OCEAN CITY, N.J. - The Ocean City Nor’easters announced last week a collaboration with youth clubs South Jersey Elite Barons FC (SJEB FC) and New Jersey Surf. The partnership between the Nor’easters, SJEB FC and New Jersey Surf will have the shared goal of providing an enhanced pathway to the pro level and serve as the foundation for additional youth clubs to partner with the Nor’easters organization in the future.
SJEB FC and NJ Surf field boys teams from the U-8 through the U-18 levels. Through a partnership with the Nor’easters, players from both youth clubs will have the opportunity to advance to the U-19, U-23, USL League Two reserves and the USL League Two first team within the Ocean City Nor’easters organization. The collaboration will provide a proven pathway for South Jersey youth to develop as they strive to reach the professional ranks. The goal of helping players take their game to the next level will be shared by all three clubs as they continue to operate as separate entities.
“The historic relationship between our USL franchise and SJEB FC goes back to 1997,” said John Thompson, Technical Director of the Ocean City Nor’easters and SJEB FC. “Thirty plus local players have turned pro after playing for SJEB FC and the Ocean City franchise from 1998 to 2012. In recent years, that pipeline of local talent has dried up, however I am confident that the pathway we are creating from SJEB FC and NJ Surf all the way up to our U-23’s, reserves and USL League Two first team will unearth South Jersey players who will become future professionals."
"The New Jersey Surf is excited to build upon our existing relationship with the Nor'easters,” said Neil Holloway, Director of New Jersey Surf and Vice President of Soccer Operations for the Nor’easters. “Our NJ Surf South Shore region has community ties with the Nor’easters through the recreation and camp programs, so we are excited to be able to take the next step with them. This can only be a positive for South Jersey soccer players."
The formation of a USL youth network of local affiliates in the South Jersey region will serve as the foundation of the Nor’easters’ player development pathway and in turn help build momentum to Ocean City’s entry into the USL Academy.
“We certainly have a history and tradition of success at the USL League Two level, but we want to take that same savvy and place those resources in our future USL Academy offering,” said Tim Oswald, Sporting Director for the Ocean City Nor’easters. “Success isn’t completely tied into just winning, it’s development as well. We have had 26 MLS draft picks play for the club in the past and over 90 have signed pro contracts. We have always embraced the #Path2Pro model, but that was with our first team exclusively. These partnerships will allow us to reinvest in grassroot programs and those specific age groups in the USL Academy structure.”
In addition to providing more opportunity to players at the academy age level, the new partnership will also benefit New Jersey youth as they gain first-hand experience with the Nor’easters’ League Two team. The Nor’easters will also be offering all youth players from SJEB FC and New Jersey Surf free season passes to all 2021 home games at “The Beach House”, which will allow youth players to see the rigors of pre-professional play out on the pitch.
"When I joined the club originally the conversation quickly moved towards how can we help build a structure underneath the USL League Two team that could help the development of players within the area for hopefully years to come,” said Alan McCann, Head Coach of the Nor’easters League Two team. “Providing the full pathway is a big step towards that, we're extremely excited to begin working with players to guide them through that pathway. It is a similar approach to how we have guided our USL League Two players into the professional ranks, so we believe we can now delve deeper into the developmental structure through providing youth more opportunities in the grassroots pathway."
“We want young aspiring players in the South Jersey market to truly feel playing for the Ocean City Nor’easters USL League Two team is realistic as they advance in age up our development pyramid,” said Oswald. “By collaborating with these local clubs daily, sharing resources regularly and having our players entrenched in some of these youth clubs in the summer, those aspiring youth players get a sense of what being a Nor’easter is all about at a very young age. We want these players developing relationships with our staff and players and when they come down to the beach to see us play in training or matches, they will feel the goal of playing at that level is attainable while getting to know future pros.”
The partnership will include the addition of Nor’easter ID camps, player combines and tryouts for U-19 to U-23 aged players. The three clubs will also access and utilize the facilities within their network such as the Tuckahoe Turf Farm, Rowan University, Total Turf Experience and the Nor’easters’ home at Carey Stadium (“The Beach House”) to benefit the programs, events and teams.
“I think the Nor’Easters footprint and branded history has always been there, but it’s that strong foundation that’s desirable,” said Oswald. “It’s not a pathway that’s just being developed from scratch, it’s a pathway that is firmly established within the soccer culture of the local area. As more clubs find value in what we are doing and accomplishing both on and off the field, it becomes a situation of inclusion where more players, families and clubs want to be involved. This is something we would welcome and embrace with a direct connection to our first team and the resources that we have.”