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Merger is big deal for youth soccer

What do you get when you combine three soccer clubs into one? "A huge monster,'' says the new league's coaching director.

By RICK GERSHMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 1, 2001


KEYSTONE -- It could be the youth soccer equivalent of, say, Bank of America, or Blockbuster.

One enormous entity remains where once there were many.

North Tampa's new conglomerate is the Hillsborough County United Soccer Club. And if it is anything, it is big. Big staff, big enrollment, big complex, big plans.

"It's a huge monster," said coaching director Adrian Bush, who has a quarter-century of club soccer experience -- at 29. "It seems like I have a meeting every night. But I'm an on-the-field kind of guy. I can't wait to get on the field and mingle with the kids."

Bush will have a lot of mingling to do -- if his projections are correct. He expects that between recreational and competitive leagues, the club will enroll at least 2,400 players and perhaps as many as 3,000.

His estimate is largely based on the enrollments of the three established clubs that merged to become H.C. United: Carrollwood Soccer Club, Northdale Soccer Club and Greater North Tampa Youth Soccer. The leagues are no more, but their legacies will live on. Bush said the new club will use each originating club's fields.

That H.C. United even believes it will need additional fields is an indication of the league's expansiveness. The club starts out with 9 full-size fields at the new Ed Radice Sports Complex, its 150-acre, $7.6-million home on South Mobley Road in Keystone.

Granted, the club has not yet moved in to its new digs, which will also be the training site for the Tampa Bay Mutiny professional soccer team. The complex's opening has been delayed several months. But Bush said it's ready to go.

That's good, because the club is ready to take the field. An open house at the complex is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tryouts for boys and girls competitive teams begin June 9.

To control this "monster" league, the board of directors decided it needed a sizeable and thoroughly experienced staff. The board feels it has that in Bush and his coaches.

Bush, a Tampa native, certainly comes in with an impressive resume. At the University of Tampa in the early 1990s, he broke the Spartans' career scoring record with 61 goals. He also had 23 assists. Though that record later was broken, Bush remains one of the top 10 scorers in the Sunshine State Conference.

He went on to Gaither High, where he coached the boys soccer team for six seasons, amassing a 117-25-8 record and leading the Cowboys to a 1999 state championship. Bush resigned from the Gaither program to concentrate on H.C. United, but he said he plans to stay involved with the Gaither crew. His successor has not yet been named.

Bush's staff is thick with professional soccer experience, including several Tampa Bay Rowdies veterans.

"We had a coaches' meeting the other day," he said, "and I looked around and thought we probably have 1,000 years of coaching experience, all put together.... I'm very lucky that we were able to get the people that we got. You couldn't find a better group of guys and women who are top players and coaches."

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