It’s (almost) game time! In just a few months, Brooklyn’s parks and soccer fields will be buzzing with young players as the spring and summer youth soccer seasons begin. For some, the teams are mostly for fun — a place to unwind and make some friends. But two leagues in particular have slightly loftier goals.
Park Slope United and Brooklyn United Academy are two of the largest soccer clubs in Brooklyn — premier leagues with about 1,400 and 3,000 players, respectively. They provide boys and girls ages 7-18 opportunities to master the sport, become young athletes, and position themselves for college recruitment. Some of the teams training there have been playing for over 10 years.
“The quality level of the game in Brooklyn makes me very happy,” said Eduardo Perez, BUA’s director of methodology and coaching. “The team of coaches and I, we see the kids improve every day and we start with them at a very young age, so it is going to be amazing to see them play in a couple of years from now.”
Perez started his career as a second-division player in teams around the world including Cataluña’s club, Lleida, in Spain. Later he became an analyst and technical assistant for teams in the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia. He trained Cyprus’s Champions league team the APOEL Football Club and the Girona FC club in Spain. In Qatar, he helped train former professional player Xavi Hernandez, who is widely considered one of the greatest midfielders of all time and is now the manager of La Liga club Barcelona.
Perez arrived in Brooklyn in 2021, where he now trains a boys’ team that has been playing since 2011.
“Our method is to make children understand the game and have clarity on why we do each exercise,” said Perez. “Our philosophy is clear, we want players to have fun and the most fun they have is when they have the ball. So from the beginning, we try to let them spend the maximum amount of time with the ball by trying position games and control exercises through opponents’ defensive lines.”
The clubs have made their name at a nation level. BUA’s BG2009 National, team of 9-year-old-girls, were crowned champions at the SUNY Rockland Community College tournament earlier this month. The girls went undefeated, scoring 24 goals and conceding only two.
Their victory mirrored the recent successes of the U.S. Women’s National Team, easily defeating New Zealand in a pair of games this week.
“We are seeing here how and why women’s soccer from the U.S. is an example for the rest of the world,” said Perez. “And now, just like we saw in the last world cup, the national men’s soccer team has come a long way and will very likely continue to improve.”
From Qatar to Spain to the UAE, Perez has seen it all — and while training local kiddos in Brooklyn might not be quite as exciting as coaching a national team, it’s just as satisfying for the coach.
“Training professionals is much more based on short-term results, but with kids, it is much more about a long term process that is very gratifying because it moves really fast as they quickly absorb it all,” said Perez.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy’s spring youth soccer league registration opened on Wednesday, January 25th for Conservancy members (family-level or above), and Wednesday, February 1 for the general public. Conservancy spring adult soccer league registration also opens on Wednesday, February 1 to all.