With a history dating back over five decades, San Francisco Glens SC are more than prepared for the challenges of the club’s first Premier Development League season in the tough Southwest Division.
While offering one of the most advanced academy systems in California, the addition of a PDL team atop the club offers a continued development pathway for pre-professional talent. As SF Glens continues to grow and develop, it faces new challenges in the competitive Western Conference, including an all-new San Francisco derby with San Francisco City FC and a youth rivalry carrying into the PDL ranks with the Santa Cruz Breakers. The club isn’t fazed by the difficulty, however, and looks forward to a competitive season with the playoffs as the target goal.
While preparing for the launch of a new era for the club, SF Glens SC President and general manager. Ramon Estevez took time to discuss the history of the club’s history and ambitions in the PDL with USLPDL.com.
PDL: What factors led you to seek PDL membership in 2018?
J. Ramon Estevez: It's no secret locally that the SF Glens are an ambitious club. Given the history of the adult teams, and more recently, the incredible growth of our youth club, this seemed like the logical next step.
While the club was founded back in 1961 by Dr. Michael McFadden, competing for national titles in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the club saw a resurgence at the turn of the decade with the launch of the youth club.
Fast forward to 2017 and our adult teams have returned to competing at the highest levels locally, and our youth club has grown to become the largest in San Francisco - offering micro, rec and comp levels and even earning U.S. Development Academy status.
As you can imagine, it was reasonable to begin considering new challenges. After discussing and reviewing the options available, the PDL became a clear choice for the club.
What ultimately led to our decision to join the PDL was our desire to provide the most comprehensive pathway to professionalism for our players. By joining the PDL, we are now connected through the USL, to the largest network of professional teams and scouting network in the country. One that continues to grow on and off the field by leaps and bounds each year.
We have lofty goals for our club and joining the PDL checked the boxes for our short- and long-term objectives.
PDL: Your youth club, SF Glens Evolution, is a well-developed program. What does the addition of a PDL team mean to the program’s growth?
JRE: While we might expect that the addition of a PDL team may attract additional players to the program, we’re more focused on how the PDL team can impact improvement for youth players in our club and throughout San Francisco and the surrounding areas.
I’m sure our Youth Directors of Coaching, Mike McNeill and Dave Anderson, would echo the sentiment that growth is certainly welcome, but we want to ensure that we’re always improving all aspects of our club. The key potential byproducts of adding a PDL Team - attracting better coaches, better players, and providing the entire community with an opportunity to see high level soccer - are without a doubt of great importance to our club.
I believe the addition of the PDL team also sends a strong signal to the local soccer community about how serious and committed we are to the growth of the sport in our area.
We also hope that our live matches provide inspiration not only to our club’s players, but to all youth players in San Francisco and the surrounding communities. With over 80% of MLS draftees having PDL experience, our matches offer a great opportunity for young players and families to watch a high level of play right in their backyard.
PDL: How was your first experience at the USL Winter Summit?
JRE: Generally speaking, I was pleased with the content and organization of the Summit. While I had actually been at a previous summit, just not in my current capacity, what stood out was how much effort is clearly being put forth by the league to elevate its level of professionalism as well as that of the member clubs. To that end, there was significant discussion regarding the amount of support the league would be providing the clubs and so far I would say that the league has definitely met or exceeded our expectations.
It was also a great opportunity to meet and learn from other club representatives and league executives on a one-on-one basis.
PDL: What are you most looking forward to in your first PDL season?
JRE: On the field, our expectation is to be competitive from the outset. Of course there’s a lot of great competition throughout the league, not to mention in our conference, which features historically good teams like Fresno FC U23 and former PDL Champions Ventura County Fusion. However, knowing that we have the opportunity to compete for a national championship is something that excites and drives everyone associated with the club.
In the stands, aside from obviously wanting to see the community supporting our team, I’m looking forward to seeing how our supporter culture develops. Teams in our division like Fresno and SF City FC have set a high bar on this front and hopefully over time we will see a similar passion in the stands at our games. However, with over 50 years of history in SF and supporter songs of our own going back decades, we’re thankfully not starting from scratch.
I’m also really looking forward to our matchups against Santa Cruz Breakers and SF City. Our matches with the Breakers pits the largest club in Santa Cruz versus the largest club in San Francisco as they, like us, feature an extensive youth club program. I suspect that there will be some friendly, organizational bragging rights on the line for those games.
As for our matches with SF City, how can you not get excited about a true intra-city derby? Our home stadiums are less than five miles apart and there’s already quite a bit of buzz in the local soccer community. You can bet that these games will be fun, yet hotly-contested affairs.
Off the field, as a lifelong member of the local soccer community, I look forward to working hard to get as much of the community behind this team as possible. I’m not naive about the challenges that face us, or any other PDL team for that matter. However, I truly believe that we have a unique opportunity to bring a broad cross-section of the soccer community together to help us move this project on to the next level.
PDL: You join the PDL in the Southwest Division, facing off against teams like FC Golden State Force, Fresno FC U23 and fellow newcomers Santa Cruz Breakers FC. How do you feel about the level of competition you’ll be facing in 2018?
JRE: As I alluded to earlier, there's no question that this is a tough division to compete in. With only two teams out of nine advancing to the playoffs, it will be very challenging to move on. We’ll have to be focused week in and week out to reach out objectives as a club.
To that end though, we’ve been nothing but impressed with our Head Coaching hire Javier Ayala-Hil, and we’re very pleased with the way that the team is taking shape.
PDL: What are some goals you’d like to achieve as a club in 2018?
JRE: I don’t think it’s a big surprise to hear that our goal is to make the playoffs. And while that holds true, our overarching goal from day one with the PDL team has been to create a positive, professional environment and a winning culture.
Given our club’s history, the size of our youth program, and our on-field successes on both the adult and youth sides, we have a strong foundation to build off of to meet our goals.
As a byproduct of our efforts to create this culture and environment, we hope to be a leader in moving players on to the professional ranks. We’ve already discussed internally the importance of providing as many resources as possible to support our players’ goals to play professionally.
Off the field, we’re putting in a lot of time to ensure we connect with the various facets of the adult and youth soccer communities as well as the myriad types of soccer fans that are out there - national teams, domestic and international pro leagues, etc. We hope our efforts translate into fans coming out to enjoy our games and support the local talent and future stars that will be on display.
Our aim is to also leverage all of the above to further grow our established social-good programs such “Glens-4-Good” as well as our youth-focused academic advancement programs.