The Meridian Star
High school soccer rivals are about to become teammates.
Meridian Youth South Organization and Meridian Futbol Club kicked off the first practices of their newest division — MFC High School — on Monday night at the Jaycee Soccer Complex.
"I feel really good about it," Steve Dennis, director of MCF High School, said. "The kids have helped me feel real good about it because they're excited about it."
MFC is modelling the newest branch of its youth soccer program to resemble others from across the state, but with the sole intention of developing players careers past the high school level.
"The high school division plan is to help these kids get noticed and play at the next level, which we hope is college and beyond," Dennis said.
In the past, MFC has offered U16 and U18 recreational soccer teams, but wasn't able to field a complete team. Offering a competitive program, with a heavy focus on playing in college did the trick and has grabbed the cream of crop.
"MFC and MYSO wanted to partner with high schools in a better way to offer these kids more opportunities," Dennis said. "It was formed a lot based on Gulf Coast's league who have a similar program where they sign a lot of players to colleges ... we are taking the pool of the high school talent and creating this."
At 110 kids, MFC will field six teams — U14, U16 and U17 in boys an girls — made up of players from the surrounding high schools. The turnout was 40 percent more than expected, Dennis said.
The overarching goal is to develop players to the point of getting Meridian on the southern soccer map. MSYO and MFC want college recruiting to be a two way street — they market their players, but schools also come looking for talent.
"The number of kids we get recruited and signed out of this will judge our success more than wins and loses," Dennis said. "Of course we want to win, but we are looking at these players having opportunities.
"We hope this — Meridian Futbol Club High School Division — will be something respected by college coaches throughout the state and they will want to come to us."
While talent on the field is highly important to recruiting, the High School Division will stress academic performance in the classroom and on college entrance exams to create a complete college player.
"First and for most, we are going to encourage the kids to do really well academically," Dennis said. "Second, we are going to offer ACT preparation to help the older kids. And third, is getting them noticed on the field."
Dennis said the feedback from parents has been positive all around, but even more so about the stress placed on hard work off the field.
"A lot of these kids play a lot of soccer, but the parents especially are excited about the academic opportunities more often then the kids," Dennis said.
On Monday night, the high school division kicked off the fall season with practice at the Jaycee Soccer Complex.
The teams will practice weekly, go through boot camps and focus on college recruiting in the fall before breaking for the official Mississippi state high school season begins. MFC will take to tournament brackets in the spring after the high school season as ended.
"We want to develop players, bottom line," Dennis said.
Anyone interested in joining the MFC High School teams is invited to practice on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. or Sunday at 2 p.m. at the complex. Registration for recreation U4 and up runs through August 9, check www.meridiansoccer.com for more information.