Atlético Santa Rosa / MLS Next
by Daniel MoralesText Here
Since their inception in 2003, staff at Atletico Santa Rosa have always devoted themselves to provide opportunities for all their team members that go beyond a soccer field. A major part of the organization’s identity is commitment to success in academics which directly opens a pathway for players to continue their athletic careers in college. Today the Sonoma County based club humbly showcases over 30 notable alumni who have represented prestigious universities as student athletes and even some moving on to play professionally. That number and the resources available are likely to double as a result of their Major League Soccer NEXT participation which began in 2021.
So you may be asking yourself, what is MLS NEXT and how does it differentiate from regular club soccer? In short, it’s youth soccer reimagined with strong ties to the professional league known globally as MLS. As stated in mlssoccer.com, “MLS NEXT provides the best player development experience in North America. Founded on a collaborative approach to governance and a commitment to innovation, MLS NEXT players have access to the highest levels of competition and to training to prepare them for their futures, both in soccer and in life.”
This instantly opens the door for Atletico Santa Rosa players to participate against club’s such as San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy and Portland Timbers amongst many others throughout the nation. According to the league’s website, current membership includes 133 clubs, 590 teams, 11,000+ players across the U.S. and Canada and features over 90% of the current youth national team player pools.
“It means a lot for Atletico Santa Rosa to be part of MLS Next. It allows our players to compete against top talent and make advances in their development. Every week is a new test that makes our players give it their all, the difficulty requires us to improve. Ultimately all these factors benefit their growth.” Mentioned Jorge “El Tote” Castañeda, current Technical Director and former professional soccer player in clubs such as Atlas, Cruz Azul and Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer.
Although Atletico isn’t affiliated to any professional team, they’re able to participate in such competition thanks to their successful level of play throughout the years and community sponsor support. Currently they field four different teams in the competition (U13, U14, U16 and U19) under the direction of a full staff of 25 qualified coaches. They also count with the leadership and expertise of administrators, club directors and the presence of Athletic Rehab Clinic trainers to watch over the health of the players.
“The MLS Next staff flew out to California to meet the club at the place we call “The Farm.” Where most of our younger academy kids practice. We had to follow a process along with an application, meetings, and presentations.” Stated club president Adolfo Mendoza on the process to enter the league.
Off the field Atletico also meet all the requirements needed in order to become a member. Similar to the clubs identity, MLS NEXT counts with 6 key features for success; Commitment to Player Development, Competition, Environment, Proper Coaching, Individual Growth and Player Identification & Recruitment. All of those aspects along with making the sport accessible to all are essentials president Adolfo Mendoza noted down when he first planned on starting the organization. Mendoza now gets to witness his sides participate at the highest level possible in youth american soccer.
“Our short term goals are to provide the best practice and playing atmosphere for our local kids and other players wanting to join out of the area as well. As always our ambitious long term goal is to get as many players into college and the pros. Maybe even an expansion in the future.” mentioned Mendoza.
Atletico Santa Rosa has set the standard for a successful youth soccer organization in the Northbay. Their vision to make soccer accessible for everyone along with providing opportunities for one to grow as an individual are implementations that require a lot of commitment and passion. MLS NEXT is the latest step taken in order to continue achieving such a mission. The dedication to each player in all facets including technical, tactical, physical, mental and academic makes them a champion and surely a united competitor no matter who they are up against. The future and pathway to the next level is here, at Atletico Santa Rosa.