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Chelsea onto winner with Disney Soccer partnership

While Luiz Felipe Scolari's players were struggling with the demands of the Premiership's festive programme, their young Chelsea teammates were again spreading the Blue word across the United States. As part of their strategic push into North America, Chelsea's academy took part in the highly-acclaimed Disney Soccer Showcase in Orlando last week.

It was the second consecutive year that Chelsea's U17 squad had participated in the youth tournament, regarded by US soccer powerbrokers as the best in the country.

Early in 2007, Chelsea and Disney's Wide World of Sports announced a long-term partnership to help promote soccer at all levels in the US. Under the terms of the four-year agreement, Chelsea became the official pro club of Disney's Wide World of Sports and also the presenting sponsor of Disney's Soccer Showcase Series.

Patrick Dicks, the Area Manager of Disney Field Sports, says the partnership with Chelsea is great reward for everyone involved in a tournament that has been running since 2000.

"The success comes with team work and the team we have been able to assemble within the Soccer Department," Dicks explained to tribalfootball.com. "The Showcase has grown from 71 teams to over 420 teams with over 400 teams on the waiting list.

"The guest experience is superior due to our dedicated cast members, from the grounds crew who make these fields so good to play on to the team who puts up the goals, everyone is dedicated to making this a once in a lifetime experience for young American soccer players. If I was a young soccer player this would be the one place I would want to come and play!"

After aggressively sourcing partner clubs in 2008, Chelsea staff were able to get a close look at two new members of their club network - CASL Academy of North Carolina and Match Fit Academy of New Jersey. Both teams were among the 428 to take part in the Disney event.

Chelsea management took their participation seriously and with a team that included FA Youth Cup hero Frank Nouble and recent Uruguayan signing Jhon Pirez, they won the U17 championship impressively, knocking off Javanon from Louisville, Kentucky, in the final with a 5-0 victory.

But it won't be just silverware Chelsea could be taking back with them to London. During the tournament, an All-Star team was selected (pictured below), which will travel to Stamford Bridge to train at the Chelsea academy and compete against international competition.

There is a genuine chance that Chelsea will uncover an American gem or two from this squad as Disney's Soccer Showcase is renowned for kicking off the college careers of some of the US's best players.

As Dicks explains: "There have been too many notable players to mention over the past eight years, we have had some of Europe's finest talent grace the Showcase along with some of the best talent in the current US National Team squad, all have come through here and experienced this tournament.

"I would say the best talent comes through the Showcase due to the relationships we have with US Soccer and US Youth Soccer. Not only do we have the top club teams participating, but we had the Olympic Development Regional Teams here last week as well as the US Soccer Academy teams.

"There was some great soccer and talent for all the college coaches to see."

Indeed, while Chelsea are partner sponsors, that hasn't stopped European rivals from muscling in on prospective signings. And a staggering 700 college coaches were in attendance last week to run their eye over potential recruits.

Among the difficulties local MLS and European clubs face when seeking American talent, is the vast number of young players throughout the country. Better than anyother tournament, over the years Disney's Soccer Showcase has been able to bring together the majority of America's best youth players in the one place.

"Over the past four years, more and more professional teams have sent scouts to watch America's finest," revealed Dicks. "We have had several clubs from England attend, along with scouts from Germany, Spain, Italy and Mexico.

"There is a wealth of youth soccer talent in the United States and I have witnessed first hand the attention the major soccer playing countries now are paying to the Disney Soccer Showcase."

A strong showing from the Disney Allstars in London and global interest in the Showcase is sure to grow.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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