More than 400 youth soccer clubs who call the Delaware Valley home now have a point person at the Philadelphia Union who has been hired to oversee outreach and build relationships with youth soccer clubs in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
David Pettican, who was announced as the Union’s youth general manager by the team on Tuesday, was a youth player at Southampton FC and played professionally at Portsmouth FC before injuries cut short his career but it is his pedigree in the local soccer community that makes him such an intriguing hire.
Pettican founded the area club FC Europa in 2008 after establishing a presence in the Philadelphia area in the early ‘90s as the founder of British European Soccer Training. He’s also been the owner/operator of the Suburban Sports Training Center in Conshohocken since 2013.
“David Pettican is a good soccer guy, I like him a lot,” said Biff Sturla, president of Lower Merion Soccer Club, who has been outspoken in his criticism over the Union’s decision to launch its Pre-Academy program in 2017. “I don’t know what they expect him to do, they really haven’t defined his role that well yet. If his job is to identify the top 8, 9 and 10-year-olds in the area, I will once again laugh at the Union. Nobody can tell who will become the best players when they are so young, and I mean nobody. The Union are fooling themselves if they think they can do that.”
From the way Union chief business officer Tim McDermott describes it, Pettican won’t be delving so much into the player identification side of things as he will be building relationships with area clubs, perhaps even mending some fences that have been damaged along the way as the Union has grown their own youth programs.
“We are committed to engaging these clubs and forming fantastic working partnerships,” McDermott said in the news release announcing Pettican’s hiring. “We take this responsibility very seriously and are confident that David will be a great resource to the community, helping us connect with youth coaches, players and parents across the Delaware Valley.”
Philadelphia Lone Star president Paul Konneh has high hopes for Pettican’s new role, which appears to be the first of its kind in Major League Soccer.
“It’s welcoming news,” Konneh said. “We have already been in touch with him and we hope this will be beneficial not only to area clubs like ours but also to the Union. This shows that they do care about building relationships with other youth soccer clubs in areas that they haven’t tried to tap into. We are looking forward to working with David.”
Even with his extensive knowledge of soccer in the region and impressive experience, Pettican will have his work cut out for him navigating the vast and sometimes thorny youth soccer landscape in the region.
“There is a fantastic opportunity for all of us at the Union to grow our connection with the youth clubs in our region,” Pettican said in the news release. “The primary message I have for them is that we are all in this together – to grow the game in the Delaware Valley and to serve the needs of our youth. It’s my aim to support development at all levels across our area.”