WESTBROOK–John Morgan, co-founder and chairman of the Rosevelt Soccer Club, traveled to Iceland in late February for a meeting with officials from the Football Association of Iceland (KSI) and representatives of three soccer clubs in the country.

“Maine has been developing stronger economic and cultural ties with Iceland every year,” Morgan said, “so this visit was a natural extension of those efforts to identify areas of potential collaboration between our state and that country. It was also a great opportunity for us to learn from a world-renowned program known for its outstanding work both on and off the soccer field.”

Morgan helped found the Rosevelt Soccer Club in 2014, hoping to provide an affordable option for athletes who want to looking to complement their school and municipal soccer experiences with premier soccer experiences. Joining many or even most premier soccer clubs, and traveling with them, can prove prohibitively expensive for players and their families.

Over the last five seasons, the Rosevelt Soccer Club has grown to ten teams with 170 players between the ages 8-18. The Club offers competitive programming that has nevertheless saved its players’ families at least $200,000 in registration fees. Kids from across Southern Maine are members, but most hail from Westbrook, Gorham, Windham and Scarborough.

A meager 330,000 souls populate Iceland, making it about a quarter the size of Maine. Still, the country qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 UEFA European Championships, two of the most prestigious and tough soccer competitions in the world.

“The trip was a three-day whirlwind of meetings, discussions, tours and observations of most every aspect of Icelandic soccer,” Morgan said, “and the deluge of information I gathered has made me more discouraged–and yet more optimistic–about soccer in Maine than I’ve ever been. Their soccer culture is vibrant, mature and ambitious, and I think we can adopt many of their best practices despite some cultural and structural differences between how they organize their soccer programs and how we organize ours.”

Morgan’s visited the island nation from February 21-24, meeting with the national soccer association’s director of education, as well as representatives from the Icelandic clubs Breidablik FC, Grindavik FC, and Vikingur FC. Morgan also observed an Icelandic U15 Girls national team training session, and attended an off-season friendly between two of the country’s forty-seven clubs that have youth and professional teams under their umbrella.

“My hosts were so generous with their time, their insights, and their experiences,” Morgan said. “My meetings with the various federation and club representatives often lasted at least three hours, and not a single question I asked went unanswered. The amount of learning was greater than I could’ve ever imagined, and I look forward to putting what I’ve learned into action.”

Morgan collaborated with Dana Eidsness, Director of the Maine North Atlantic Development Office (MENADO), and Larus Isfeld, a co-founder and a partner with the New England Ocean Cluster, to organize the excursion.

“Dana and Larus were invaluable liaisons between our club and our Icelandic hosts,” Morgan said. “They helped us arrange meetings and experiences that will hopefully not only help us improve what we can offer our own club’s players, but hopefully also help soccer players and programs throughout the State.”

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Morgan poses at Laugardalsvollur, the national stadium in Iceland, and the birthplace of the famed Viking Clap.

Photo courtesy of John Morgan.