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Open Field’s newest initiative, Future Forward Soccer League, provides teens with enrichment through weekly competition

Photo courtesy Open Field International

Pittsburgh Soccer Now is dedicated to sharing stories, reporting and assisting with the growth of soccer in Western Pennsylvania at all levels — including at the Grassroots level. We are excited to begin our newest initiative, Soccer Now… in the Community, as we work in building partnerships with community-based organizations dedicated to growing the game, while also making a positive impact and difference along the way. We are proud to share our first feature as part of this initiative, as we announce our first Soccer Now Community Partner: Open Field, Inc., as they’re building the Future Forward Soccer League, aimed at providing teens with soccer competition and enrichment activities.  We look forward to sharing more on the Future Forward Soccer League over the course of the next couple of months as part of this partnership to spotlight a soccer program that is making a difference, and the young people who have a chance to enjoy the ‘Beautiful Game’.     

For numerous generations now, the development of youth soccer programs in the Greater Pittsburgh area has followed fairly traditional models, similar to what’s seen throughout the United States, with a regional governing body established under the umbrella of United States Soccer Federation.

In our region, that organization is PA West Soccer Association, which provides oversight of recreational organizations providing recreational leagues, with travel and community-based teams.

More than ever, there also seems to be an abundance of options for young soccer players in our area to find pathways to play soccer at the highest level possible, with some long-established and upstart clubs who exist in the competitive arena of ‘pay-to-play’ club soccer organizations, which boast the best and brightest — and most educated and highly certified — coaches, facilities and competitive playing opportunities.  The Riverhounds Development Academy, Beadling Soccer Club, Steel City Football Club are among the most prominent clubs in our region who provide these opportunities.

Still, there are many kids who fall through the cracks.

One organization that is dedicated to reaching young people through soccer in our communities is Open Field.

Led by CEO, Justin Forzano, Open Field has been making its mark in the Pittsburgh region for over a decade now.  Open Field was founded by Forzano, and Cameroonian, Peter Ngwane. The two met in 2006 during Forzano’s first trip to Cameroon, Africa as an engineering student working on rural development projects.

From Cameroon to Pittsburgh, Open Field uses soccer for ‘something more’

Forzano was so inspired to want to use soccer as a way of making a difference, he created Open Field, as a non-profit organization to connect with programs to benefit communities in Cameroon, and eventually those in select neighborhoods in the City of Pittsburgh.

Along the way, in Pittsburgh, Forzano, with staff, volunteers and board members who have joined on to support Open Field has brought youth soccer and enrichment programs to kids in various communities in and around the City of Pittsburgh and have since expanded into a College-based program through a partnership with Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC).

Now, Forzano is excited about his newest initiative for teenagers in the Pittsburgh region: Future Forward Soccer League.

“The goal for Future Forward is to promote post-secondary education success through the world’s most popular sport: soccer. The Future Forward Soccer League combines soccer games with enrichment workshops to support student athletes on their path to success.

Building this league comes from Forzano’s network through the programs that he’s already established, bringing Open Field programming which has created a safe space for youth to play and learn, with an educational topic connected to every practice and game. Youth participants take on leadership roles as coaches, referees, and methods to their peers.  Established programs include Youth Program, Girls Program and College Program (which was featured in PSN in 2022)

“Youth emerge from our programs with new skills to succeed in school and in the workforce,” Forzano states.

Building this program requires a lot of time and effort to bring kids together who have challenges in even getting to games.  Because of this, Forzano and Open Field staff along with various community partners have devised an intricate transportation schedule for each Saturday that the program will take place, with shuttles picking up participants at various locations in and around the City of Pittsburgh.

The program will feature games in 7v7 format at Dunbar Park on the West End every Saturday through the Spring and early Summer, are expected to begin this coming week (Saturday, May 4!) for the boys, and the girls competition will likely start the following week on May 11. In addition, one of the girls teams is running the 5k during the Marathon weekend.

The program has already begun with pick-up games and training sessions for the participants who’ve been able to make it.

“This past weekend, the number of participants increased to 59!” Forzano boasted.

“And that doesn’t include one of the boys teams, about 12 youth, who were on a field trip yesterday. Looks like the league went from about 47 in Week 1 to 72 in Week 2. Excited to see what the next week or 2 looks like!”

Open Field is seeking volunteers to join the program.  Volunteers can assist by being a coach mentor and implement soccer and life skills programming for immigrant and refugee youth across the City of Pittsburgh. To become a volunteer, interested candidates can fill out this online form.  Volunteer application will be accepted from those ages 18+. If under the age of 18, Forazano has asked that interested candidates email who are curious about how to get involved.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Glory on the Grass

PSN’s Featured Community Partner: Open Field International

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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