NEWARK, N.J. - In March, Major League Soccer named one premier youth academy in Newark, New Jersey as part of a pipeline for developing pro-level talent.
"I'm really excited to be chosen to play on this 'MLS Next' team," said Lucas Ribero who plays center/midfielder and is in the 6th grade at Oliver Street School.
"I'm really excited, it’s a big step forward to get better opportunities to go pro," added Ryan Tavares plays center/midfield and is in the 6th grade at Anne Street School.
Ironbound SC's Under-13 and Under-14 divisions will start ‘MLS Next‘ competition in the Fall—just over 100 elite youth clubs from across the country have been invited by the league to participate.
"We actually were from down the shore, and we moved to Newark, so he could join the ironbound," said Geraldo Ribero, father of Lucas. "We knew the community and the whole soccer culture around Newark—is what he needed."
"It feels great," added Lucas. "It feels great, it feels like I own the town."
Ironbound SC is a program of the Salvation Army in Newark, New Jersey and offers over $100,000 in yearly scholarships.
"This is a great accomplishment for our organization," said Albert Coutinho, the founder and chairman of Ironbound SC.
Boosting of over 1200 players of all ages—Ironbound has become a benchmark of excellence in an area now known as a hotbed for soccer—with players going on to play at the collegiate, pro and national levels, but it also strives to be more inclusive as well.
"So right now we’ve reached USYS National League Level with 2—going to be 3 teams this fall… so it’s highly competitive," added Ariana Ruela, the Girl's Director of Coaching for Ironbound SC. "As Albert Coutinho mentioned the price is 30 to 50% of what these major academies offer yet the coaching and development that’s happening here is just the same."
And the lessons learned—greater than the game itself.
"For me—it’s a confidence builder, right?," says Ruela. "And so they get to see when they put their mind to something... what they can achieve and with soccer and any sport. It’s applicable to all things in life—and that’s the biggest thing for us with our girl's program, what we’re teaching them on the field—how can they use that off the field?"
When attacking midfielder and 7th grader at North Star Academy, Katherine Culquicondor was asked what the best part of playing for the academy was, she simply answered: