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Groundwork for resurrecting Chester High School soccer program many years in the making

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Programs like Chester Upland Youth Soccer, Chester City United and Will Trippley Youth Development Foundation have been building interest for the beautiful game for many years in the city of Chester

Bringing soccer back to Chester High School is an idea older than the Philadelphia Union — that the local high school in the city the team calls home doesn’t and hasn’t had school soccer for 30 years doesn’t make much sense after all.

A partnership between the Philadelphia Union, the Union Foundation, Power Home Remodeling, Adidas to fund the program at the middle and high school levels for boys and girls was officially announced on Wednesday at an event held at Talen Energy Stadium.

“When this opportunity came across our email I sat down with one of our founders Adam Kaliner who’s here and we talked about it for 10 seconds,” said Power Home Remodeling Co-CEO Asher Raphael, a former college soccer player said during the event. “This was just an absolute no brainer. It just makes sense. We have this beautiful stadium, home of the first place Philadelphia Union and in the shadow of the stadium our local residents don’t have a high school soccer team.”

The plan is to launch and fund the middle school and high school junior varsity teams in 2019-2020 and then launch varsity teams the following year. The funding from the initiative — $500,000 over the first three years and $150,000 per year beyond that — will be put toward developing two new practice fields, making upgrades to the football stadium to use for games, game operations and more. Pro-level outfitting will be provided by Adidas and the team will also provide additional game operations support as well as hosting select games at the stadium.

“There’s been a lot of hard work put into this and our goal and my goal as assistant athletic director is to make sure we continue to provide more opportunities for our students,” said Durell Moore, assistant athletic director of Chester Upland Schools. “I wasn’t here the first time around when the Union and the district talked about getting this together and now that I’m here and it’s in place and we had this big announcement it holds everybody accountable.”

Beyond the financial commitment, a major part of building a high school program — building interest and teaching kids the game at a young age — has been happening for many years at the grassroots level. One of the initiatives — the nonprofit Chester Upland Youth Soccer — launched in 2012 and has grown from modest beginnings with 15-20 kids participating to about 450 kids annually.

“The coolest thing for me is when I drive by one of our nine school sites and I see kids playing soccer in recess or playing soccer after school,” said Brendan Grady, executive director of the nonprofit and an assistant coach at Swarthmore. “That lets me know that they game has actually been growing.”

Chester Upland Youth Soccer launched a middle school team two years ago and as those players have moved onto the high school level, the need has grown for a higher level of competition for their players. About 20 players from the program walked into the stadium with Philadelphia Union players in the beginning of Wednesday’s event and had a chance to kick the ball around with them after the ceremony.

“I’m excited because Chester is used to mainly two sports, basketball and football,” said 10th grader Camryn Robinson who was introduced to soccer playing at recess. “Soccer being a new sport to Chester could be a good thing to keep kids off the streets and get their minds on something else that they can do.”