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Gainesville-based Lanier Soccer Assocation added to US Soccer Federation membership
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Local players of the Lanier Soccer Association gather for a drill at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex in Gainesville. - photo by For The Times

One of Georgia’s most accredited soccer entities is now on the national map.

Starting this fall, the Lanier Soccer Association, based in Gainesville, will be an added member of the United States Soccer Federation. This association, based out the of Allen Creek Soccer Complex, went through a four-month application process in order to have its Development Academy recognized before being approved last week by the USSF, according to LSA Director of Coaching Jonathan Cueva.

“The application is a really lengthy, complicated ordeal because it requires a little bit of soccer knowledge as well as a little bit of philosophical background,” Cueva said.

Only a handful of teams across the country are recognized by the USSF, based on a club’s ability to lead, follow and execute the soccer operation standards of the federation says Cueva. And of the 100-plus soccer clubs in Georgia, there’s now six in the state with USSF status with the addition of the Lanier Soccer Association.

The LSA’s addition to the USSF has Cueva optimistic in the continued growth of the sport in Hall County.

“The world of soccer is a very big deal,” said Cueva, who has been with the LSA off-and-on since 2008 and has held his title since last April.

Cueva should know.

The entirety of his playing career, recreational and professionally, was spent with club LDU (Liga Deportiva Universitaria) Quito in Ecuador until retiring in 2006.

“It is something to make people known in the county that, especially soccer being the most popular sport for youth, the citizens in and around the county have a great opportunity with, let’s say, providing soccer as something they want to do at the highest level.

Cueva said given the competition of neighboring clubs within 30-35 miles of their complex — Revolution Soccer Club in Dacula, The Rapids in Habersham County, The Alliance in Jackson County, United Futbol Academy in Forsyth County, and Atlanta Fire in Gwinnett County — only adds more opportunity for players to have direct access, and be a part of, the United States National soccer team.

Recently, players Brian Duran and Diego Chacon from the LSA were observed and selected to attend the U.S. Soccer Federation Camp, which is a formal tryout for the National team.

With over 1,500 participants every year, the Lanier Soccer Association offers several youth soccer programs that cater to all ages and abilities, from recreational level (ages 4-12) to preparing athletes for the collegiate/professional ranks. Its Development Academy exposes players to competition at the national level, while the “LSA in College” program assists players of the LSA throughout the college recruitment process. In recent years, a select number have received soccer scholarships to various NCAA, NJCAA and NAIA schools.

“The main purpose, the main goal I want to offer the membership, is that no matter the skill level, we have a place for you,” said Cueva of the Lanier Soccer Association. “The soccer scholarships are very popular, so a lot of people try to make a little investment to see if clubs can develop (the players) soccer wise.”

The numbers in terms of participation has increased within the LSA over the last five years. At the recreational level alone, the LSA has drawn 973 participants, a substantial increase from its 500 participants back in 2011. Additionally, the LSA has 374 players in the competitive program, followed by its 22 in their original experimental Development Academy program.

They expect more players at the ages of 13-14 to be a part of the developmental league in the near future.

“That proves that the interest of the sport, the growth of the sport is going in a very quick pace,” added Cueva.

For more information on the Lanier Soccer Association, visit www.lsasharks.com

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