Pier 40 is a field of dreams for young soccer players.
BY PASHA FARMANARA | The Village has been experiencing an ongoing boom in youth soccer. Both Pier 40 and James J. Walker Park have been taken over by soccer players, partly due to the growth of the Downtown United Soccer Club youth league.
The club features programs for kids ranging from age 4 to 18. DUSC also offers travel teams for the more experienced players, and interleague teams that only participate in games against other DUSC teams.
The growth of DUSC has been attributed to the growing presence of professional soccer around the nation, as well as the New York area.
“I think the growth of Major League Soccer has certainly made a difference,” said Tom Frambach, DUSC’s general manager of staff. “Also, the U.S. national team is starting to see success. The U.S. team won the Gold Cup, and their success breeds popularity.”
With all the success the American women’s team has recently had, including reaching the Women’s World Cup Championship, the league is working on expanding their programs for girls to get involved in the sport.
Frambach feels that the U.S. soccer team’s recent success is partly due to an improvement in the sport’s coaching sector.
“Soccer has been a relatively new sport,” he said. “The last generations had a lot of participation, but didn’t have a lot of good coaches to drive the sport. This generation has grown up playing and knowing the game. So now you see the leaders and coaches driving the soccer environment.”
The most impressive part of DUSC’s growth in the city is the club’s ability to compensate for the lack of fields in the area. Gaining permits to use public fields has become a struggle, as more soccer programs have sprouted up in the area.
“Resources are scarce, so we try to do the best we can with all the fields that are available to us,” said Frambach. “We are very fortunate to have been allocated permit time at Pier 40. We also utilize Chelsea Waterside Park, James J. Walker Park, Randall’s Island on the weekends for games, and Roosevelt Island, too, which is small, but we need to.”
These space constraints have helped define the style of the boys travel team. Since there can be up to 100 kids practicing on one field at a time, players put more emphasis on finesse skills, such as dribbling and passing.
“We as a club are very technically oriented,” Frambach noted. “I think the environment creates that. The opposite of that is when we play teams from New Jersey or Long Island who have all this space; they are a little bit bigger, stronger, faster. It builds around the environment.”
In addition to help kids learn the game of soccer, DUSC puts a big emphasis on helping them grow off the field as well. After ticking off a long list of qualities that soccer can help a player gain, Frambach concluded, “Any life skill you can imagine can be learned on a soccer field.”
There is one quality soccer provides — real teamwork — which separates it from other sports.
“In soccer you need all 11 players working together to succeed,” Frambach noted. “In basketball you can have one player who can take over the game.”
Going forward, DUSC hopes to continue to introduce youths to soccer, and help them grow through the game. DUSC is also hoping to gain permits to use a new field in Brooklyn Bridge Park.