Two local clubs made it official last week — as Century United and Northern Steel announced the formation of a new entity, Century Steel.
By coming together, the two organizations will afford members from each club and new members an opportunity to develop and perform at elite events.
— Century Soccer (@CenturyV_FC) May 1, 2020
— Century Steel Soccer (@Northern_Steel_) May 1, 2020
To get more information, and learn more about this new entity, I met up with Century United President, Pat Vereb.
Pittsburgh Soccer Now (PSN) – When did Century United and Northern Steel come together to start talking about the partnership for Century Steel?
Pat Vereb (PV) – Century United and Northern Steel have been doing things together for almost ten years now. Century United has been working with Northern Steel with winter programming, traveling to some select events with players from each club. It was a great opportunity to bring the talent of the teams to go to some events over the years, Disney, Tampa, Phoenix and Vegas. So, in those 10 years the two developed chemistry between Century’s staff and Northern Steel staff.
With the down time right now it allowed both club’s directors to sit down and discuss this partnership over the last six to eight weeks. It comes to fruition with having time, like minded directors and philosophies. Both clubs have done a really good job on the field and placing kids in college.
We are stressing this is not a merger or an acquisition as much as it is a partnership. We are able to run Century Gold and Century-Steel independently with the idea that we can bring both of our players together for select events and some future opportunities. We will also be able to continue to do combined training.
Each club participated in each other’s showcase event. I think for the first time in Western Pennsylvania you have two clubs that are really partnering with a common philosophy and idea. When you really look at the coaching staff and the players that we have developed over the years we have an opportunity for something to be really special.
PSN – With some partnerships in the past that came together but never really developed, having a relationship over the last 10 years can that make a difference?
PV – With good ideas and sharing resources, we are connected to some of the top facilities in Western Pennsylvania. All of the coaches in each club are very successful not only in club but in high school. There are a lot of State Championships and WPIAL Championships that with both of our coaching staffs.
There have been a lot of mergers or acquisitions, I think we have really two like minded leadership groups that really wanted the same things and that will always create a great opportunity for us to work side by side and not someone above.
We are not stripping teams down and rebuilding new teams. We are still continuing to do what we were doing, with some opportunities of doing select events and the combined training model is exciting for everyone.
PSN – With younger age groups will the clubs have a dual academy following the same format?
PV – I think the philosophies are the same. I don’t know if there any definitive long-term plan on how the clubs will move players. The idea is for players to have opportunities within the whole Century frame work including our Century East site and Century West site. Century Steel is not really a site, it’s a partnership of Northern Steel and Century working together to build something bigger. I think all of our players within our systems have an opportunity. We are not going to preclude kids from moving from one to another.
PSN – With the partnership and players coming together for select events, do you see this an opportunity for players to move to teams for league events as well?
PV – I think there are some opportunities but there are certain age groups, the past two years each club’s 06’ girls have played in the finals. They are both going to be in the league. There maybe certain age groups that the Century Steel team is playing at a higher level with in a certain league or maybe our Century Gold teams could be higher. I think the idea is to run both programs concurrently. The idea is not to strip everything down to create one team.
There is opportunity within the club to move and help kids get different exposure. It’s a great thing. If we can have a Century team and Century Steel team in every age group competing for the same type of things at the same level, that would be fantastic. That is the model of some other clubs around the country where potentially you could have two Century teams in the final of a state cup or something like that.
PSN – In the beginning, you see it being an opportunity for select and showcase events?
PV – Yes, you would see opportunities in a non-traditional event in the winter or maybe in places where a regular functioning team might not do. We could take groups to Phoenix, Vegas or Tampa. Great opportunities where players might not do within their own club structure. That is the initial phase of the partnership.
PSN – In dealing with the Coronavirus and some clubs maybe struggling to come out of this, how will you handle the challenges clubs are facing?
PV – I think we will see when the soccer community comes out of this. Once we figure out what next year looks like and hopefully all the clubs in this area have similar numbers to where they were in March when this all began. It is hard to say how people are going to view club soccer in August. Hopefully we are up and running. We have to take a very positive outlook in all of this as we continue to plan. Then we will react when necessary if things are still at the same point months from now.
PSN – With USYS Soccer and the National League changing to a conference format with select events. Do you like the old format for the National League or do you like the new format as it is proposed as of now?
PV – The only thing I am sure of is that things will continue to change. Leagues will change and formats will change and things of that nature. The way Century goes about it and looks at it is we want to provide the best possible training and then put the kids in the best possible recruiting environments when they get older. There are a lot of different things that go on in club soccer, there is the development part, there is the competitive part as far trying to be successful with your local league, your regional league or your national league. Then most importantly, especially for the older kids, the college exposure development part. I guess we will see what these changes bring but, in the end, I believe as long as the top clubs are putting their kids in the right places to get seen by the coaches, that’s what the focus should be especially for the elite level player.
I think we have been very successful when you really look at the last three classes of commitments. I think our club is as strong as anybody when you look at the 2018, 2019 and 2020 classes. Those are the type of things we can control.