With the heightened interest in soccer as the FIFA World Cup took center stage in South Africa, area soccer clubs are thriving.
"Our kids were so excited about the World Cup," said Mike Couch, executive director of the Lake Norman Soccer Club. "There's an awareness of soccer that typically hasn't been there in the past."
Couch said more than 65,000 players were involved with the N.C. Youth Soccer Association (NCYSA) last year.
Thomas Finlay, executive director of the North Meck Soccer Club, isn't surprised with the interest in the sport because of the rich soccer environment in North Carolina.
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Finlay hopes the World Cup soccer hype isn't short lived.
"Hopefully it's just not this summer and it continues with college season and the MLS," said Finlay.
Regardless, area clubs have a lot to offer to soccer players.
Lake Norman Soccer Club
The Mooresville-based club offers soccer training opportunities for area youth.
Lake Norman Soccer Club focuses on Challenge (ages 8-15) and Classic (11-18) soccer, travel teams that compete within the NCYSA.
"They travel and also play a league here with the Charlotte Area Youth Soccer League," said Couch.
But the year-round club also offers camps, Micro Soccer for ages 3 to 8 and indoor soccer for 4-year-olds to adults. It will soon begin offering recreational soccer for ages 4-18.
Couch said the goal is to build skills, on and off the field.
"We focus on developing their self-esteem and character in a competitive soccer environment," he said.
The club is composed of more than 300 players, who play in 24 teams. Couch said most players are from the Mooresville area, but a large number of Mecklenburg - and even Cabarrus, Rowan and Catawba County kids - travel to play for the club.
The Lake Norman Soccer Club, which has been around for more than 30 years, began as the Iredell County Rowdies. In the 1980s, the club incorporated as the Iredell County Regional Soccer Association. In 2003, the organization took its current name.
The club offers teams across Mooresville. Club practices and games are held at Mooresville Intermediate School, Mooresville High and the Statesville Park and Soccer Complex - depending on the geographical makeup of the team.
Couch is excited about the opening of the soccer complex at Mazeppa Road Park in Mooresville, which is expected to be completed next year.
"It's great for Iredell County soccer to have this new six-field complex," he said, adding that the two artificial turf fields and the grass fields will all have lights.
North Meck Soccer Club
The North Meck Soccer Club got its start in 1987 with 50 kids and five fathers who volunteered to coach. Today, the club has more than 2,700 members.
"It's really blossomed," said Finlay. "It's now a full-service club for 4-year-olds all the way up to 18."
The club, which Finlay said aims to provide members the best possible soccer environment, offers both recreational and competitive teams in fields across Huntersville, Davidson and Cornelius.
The team also holds the precious designation of a U.S. Soccer Academy program. The club is one of four clubs in the state and 77 in the nation awarded the distinction.
In addition to travel teams, the club offers recreational leagues from age 4 and up - including high-school students. Its adult recreational league has 500 members.
This past spring, the club started a recreational program on the west side of Lake Norman after beginning a partnership with the Denver United Methodist Church.
North Meck Soccer Club also offers soccer to mentally and physically challenged children.
"We have a program for everybody to play soccer," said Finlay. "The only program we don't have is a professional team, and we're not doing that."
Finlay, who was an All-ACC player at Wake Forest and played professionally, said the club has had success with competitive teams. He said nearly 75 percent of players in its top competitive program have gone to college on soccer scholarships.
"But not making it to college doesn't mean it's a failure - they're still learning team work, responsibility, balancing time between school and athletics, so there are a lot of benefits from being part of a team."