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New youth soccer league fills a need for Lancaster kids

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Michele Roberts
For The Lancaster News
University of South Carolina Lancaster soccer coach Martin Cantu saw a combination of things in Lancaster that prompted him to create Carolina United Soccer Academy, a soccer league designed to include kids from all walks of life in the community.
“I noticed that kids don’t have much to do here, but we have a lot of kids who are athletes,” he said. “I used to coach for some big soccer clubs in Charlotte, and not only did I want to bring what I learned to Lancaster, I have always had a desire to give back to the community. When I realized that a good way to give these kids something to do and get them off the streets was to start a league here in town, I got to work on it right away.”
More than 40 children have expressed an interest in the soccer league and Cantu said the teams have already started playing, with practices held every week at Barr Street Middle School on Meeting Street on a field donated by Hope on the Hill. Cantu has taken much of the financial burden for the team on himself, paying for most of the expenditures out of his own pocket and asking for the bare minimum from his players to cover the costs of uniforms, realizing that some of them may come from homes where extra money for costs such as this may not be available.
“I do what I can to help everybody,” he said. “But the budget is definitely tight, and there are things we need. For example, we could use some more nets because sometimes the balls wind up going across the street. I don’t let small things like that stop us, but I would really like to see the city get involved because this is something that is not just beneficial for these kids, but for the city as a whole.”
Cantu said Lancaster has a lot of potential, given its central location between the larger cities of Charlotte and Columbia and that if the city would create some nice soccer facilities, there is a great potential for an increase in revenue.
“If we had some nice facilities, I would love to see other teams come for tournaments,” he said. “Generally, it costs about $450 for a team to participate in a tournament and the average tournament brings in about 200 teams to the area where it’s being held. If we think about how the restaurants and hotels in the area could benefit, that could be a huge source of revenue for the city.”
Cantu is hoping to generate interest in the program and that hopefully some things to make those facilities possible might be donated from residents or businesses in the area.
“We need some lights on the field, especially now that the days are getting shorter,” he said. “Our practice sessions are getting shorter and shorter during the weekdays. And I know that there would be more kids who would want to come and play if we were better equipped. Right now I have kids coming from Chester, Lewisville, Richburg, and up to 45 minutes away because they really have an interest in this and a desire to play and I really want to accommodate them as much as possible.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Oct. 17 at Barr Street Middle School to officially get the league started.
“This is something I really enjoy doing,” Cantu said. “I have a passion for it and I really want to see this work. I want to do whatever I can to help these kids and help the community as a whole.”
For more information about the Carolina United soccer league, contact Cantu at (832) 656-0529.

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