In the beginning, Florida Premier FC was a small recreational neighborhood club, known as the West Pasco Soccer Association.
That was back in 1979, when the club was relatively unknown.
Since then, it has grown into one of the nation’s most successful youth soccer organizations, giving youths an opportunity to play recreational and competitive soccer — while at the same time giving the athletes an opportunity to develop a work ethic, form relationships and stay fit, according to a recently adopted resolution by the Pasco County Commission.
“Florida Premier FC strives to develop future leaders by teaching kids teamwork, respect, and values in a positive training environment, while developing necessary skills to have a successful future on and off the field,” according to the county board’s resolution, adopted on June 6.
The resolution details many of the soccer organization’s accomplishments.
For instance, “Florida Premier FC has proudly sent over 40 players to play NCAA soccer on athletic scholarships this year and has placed over 400 of their players in college as student athletes,” it says.
The organization also “hosts teams from all over the United States every weekend, invests in the community, and has a positive economic impact on Pasco County,” the resolution notes.
Beyond that, its soccer programs are highly successful.
“The boys and girls programs are ranked No. 1 in the state and Florida Premier FC
currently has seven teams competing for the national title at the highest youth soccer competition,” according to the resolution.
In addition to its tournaments, “Florida Premier FC provides a low-cost recreational soccer program so that all families have the opportunity to involve their children in the sport while also providing over $100,000 in hardship and scholarship money every year to kids in Pasco County,” the resolution says.
Florida Premier FC also hosts a no-cost program for disabled children in Pasco and provides free clinics in the community six times each year. Plus, it works with multiple nonprofit organizations, hosts fundraising events, and gives soccer balls to schools, according to the resolution.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano told his colleagues that his daughter knew she wouldn’t pursue playing Division 1 soccer, but enjoyed competing.
“She made the most of that opportunity,” he said.
“I will say the training, the camaraderie of going into a tournament and winning — the thrill of that is phenomenal,” Mariano said.
“Sports is just a great thing for the families. It’s great for the kids. It keeps them busy. It keeps them out of trouble. It keeps them motivated. It leads to great things to happen,” Mariano added.
The county board chairman was impressed by the number of scholarships associated with Premier Soccer FC.
“That’s phenomenal. I salute all of the work that you do,” Mariano said.
Nathan Bender, director of soccer at Florida Premier, responded to the board’s recognition.
“On behalf of Florida Premier, we want to thank the county commission — Kathryn Starkey, Jack Mariano, Seth Weightman, Ron Oakley and Gary Bradford — for all of you, and what you guys do, to elevate and push Pasco County forward, as the premier county in Florida.”
He thanked the county’s Parks and Recreation department, specifically mentioning Keith Wiley, Brian Taylor and their team.
“Without this team, we literally would not be able to do what we do,” Bender said.
“They provided a world-class facility for our players and families to play on and impacted thousands of kids’ lives.
“We want to thank (County Administrator) Mike Carballa and (Assistant County Administrator) Cathy Pearson for all of the support to the club, and the community.”
He also expressed appreciation for the county’s tourism arm, Florida’s Sports Coast, and Adam Thomas, the county’s director of tourism and Consuelo Sanchez, sports development and tourism manager.
Each weekend, Florida Premier FC brings 80 teams and more than 5,000 people to Pasco County, Bender said.
“On a monthly basis, this brings in an impressive 360 teams and 20,480 people into our county.
“Over the course of a year, which is a 10-month season for us, our contributions are even more impactful, with this year, 3,600 teams coming and 204,800 individuals coming to Pasco to play Florida Premier.
“We’re honored to consistently showcase the potential and the allure of Pasco County to all of those attending.
“We know that none of this impact would be possible without our partnership with Florida Sports Coast and with you,” Bender told the commissioners.
Florida Premier FC has come a long way since its inception at Mitchell Field, as just a small neighborhood club with a few teams, he said.
“We’ve been lucky enough to grow into one of the most successful and largest youth organizations in the entire country, and in the past year, have represented USA on an international stage, as well.
“As a non-for-profit club, as you mentioned, our mission is to serve the community in any way that we can.
“We want to enhance the lives of every member of Pasco County, through the beautiful game of soccer, through community engagement and through helping change young people’s lives, on and off the field.
“Each year, the club has been able to give over $100,000 in scholarships to players and families that are experiencing financial hardships and ensuring these young men and women can pursue their dreams and experience their dreams.
“We’ve been lucky enough to send 40 players this year alone, to play on an academic scholarship and continue their dream of playing collegiate soccer.
“This year we have 150-plus seniors graduating that will go on to attend university and colleges, many are the first person in their family to attend university and college,” Bender said.
Bender said he also appreciates the work that’s done by the Florida Premier FC board of directors to foster the organization’s success.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey noted that years ago, when her daughter wanted to play Division 1 soccer, she was forced elsewhere for training because there weren’t any opportunities in Pasco.
That’s no longer true today.
Published on June 28, 2023.