i thought yesterday's Illinois Youth Soccer Expo was a huge success for Chicago WPS. In what was essentially a public debut to our largest audience, Chicago WPS presented a professional and welcoming front to thousands of Illinois youth soccer players, coaches, referees, administrators and vendors. The booth, Town Hall meeting, youth soccer clinic and player autograph signing all were well received and served as impressive platforms to tell the youth soccer community about the new professional women's League and Chicago's newest pro team.
In addition to Chicago GM Marcia McDermott, who put her heart and soul into getting ready for this event, many other people and groups were responsible for the success and must be thanked. Our appreciation starts with Illinois Youth Soccer’s leadership, Gus and Mary Jane Bender, Chris Jarmozy and Ian Mulliner, in particular were not only receptive to our presence at the event, but were proactive in finding ways for us to get our message out. The event, as usual, was professionally run and served all its constituencies well. It was great to see representatives from the local soccer world including the Fire's Donald Ortale, Mark Washo, Ryan Robins and Pat McNamara, IYSA's Salvador Arroyo and Tom Landi, IWSL's Flo and Charlie Dyson, ISSA's Judith McLean and Branko Ilic, Score's Mark Botterill and Don Robertson, Rory Dames from the Eclipse SC, John Moynihan from Keeper Goals, Alfonso Mitchell and Steve Scherrer who are each promoting summer soccer tournament, Chicago Soccer's Edgar Alvarez and Imre Hidvegi, Chicago Indoor Sports Centers Mike Widdell and Brian Goodman, Gaels Coach John Nikchevich, Jim Paglia, Debbie Pacchioni, Laslo Keresi and Hossein Kendy among others.
FC Indiana and the Chicago Gaels provided players for the Town Hall meeting and to staff the booth. Players included FC Indiana’s Kristin Luckenbill and Julieanne Sitch and the Gaels’ Jen Buczkowski, Kelly Sitkowski, Erin Walter and Kristin Eggert. The autograph line for National Soccer Hall of Famer Julie Foudy wrapped around the convention floor and Julie took the time to please every adoring fan. Moderated by USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, theTown Hall was a real hit. The panelists, Foudy, Luckenbill, Buczkowski, McDermott and me, all provided insight into the start up of the new team and League, interesting comparisons and contrasts between the WUSA and WPS and answered many questions that were on the minds of the 100+ people who filled the room and spilled out onto the Schaumburg Sports Center lobby. The hour long session featured lively dialogue with information, opinion and questions and answers from the moderator, panelists and audience. The Town Hall was video taped and we hope to have it posted at www.chicagoprowomenssoccer.com in the near future.
University of Illinois Women’s Head Coach Janet Rayfield donned a WPS t-shirt and presented a fast-moving and educational training session on behalf of Chicago WPS. The clinic included a couple dozen girls from Illinois Youth Soccer’s Olympic Development Program.
The Chicago WPS booth was buzzing with people interested in finding information on Chicago’s new professional women’s team and League. The Name the Team Sweepstakes was very popular and hundreds of attendees signed up for the team’s email newsletter.
I am extremely grateful for all the wonderful assistance we had all day. The Chicago WPS booth was staffed and assisted ably by the players mentioned above along with Chicago WPS’ Alyse LaHue and Katie Stapely, volunteers Lisa Buczkowski, Rob Lepley, Carrie Sear, Tom Stutesman and University of Illinois players Ella Masar and Kara Gostisha. Chicago investors Jim and Kathi Willett and Jack Cummins were also invaluable in their assistance and support at the Expo.
The tremendous support and reception we received at the IYS Expo is extremely encouraging as we move the process along to give Chicago a champion caliber professional women’s soccer team.