Initiative includes USL Pro Preseason Residency Program for promising coaches within USL
TAMPA, Fla. – The United Soccer League (USL) today launched its signature Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program: USL Forward. This multi-dimensional, leaguewide initiative prioritizes professional development for technical staff, league and club executives, and local communities with the intention of increasing racial and gender diversity in leadership roles throughout the USL ecosystem.
USL Forward addresses a widely-recognized issue in global professional soccer – the lack of diversity among technical staff and executive positions. To start, USL Forward has created a new Pro Preseason Residency (PPR) Program to provide promising coaches with new, experiential opportunities to pursue their aspirations of coaching at the professional level. USL Forward also creates a platform for the USL and its member clubs to innovate and lead in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion for the betterment of the game and the industry.
“The opportunity the USL Forward Pro residency program provides is a step for coaches, like me a female coach, to invest in our craft as a leader and as a football coach to build ourselves a pathway for pro coaching opportunities in our country and worldwide. Coaching male or female athletes, the pro level must embrace more diversity and inclusion of female coaches in the pro coaching arena. I believe this residency program creates a platform of training and educational investment for us to dive into the business side as well as the on the field training & leadership needed to be successful at the pro level.” – Julie Carlson, Greenville Liberty Technical Director & Head Coach
Over the past eight months, the USL has conducted extensive research and qualitative interviews with stakeholders and subject matter experts, including the United Black Players of the USL, across the American soccer and global sports landscapes to understand the numerous factors that affect BIPOC and women candidates seeking leadership opportunities on the sideline and the front office.
At its launch, USL Forward will focus on coaching development. Kicking off in February, in conjunction with the start of preseason for USL Championship and League One clubs, the USL Pro Preseason Residency (PPR) Program is designed to affect positive change through new professional development opportunities. Additionally, USL Forward will create opportunities for coaching education assistance.
USL Pro Preseason Residency (PPR) Program:
With 2024 serving as its pilot year, the PPR Program is designed to identify high-performing, pro-aspiring BIPOC and women coaches and place them in a professional environment with an established curriculum. The participating coaches will receive immersive experience and real-world training as they work alongside pro-level head coaches and technical staff.
The program has three distinct phases, beginning with the USL Championship and League One preseason, and continuing through the end of the USL pro seasons. Phase One involves experiential professional environment immersion. Phase Two provides touchpoints with mentors at regular intervals during the calendar year. In Phase Three, PPR participant coaches provide feedback on the program and prepare to help mentor a new class of resident coaches for the following year.
Each year, resident coaches will be selected based on several criteria such as, but not limited to, licensed at the USSF-B or UEFA-B level or above, or seeking USSF or UEFA Pro License, demonstrated record of success in player development or coaching at the pre-professional or Academy level within USL, and representing a currently underrepresented group among technical staffs in the USL ecosystem. In this pilot year, the five resident coaches were nominated and selected by USL Sporting and DEI departments in collaboration with participating clubs. Beginning in year two, there will be an open application process for the PPR Program.
Resident coaches may fall into one of three categories: Traveling Resident, Homegrown Resident and Player-to-Coach Resident.
2024 USL Pro Preseason Residency Program resident coaches and their placements:
|Pro Club Placement
|Technical Director & Head Coach, Greenville Liberty (W League)
|Greenville Triumph (L1)
|Director of Girls Academy, Chicago City SC & Head Coach, Chicago City SC (W League)
|Sacramento Republic (CH)
|Head Scout, British Virgin Islands National Team & Technical Director, UNKNWN Athlete Academy
|Richmond Kickers (L1)
|Head Coach, Des Moines Menace (League Two)
|Forward Madison (L1)
|Oakland Roots Midfielder
|Oakland Roots (CH)
|Player to Coach Resident
In collaboration with its partners, the USL will expand the number of coaching education scholarships available to BIPOC and women coaches to obtain advanced coaching licenses that will help them to meet the standards for professional coaching roles. In 2022, the USL, in partnership with KwikGoal and U.S. Soccer, kicked off the KwikGoal Coach Scholarship program which covers full tuition costs for a select number of candidates for the U.S. Soccer coaching course for the “A,” “B,” or “C” licenses. One of the scholarships will be awarded to an active player to assist in their post-playing career transition. Applications for the 2024 scholarships will be open by this summer.
Previous scholarship recipients include:
- 2022: Ryan James (player, Birmingham Legion), David Estrada (New Mexico United), Steph Savino (Morris Elite) and Kristin Eggert (Asheville City)
- 2023: Alexix Souahy (player, Union Omaha), Carmie Landeen (Tampa Bay United), Ria Popovic (Swan City), Jess Clinton Oakland Soul), Sarah Fawcet (Pleasonton Rage)
As announced in December, the USL and the league’s new Official Apparel and Footwear Partner CHARLY USA will allocate a minimum of $15,000 per year towards a scholarship fund for players and coaches across the USL ecosystem and subsidize the cost of obtaining official coaching licenses.
Additional elements to USL Forward will be announced later this year.