PORTLAND – Cameron Omsburg spent the summer of 2010 commuting between his home in Belgrade and Portland, training and playing semi-pro soccer with the MPS Portland Phoenix. The miles, he rationalized, were worth it. He got a chance to train and compete at a high level of soccer to prepare himself for his sophomore year with his team at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

This summer, Omsberg shortened the commute. He and Matt Weaver, a Lehigh teammate, now live a stone’s throw from Deering High School, where the Phoenix will train and play the bulk of their home games this summer — and both have more time and energy to invest in their summer pursuit.

“There’s a mix of good international players, a mix of good American players,” said Omsberg, a 2009 Messalonskee graduate. “It’s a very high level. What I felt last year is that I went to college much more adapted to the speed of the game, ready to play and playing here this summer is the best way to get you ready for the college season.”

The Phoenix are the highest level of competitive soccer offered by Maine Premier Soccer.

Since 2009, the club has grown to include youth programs, premier teams, clinics, and summer day and residential camps — a community outreach of sorts.

“We have a good youth system and a lot of players are getting involved in that,” Omsberg said.

“The youth players are coming to games and maybe, one day, they’ll play for this team. You can see it’s helping Maine soccer grow, from the youth all the way to the high school level.”

The Phoenix open their second season at 6 tonight against the New Hampshire Phantoms at Deering High School’s Memorial Field.

The Phoenix play in the Premier Development League. Established in 1989, the PDL has 64 teams in the United States, Canada and Bermuda.

Each team carries a roster of up to 26 players, made up of American and foreign amateur players and professionals who are not signed to a contract when they join a PDL team.

Jason Massie, a midfielder from England, returned to play for a second season with the Phoenix.

“I had such a good time last year, and I just wanted to build on that and see if we could go a step further this season,” said Massie, who returned to Maine on Tuesday and practiced on Wednesday morning at the Portland Sports Complex.

“There’s a good mix here. We’ve got a few returners and we’ve got a lot of good local talent, as well.”

The contingent of Southern Maine players includes Omsberg, goalie Oliver Blum (Greely), forward Trevor Hoxsie (Scarborough) and goalie Matt Williams Portland/Cheverus). Many of them finished their final week of college classes and exams and were expected to arrive in time for tonight’s opener.

“It’s fun to bond with the players,” Massie said. “If you’re playing next to someone, if you enjoy their company and if they want to be a friend, they’re going to go the extra step for you.

“If people see the extra effort you’re putting in for them, that transfers to friendship. The friendship comes through on the field, and each man will run through a brick wall for each other.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]