Many Swansea City fans will be well aware of the work being done by the football club and the Swans Trust Supporters’ Director, to grow the Swansea City brand in the United States and build upon the relationships already established with clubs based in the US.
Next week, two teams from the Wisconsin based North Shore United, an American youth club, touch down in Swansea for a week of training, matches and sightseeing. The visit from the 16th-27th March celebrates the five-year anniversary of a relationship that has helped extend the Swans’ brand in the States and developed stronger players and coaches in the partner club.
Joe Hammes, the Director of Coaching at the Wisconsin based North Shore United, outlines how the partnership with the Swans has developed since 2011 – when the “journey” started.
North Shore United is located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. More than 1,100 players between ages of 4 and 23 are members. Some are simply recreational players, but the club’s best competitive teams play all over the country against the highest level of opponents.
This year, 31 NSU players have earned scholarships and the opportunity to continue their competitive football in a university environment, a high achievement for a club of NSU’s standing.
The partnership began in 2011, through a connection with Brian Katzen and a family in North Shore United. Through that connection, Huw Cooze was introduced to then-NSU President Mark Koenig and NSU Directors Joe Hammes and Sinisa Angelovksi, and there was mutual interest in kicking off a partnership between the clubs. Huw Cooze’s support of the relationship has been immeasurable, and is evident in the growth of the partnership over the five years.
In 2012, NSU sent its Under-14 team to Swansea for a week of training and games. Amid great hospitality and once-in-a-lifetime sightseeing, a highly competitive match between NSU and the Swansea U-14s demonstrated that the American club played a level and style of football worthy of respect.
Reciprocal visits continued, as Swansea coaches conducted summer camps in the USA over the last 4 summers and the NSU club returned to Wales in 2014. That time, NSU brought a girls side along with the boys, and that team was able to have a match against the Welsh South National U14s, a 3-0 win for the home side.
Later that summer, NSU enjoyed a special treat as the Swansea City first team side prepared for the Barclays Premier League season with a U.S. tour that stopped in Milwaukee. Swansea trained for a few days, and played an exhibition with Chivas Guadalajara of Liga MX. NSU families and Swansea fans snapped up more than 1,000 tickets in a matter of hours and met other members of the Stateside Jack Army prior to the match.
While training the club in Milwaukee in preparation for the match, Garry Monk and players including Leon Britton, Angel Rangel and Jay Fulton visited the NSU facility and spoke to youngsters participating in the Swansea summer camp.
In 2015, Swansea City invited NSU’s Luka Prpa for a two-week training stint at the club. Prpa had been a standout on the U14 team that visited Swansea in 2012, and since has worn the USA shirt for national youth sides at U15, U16 and U17. He trained with the Swansea U18s and U16s, and was able to play in a match against the Nottingham Forest U16s.
Swansea City academy coach Roy Thomas has visited North Shore United on numerous occasions to run camps and coaching education clinics for the North Shore United staff, and the guidance has helped set the course for the American club’s curriculum as North Shore United aims to train its youth players in the “Swansea Way”.
It has certainly paid off, as NSU teams won two Wisconsin state championships in 2015, and already have bagged two more in the 2016 cycle, with more competitions to come in the spring. They’re winning other highly competitive tournaments throughout the USA, often while proudly wearing Swansea kits.
Now comes the next visit, where NSU U-13 teams for boys and girls will train in preparation for the spring season about to begin stateside, play matches against Swansea, tour the Swansea facilities and see the Swansea vs Aston Villa Premier League match. It’s a partnership that is thriving, and both sides look forward to many more great years together!”
A warm Welsh welcome awaits the North Shore United party and the Swans Trust would like to encourage fans to come along and support the sides during their week long tour, so be sure to look out for announcements on tour games on the Swans Trust Facebook page and Twitter account.