Local / Youth Soccer

Roxborough United: The little soccer club that could

Photo: Jeffrey Mitchell

Roxborough is an interesting neighborhood, with the yammering on Roxborough Rants, the eyesore of TV/radio antennas, and Andorra, the section that sees itself as more suburb than city.

On the plus side, the neighborhood has Roxborough United Soccer Club (RUSC), a modern day David with its limited resources as it battles against Goliath, the wealthy suburbs.

RUSC is actually a combination of two Roxborough clubs, Houston Soccer Club, which started in 1970, and Roxborough Indians, which started in 1971. They merged in 2016.

“We united the whole neighborhood under one soccer banner, and it just grew by leaps and bounds, and now it’s the biggest it’s ever been in the neighborhood,” says Jeffrey Mitchell, RUSC’s unofficial Hype Man, who was the social media director and a vice president for the Sons of Ben.

RUSC is extremely organized, thanks to Mike Rex, the club’s president. He set up the club as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and chairs RUSC’s monthly meetings at Houston playground. Rex has the talents of a natural born leader: he keeps a meeting moving along so the agenda is adhered to, but he’s also quick to joke so the mood is lighter than a helium convention.

Both Rex and Mitchell are coaches at RUSC. “There are about a dozen coaches right now,” says Mitchell, “and each of us have an assistant coach as well, but we don’t make them go to the meetings. They’re welcome to, but they don’t have to attend. Overall we have about 20 coaches.”

All of the coaches are volunteers, however, they are looking to bring in trainers to develop a “Roxborough philosophy” as Rex puts it.

“We want to work in collaboration with trainers to give Roxborough a style of play,” says Mitchell. “You know what to expect from certain teams around the world, from what they produce. You know, like the Barcelonas of the world, the Pep Guardiolas just have a beautiful style of play. We want to institute a distinct brand of soccer that is specific to Roxborough and hopefully between the coaches and the trainers we’ll be able to forge that.”

To pay for the trainers, RUSC is currently focusing on fundraising. In addition to more merch than you can shake a scarf at, they recently did a Super Bowl Block Pool Fundraiser. And they just signed a one-year deal with Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“We’re starting to partner with them,” says Mitchell. “They’re going to provide us with some equipment and a website to use as a registration portal, and they’re also going to provide us with quarterly coupons, and just trying to help building a relationship where our players can get affordable gear, and where we can help a local business. We want to be symbiotic with all of our sponsors. Where we’re helping them, they’re helping us so people can see the good in the community that’s coming from local businesses.”

RUSC can use all the help it can get. Being on the edge of the city, they’re constantly competing against the well-funded suburban clubs. “We need to stop bleeding older players to the suburbs,” says Rex.

One way to combat this is with registration fees. Where a stereotypical suburban club might charge at least $1,000 to play for one season, RUSC charges $200.

“The $200 covers uniforms (jersey, shorts, socks), league fee to play, ref fees, and insurance that the club pays to protect the players and the club for a variety of liabilities,” says Rex. “The club also includes a $200 credit per team to play in one tournament a year outside of league play.”

Avery Cross of Roxborough United’s U8 team battling for the ball. (Photo by Angel Siorek)

RUSC plays in two leagues, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) and Inter-County.

“We try to start a strong foundation with PPR,” says Mitchell, “so all of our early teams from 8 to 10 or 8 to 11 are in PPR leagues and our older leagues from 11 up are usually in Inter-County. We love playing in PPR because you’ll play West Philly, which has a lot of African immigrants, and you have the Capitolo, which has a lot of Latin America players, and that’s something you don’t get in the suburbs. Eventually we would love it if our kids could stay in PPR and get the quality of soccer up and participation of the older areas.”

Right now RUSC only has fall and indoor winter leagues.

“We’re hoping to find the way to make it a continuous year-round project,” says Mitchell, “but in Roxborough right now 21st Ward is our baseball organization, so in spring usually we lose a lot of kids, but we’re trying to find a way to either keep in an intramural or do trainings in the spring to keep soccer going year-round.”

(RUSC also has intramural and training programs for kids age 3 to 6, called Tots Soccer.)

The teams loses players around high school age, but Rex is fine with that. “Our goal is to make kids good high school players.”

And the club has supporters on the other side of the city.

“We are working to create a strong partnership with Philadelphia Union Youth GM David Pettican,” says Rex, “and some of the ideas we set in motion were centered around a lack of resources the club has and how we are planning on turning an abandoned tennis court into a mini-pitch for Futsal.”

So what’s the end goal for RUSC?

“To be like Parkwood,” says Rex. “They’re the elite. That’s the goal for our club.”

Mitchell agrees. “Torresdale being another one. They have actual buildings that are boys and girls clubs — full athletic centers, just a place where kids can go and hang out all the time. They have big facilities. I think Torresdale and Parkwood have multiple fields at their location, multiple indoor locations to play at, and it’s a year-round operation of soccer and other athletics all the time. There’s a lot of great stuff going on in PPR soccer and we want to put Roxborough in that same group.”

13 Comments

  1. Nice story. Glad to read about a local club.

  2. Where can we get that sweet soccer scarf in the headline photo? I couldn’t find it on the club’s store page

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    Always have had a soft spot in my heart for Roxy… so do not take this advice lightly if you are associated with the soccer club.
    .
    Discover your philosophy of play, David.

    write it down and adhere to it club wide as mandate. Then encourage each coach to elevator speech their very own philosophy of play as it relates to the club philosophy. Start with Horst Wein from 3-7 years of age. LAW.
    .
    …..then—– 3four3 the education of coaches online as mandate… hell they offer it free if you can even possibly imagine that…with an upgrade premium membership potential that is nominal compared to the fleecing of licensing costs by US Soccer.
    .
    then engage in the “methodical, calculated destruction” of the other team also known as ‘Suburban Goliaths’ and ‘bleed them,’ instead.
    .
    …. I wonder, how many RUSC members are reading this advice thinking… Hmm. Have a nice day, Roxy. Welcome.

  4. Thank you John for spotlighting our club and for helping us to make local Philly soccer the best that it can be.

  5. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to write about our club, John. It means so much. I hope every club in Philadelphia gets a chance to sit with you and have their club highlighted. After all, this isn’t only about RUSC. This is about PHILLY SOCCER!

  6. This is one of my favorite things about PSP. Its always more than just the Union! Great read. I’m from South Jersey and played for a few years in my youth. Love hearing how the Clubs are doing! Go Roxy!! Hope all the hard work pays off!!

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