© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Bloomington-Normal soccer club teaches love for the game, life lessons

The Inter South Soccer League has started a youth non-competitive league in Bloomington-Normal for children as young as four.
Chris Giermann
The Inter South Soccer League has started a youth non-competitive league in Bloomington-Normal for children as young as 4.

Kids in Bloomington-Normal will get a new opportunity to play one of the nation's fastest-growing sports this fall, when the Inter South Soccer Club begins its inaugural season in August.

The new league is a direct offshoot of a competitive program in the area, the Chicago Inter South Soccer Club, formerly known as Millennium Futbol Club. They’ll utilize the same facilities at SK Nord Fields on the southwest side of Bloomington and have many of the same coaches and staff.

Program director Chris Giermann said unlike the high skill, older competitive league, the Inter South Club is a recreational opportunity for athletes born between 2016 and 2019 to learn the fundamentals of the game.

The league won’t actually have any games, but rather one-hour long practices split in half, with structured training followed by scrimmage games.

“It’s not really about soccer itself, it’s about life lessons. Teamwork and leadership from a personal standpoint,” Giermann said.

Building a love of the game is important, too, said the program's technical director, Luis Cornejo. He attributes his love of soccer to his time playing as a kid and hopes to bring that passion to the recreational level.

“We’ve enjoyed it, I hope that my kids will continue this legacy where they can keep coaching and enjoying the game. That’s the most important part of it, being able to hand that legacy down, and they enjoy it," Cornejo said.

Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and that doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. The United States Women's National Team has been consistently dominant on the world stage since the early 1990s and is looking to defend its world champion status for the second consecutive tournament this summer.

The men’s national team, while much less dominant, is entering a “golden generation” after making the round of 16 in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, their first time doing so since 2014.

The Inter South Soccer Club will be the second youth soccer league in the Twin Cities, joining the Prairie Cities Soccer League that has been around for much longer.

“Nationally, soccer is massive, and it’s growing continually and we see that here in the Bloomington-Normal community as well,” Giermann said.

There can be outside factors that contribute to the growth of the sport as well, like parents moving their kids away from sports more commonly associated with serious injuries like football or hockey. Cornejo said he sees that as a coach.

“I think what we want to do truly from the rec side of things is make it enjoyable. It has to be fun, and of course it’s kind of a good life lesson. If you enjoy it and you keep doing it, you’ll get better at it," he said.

For Giermann and Cornejo, Inter South is about getting as many young athletes participating as possible, and removing barriers to the sport is an active goal for the league, said Cornejo.

“Seeing that pay-to-play model and it’s kind of lost sometimes because you’re paying some very expensive fees to play, so we want to make this very equitable, easy on the kids, and easy on the families,” he said.

The current cost to participate in the league is $75 for participating in either the spring or fall league, or $110 to participate in both. The cost covers the sessions and uniforms.

The official start for the league’s inaugural season will be in August, and there will be a free trial practice session at SK Nord Fields on May 2.

Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.