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Iowa Rush Soccer Club - South

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Jun, 2021

Rush’s Global Expansion


While Rush Soccer holds the distinction of being the largest youth soccer club in the U.S., there is still more room to grow—and Tiago Calvano is making sure that growth takes on a global perspective, too.


“We want to create more pathways for our kids,” said Calvano, Rush’s Director of International Affairs. “The Rush families will get the benefit. And Rush also wants to give opportunities to players from overseas.”


Rush has aggressively added clubs in Europe and South America recently, notably the Spanish Pro Football Academy based in Valencia. And it’s that burgeoning network that has Rush positioned to offer more opportunities for youth players both domestically and abroad.


For U.S.-based players, more connections in Europe and South America result in more chances to train with foreign clubs and learn from different coaches, creating more well-rounded players. And the places to play abroad include programs located in a variety of countries.


“We have a team in Canada that is playing at the same level as the USL is here, which is a semi-pro league,” Calvano said. “So, that’s another pathway for our kids. … They can choose to go to Canada or Spain or Greece. … Rush is everywhere.”


Rush recently added a club in Bolivia that has a men’s pro team and women’s pro team, the latter of which is on track to move up to the highest division next season. There are also opportunities with lower-tier German professional clubs on both the men’s and women’s side, among other European club connections.


But the door swings both ways as Rush has also welcomed foreign players to join U.S. club teams.


“During the pandemic, we had some kids from our club in Paraguay come to the U.S.,” Calvano said. “They have a pathway to come to the U.S., where they can study and go to college while playing soccer. It’s a win-win for everyone.”


And while Calvano is focused on creating more opportunities as Rush’s network broadens, it’s more than just about how many players are in the program. 


“We don't want to grow only in numbers, but we want to grow in quality of play,” Calvano said. “So quantity with the quality for us is very important. And we are going in the right direction. We cannot be focused on being everywhere, but now we are really focused on what we do have and making sure that all our partners are happy with what we’re providing. And from there, we will grow together.”


Rush also pushed into Africa and has clubs in 18 different countries, some of which have been helped by the club’s REACH program that provides uniforms and equipment from U.S. clubs.


“We just came back from a great trip in Senegal, Gambia, and Ghana,” Calvano said. “We helped a lot of kids over there. We brought them the Rush Capelli uniforms.  And it was a great experience to see the smiles on those kids faces. It's priceless. It's, that's a very special unique program that Rush provides that’s so rich.”


As Rush expands globally, the ultimate mission, however, remains the same.


“We want to give players and coaches opportunities to become better players, coaches, and people. We want to be the most comprehensive soccer experience on planet earth.” Calvano said.


Spanish Pro Football partnership with Rush creates unique opportunities

In a country that’s crazy about soccer, it’s not easy for a youth club to carve out a unique niche, but that’s exactly what Rubén Estellés Camacho has done.

And Rush Soccer has struck up a partnership with Camacho’s Spanish Pro Football club that will likely draw significant interest from players seeking to improve their game and train with some of Spain’s most fabled clubs.

“Our main objective is the same as when we started this club,” Camacho said. “We want to give players the opportunity to further develop their football skills.”

At SPF’s headquarters in Valencia and all around Spain, the concept was somewhat of a novel one considering that most players’ path is decided by age 16 with clubs scooping up the elite players with pro contracts. However, Camacho saw an opportunity for slow developers or late bloomers to find new life with continued training.


Five years ago, he started with just three players and an idea for how to extend players’ soccer careers by keeping alive their chances of getting on with a pro club. That idea blossomed into a relationship with more than a hundred pro clubs across Spain and Europe.

In the mornings, players do their academic work as well as train with SPF staff. Then in the afternoon, many players will have another training session with other Spanish soccer clubs. And the approach seems to be working with great success.

“We have players ages 12 to 23 here at the academy,” Camacho said. “And we have a lot of success stories. Of course our main objective for the players is that they play professionally in Spain, but it is really really difficult because the level here is really high. But if they can’t make it here, we want them to play professionally when they return to their countries. And this is going very well with around 70 to 80 percent of the players playing professionally when they go back to their country after one or two years with us.”

MLS fans may be aware of one such success story in D.J. Taylor, a defender for Minnesota United. Taylor trained with SPF to improve his skills before returning to play in the USL and parlaying that into a spot on Minnesota’s roster.

The partnership with Rush has also allowed local SPF players the opportunity to play in the U.S. and pursue college scholarships here.

Aside from the long-term residency program, there are shorter options as well. This summer, Camacho will welcome two girls from the Colorado Rush program to his program, where they will train for a couple of months before returning home.

“The players that come here get to experience what it’s like to play in Spain,” Camacho said. “There’s a team experience that’s unique that really makes them feel like they’re part of something.”

The Rush-SPF partnership stands out as a unique one that the Rush family on both sides of the Atlantic are sure to benefit from.