Women’s soccer set to take the field as Vermont Green eyes a future team

Two of the rostered players for the Vermont Green’s summer 2024 women’s match. Photo courtesy Patrick McCormack/Vermont Green

The gals in green will face off in a friendly match against Quebec’s FC Laval at 6 p.m. Saturday. In donning the jersey, they have a chance to inspire fans with a high-level showcase of the women’s game

by Jacob Miller-Arsenault, Community News Service

The Vermont Green soccer team has delighted scores of frenzied fans with slick passing under the lustrous lights of Virtue Field since its inaugural season in 2022. Fans will have even more to cheer for when the Green fields its debut women’s team June 22, coached by former World Cup champion and newly made Vermonter Sam Mewis.  

The gals in green will face off in a friendly match against Quebec’s FC Laval at 6 p.m. Saturday. In donning the jersey, they have a chance to inspire girls and generations of fans with a high-level showcase of the women’s game.  

The game came together in a frenetic few days, according to Green cofounder Sam Glickman. The club hosts 10 home matches per year, seven in its league and three exhibition games. Club leaders found opponents for two friendlies but not the third, so with talk about a women’s match already brewing, they decided to go for it.  

The Green unveiled Mewis as coach in a June 7 press release on the team’s website. After retiring in January, the former national team star began a career in media, hosting a podcast with the Men in Blazers network. Along the way, she moved to Vermont. Mewis had been looking to get more involved in the local soccer scene and attended the men’s wintry U.S. Open Cup game against the Carolina Core in April. Two months later, when the invitation came to work with the Burlington club, she eagerly accepted.  

“It all really came together like probably a week ago, and I’m really excited. I think it was like such an easy thing to say yes to,” Mewis said in a June 13 interview with WCAX. “It feels like such a positive for the community and such a positive for women’s soccer that it was, like, not really a decision. It was just this easy yes.” 

A core of University of Vermont players and a small group of Vermonters compose about half of the projected roster, compiled largely by Vermont Green Sporting Director Adam Pfeifer, who also played a key role in recruiting Mewis, who was unavailable for comment this week. The rest hail from collegiate teams around New England. 

Midfielder Laney Ross, one of the women’s squads players who also plays for UVM and coaches the local Burlington FC youth team, said how happy she gets when kids at practice run up to her and say they saw her face on a poster somewhere. It’s extra special for them to see her playing in a competitive setting, she said.  

Ross also had the pleasure of meeting Mewis at a team practice. She was injured at the time but said it was a “blessing in disguise” because she got to spend time chatting on the sidelines with the former national team star. 

Mewis’ gameday coaching staff will include Brad Agoos, who is serving in his first year as assistant coach for the men’s side. A student of the game who has served in myriad coaching roles across the country, Agoos volunteered enthusiastically for the game. “(A large part) was finding someone who resonates with the girls’ community,” said Agoos, fresh off a championship run with the Winooski boy’s soccer team last year. “That’s not me. That’s Sam Mewis.”  

His 8-year-old daughter spurred him to get involved in the women’s game. She already dreams of being a professional and suiting up for the national team one day, he said. The club needed volunteers, and he was “committed and available,” he said. Though the team has been assembled relatively quickly — as is the nature for an exhibition for a new squad — Agoos is confident that “the way the club does things, it’ll be a great experience.”   

Agoos said the match should satisfy people’s “appetite for girls’ soccer” regardless of the result. Add that this year’s exhibition is the first of several planned matches over the coming years as the Green seek to field a full-fledged women’s team. 

For cofounder Patrick Infurna, this year’s match signals the Green’s commitment to women’s soccer and represents a statement of intent in the leadup to the official women’s team. “It’ll take a lot of thoughtfulness,” said Infurna. “No decision can be just made.” 

One of the biggest hurdles is what league the team would play in. The club has a good relationship with the United Soccer League, which the men’s team plays in, Infurna said. Since 2022, United Soccer League W has hosted women’s teams. “(We’re) trying to do it at the highest quality, which USL fits,” Infurna said. 

The issue? At present, the women’s league does not include a northeast division, in which the men’s side plays. If a women’s side were to begin league play right now, the closest competition would be in Long Island and New Jersey. 

Those long trips present added difficulty for a club committed to building equitably, said Glickman. And for an environmentally focused club, traveling by bus for hundreds of miles a week is hard to justify. Plus, it’s hard to move 30 athletes. 

“(We’d) rather do fewer things well and expand reasonably,” said Glickman. “(Our) biggest priority is to continue learning, to continue educating ourselves on what it means to be a football club with an environmental focus.” 

The club has researched electric buses and currently tracks all emissions with a goal of reaching net zero. Glickman said he knows it will take many years to offset the emissions gap the team has already made. With the club essentially doubling operations in building the women’s team, Vermont Green leaders need to take their time, he said.  

Additional challenges include access over the summer to a locker room, field and gym, plus finding housing for all the athletes. The club also looks to get discounts at local restaurants so players can eat more affordably. The obstacles underscore the necessity of doing everything right. “Being able to grow in a way where we can give the same intention is important,” Glickman said.   

As Infurna said, “(There’s a) lot of expertise in our club, but the majority of that is with the men’s team.” With Mewis set to remain on staff as an advisor after the friendly, the Green hope to remedy that. Plus, they can bounce ideas off Meg Linehan, senior writer for The Athletic and noted Green superfan.

Via Community News Service, a University of Vermont journalism internship.

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