High school soccer in Chester returns after 30 years

Members of the Philadelphia Union stand behind members of the new Chester High School soccer team that will start playing this fall. The major league soccer team announced Wednesday that they will support a high school soccer program for the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

Members of the Philadelphia Union stand behind members of the new Chester High School soccer team that will start playing this fall. The major league soccer team announced Wednesday that they will support a high school soccer program for the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

It has been 30 years since the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County had a high school soccer team.  Come this fall, players will return to the field.

The Philadelphia Union, the team’s nonprofit foundation, and Chester-based Power Home Remodeling announced Wednesday that they will fully fund a junior varsity and varsity soccer program for both boys and girls.

The announcement was made at Talen Energy Stadium, the home of Philadelphia’s MLS team.  It will also host some high school games once the new program begins.

Students representing the school district during the announcement received a taste of what game day is like for the pros. Sporting their new uniforms, they entered the stadium through the same tunnel Union players do.  Smoke colored orange — one of Chester High School’s colors — ushered them in.

Work to restart the program began a couple of years ago after Tim McDermott, the Union’s chief business officer, saw a familiar name quoted in a newspaper article.

“I read his name, and I said, `Goodness; there can only be one Dr. Juan Baughn,’ ” he said.

Now superintendent of the Chester-Upland School District, Baughn was the principal when McDermott was a student at North Penn High School.  

Baughn said he insisted that the new soccer program also have an academic component. He cited an initiative that began with the football and basketball teams in which players learn about coding.

“At the end of the day, what we want for our students is to also be academic as well as be athletes,” he said.

The program will be provided with equipment, coaching, new practice and playing fields, transportation, and other support for 200 children.

Union head coach Jim Curtin said he was excited to have a local group of young athletes that will have a professional environment. He hopes it won’t be long before the first Chester-born player wears a Union uniform.

“We want to be a club that is known now for playing young homegrown players,” Curtin said.  “I think that we’ve shown now with our great young talent that we will put young players from this area on the field.”

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