself watching other coaches at their training sessions to get new ideas or approaches. I also enjoy working with a group that is passionate, not only about the game of soccer, but about helping children develop and grow athletically, emotionally and as teammates and friends.”
The FC Kansas City affiliate program offers elevated opportunities for college scouting and special tournaments for their affiliate clubs where players have an opportunity to also watch a professional game and engage with the professional players. Fusion is off to Kansas City for such an event in April.
“Currently, the captain of the U.S. Women’s national team, Becky Sauerbrunn, is also the captain of FC Kansas City, so our players have the opportunity to meet and greet their real life heroes,” says Tsoi. “It’s so fun to create these life-lasting memories.”
“The merger has been a process. We’re grateful and thankful for players and parents who have bought in and continued to support us in the process,” says Tsoi. “With every year the organization gets better. Last fall we had more than 10 teams in the state tournament, the most of any competitive club in the state. Winning is only one indicator of what success looks like, but every year we continue to get better, and this FC Kansas affiliation is an example of this next step forward.”
Fusion SC looks forward to being part of this community for years to come, says Brick. “We will continue our focus on high quality coaching and coach education, and instilling a love of soccer for players of any age or level, from recreation through the higher competitive levels.”