By Shaun Chornobroff
In April 2007, Rider men’s soccer coach Charlie Inverso found a way to honor his dear friend Glenn “Moose” Myernick.
Myernick, a former United States National Soccer Team player and assistant coach, who demonstrated an exceptional passion for the game of soccer, unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack in October 2006. But, Inverso, along with Mike Van Wagener, who used to run the recreation soccer department in Trenton, started “Mooch Soccer,” an initiative to bring soccer to the underserved youth in the city of Trenton in Myernick’s honor.
Over the past 13 years, Inverso has had success with the program, creating four travel teams at minimal cost in the city of Trenton, sending them to play in a legitimate travel league and to tournaments in the past.
Inverso’s program has helped many young kids get started in the game. The program still only has a single branch in Trenton, but he has a big vision for its expansion.
“I ran it past a couple of people at the national level, a couple of coaches … they really like the idea,” he said. “Because they think it’s also a matter of providing opportunities for Black youth.”
Inverso has spoken with a decent number of coaches and it has made him optimistic about the idea moving forward.
“I’ve talked to 25 [coaches], and about 20 of them have given really positive responses,” Inverso said.
He has reached out to mostly larger colleges, such as the University of Maryland, Princeton University, Pennsylvania State University, Dartmouth College, Rutgers University and Northwestern University. Inverso said he has had Zoom conferences with coaches from Maryland, Penn State and Northwestern about expanding “Mooch Soccer.”
While COVID-19 has shut down the program over the past few months, Inverso acknowledged that it’s giving him the perfect opportunity to expand his initiative.
“When you’re a busy coach, an initiative like this always gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. That’s why this fall is the perfect time to get this started,” Inverso explained. “The fall, right now, this is the first time ever no one’s had a fall season, so it’s the perfect time for coaches to get this started.”
Inverso’s program solves one of the biggest issues plaguing the American youth soccer system today: interest from urban areas. This fault comes as a result of the exorbitant fees that come with playing youth soccer. Between uniform, travel, league and training costs, it’s hard for kids from under-served areas to play the sport.
“Youth soccer is a multi-billion dollar business and unfortunately if you can’t make money somewhere, not many people are interested in creating a soccer program in those areas,” Inverso said.
Inverso’s initiative, however, can reverse that and has proven to get underprivileged youth involved.
“I think it provides the opportunities to do this after they graduate because we have a whole population of kids that get the opportunity to play soccer and that’s the underserved kids, and that doesn’t necessarily mean urban kids, it’s all kids in underserved areas,” he said.
Inverso has helped a number of young players take advantage of this opportunity, sending seven athletes to play college soccer, and with two kids having earned youth national team camp invites. Matthew Olosunde may be the most heralded name to come from the program. Olosunde, who played for English powerhouse Manchester United up until 2019 and has made an appearance for the U.S. National Team, played for a “Mooch Soccer” team for a good portion of his childhood.
Inverso used to have Rider soccer players involved with the program, but this has become more difficult due to circumstances in the past few years. Inverso admitted that, “this generation” of players hasn’t been involved with the program, but that will be changing as soon as possible.
“My ideal situation would be when we are allowed to re-open and start getting the kids to play that we would have the players involved,” Inverso explained. “I think it’s important that some of the players have contact with some of the players in the program to be good mentors and role models.”
Inverso added, “That’s ideally what our vision is at the national level for teams to do this.”
The Rider men’s soccer head coach has been applauded for this effort, even being awarded one of the five inaugural Advocacy Awards of Excellence by the United Soccer Coaches in 2019.
While the recognition is great, Inverso takes pride in the opportunity and potential within the sport for a population that gets misrepresented in the soccer world.
Inverso’s current strategy is expanding the initiative through Division I programs but he hopes it goes further than that and allows coaches to use their influence.
“Maybe in women’s Division I, maybe in Division III, maybe in high school but the time is long overdue,” Inverso said. “I think we as coaches can actually apply something that we’re good at to provide opportunity.”