Tormenta FC Academy has achieved success on the field, but its bigger focus has been trained on developing young local talent that can compete at higher levels within the organization. | Photo courtesy South Georgia Tormenta FC
Over the past decade, the primary goal for Dr. Brad Nein through organizations like Storm Soccer Academy has been to help develop the best young players in southeastern Georgia.
But with the arrival of South Georgia Tormenta FC to Statesboro, Ga. in 2015, first as a member of USL League Two and now as the inaugural club in USL League One’s history, the potential opportunities available to the players Nein now mentors as the Director of Youth Soccer Operations at Tormenta FC Academy are unlimited.
“It’s gigantic. There’s no other opportunity like that in this area,” Nein said by phone recently. “Charleston’s two hours away, Jacksonville’s two hours away, Atlanta’s four hours away, so to have something like that positioned right here where the top five players in the area can go and play on the League Two team, they’re getting this experience before they ever even get to college or sign a pro contract or anything along those lines.
“They’re 15, 16, or 17 years old and seeing the game and a speed of pace that most kids in America don’t get to see.”
It sounds simple, but that’s the impact the arrival of clubs like Tormenta FC can have on a region’s soccer community. With a professional club now at the top of the local soccer scene, the development pieces that were previously in existence can become part of that club’s structure to give a pathway to the top that before might have required a move to a city with its own path to the professional ranks.
While previously Storm Soccer Academy had an affiliation with a group in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Nein and his staff this spring fully committed to the Tormenta FC organization. The official launch of the club’s Academy program will arrive this fall, as will new recreational and elite programs designed to allow kids of all ages and abilities to play the game in an engaging environment.
But the first success story for the youth development program Nein leads has already arrived in the shape of Tristan Deloach, who in May became the first player to sign professional terms with Tormenta FC’s League One club from its academy. While Deloach had regularly been training with Tormenta FC in the lead-up to his signing, the swiftness of the move was still a pleasant surprise for Nein.
“For him to get that opportunity to put on the professional uniform and be on the field and all those things, he was a kid in a candy shop during the entire experience,” said Nein. “It was so good to see him have that opportunity to be among those professional players.”
Tristan Loach made history in May as the first member of the Tormenta FC Academy to sign professional terms with the organization's League One club. | Photo courtesy South Georgia Tormenta FC
While Deloach is in the professional ranks, those that may one day follow him are getting the experience it will take to get them to the next level with Tormenta FC 2. The club has designated a handful of roster spots for its League Two club specifically for current Academy players, giving that group a chance to both train and compete alongside current college athletes.
Installing that provision should have a long-term payoff for the club’s overall player development, which could go a long way to Tormenta FC’s League One squad featuring plenty of local standouts in the next decade.
“My dream is that off the 24-man [League Two] roster we have 16 players who are homegrown, right from this area, in the next five years,” said Nein, “which will lead to multiple players on the League One team that are playing a lot of minutes and having a lot of success.”
The added benefit to the club in having players that spend the summer training with Tormenta FC 2 should be seen later this year when Tormenta FC’s young players take to the field against their counterparts in the inaugural USL Academy Cup. Nein expects the players from the club’s U-17 side that are currently training at the League Two level will bring those experiences back with them to the Academy level, which should help the side overall be competitive against the teams it will face in the Southern Conference next February.
Tormenta FC Academy's is providing a pathway to the organization's teams in USL League One and League Two, giving local standouts the chance to reach the professional ranks that previously wasn't available.
With Tormenta FC slated to go up against representatives of Championship clubs the Charleston Battery, Louisville City FC and Birmingham Legion FC and fellow League One club Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, Nein is looking forward to the competition the Academy Cup will offer.
“It’s an opportunity that we don’t take lightly,” said Nein. “It’s really amazing for our group to play against high-level youth players from other professional franchises and it’s something I’m beyond excited to work on with the USL, creating the pathway to the pro ranks for our players throughout the United States.”
As another new piece to the development puzzle he and his team continue to build in the Tormenta FC Academy, USL Academy Cup is the next opportunity for players to take their moment in the spotlight. With Deloach serving as the example of what happens when everything comes together, there is now proof of the concepts that Nein is implementing.
“I really think it says we’re doing the right things on the youth side, creating players that are skilled enough to play at that level and find their own successes,” said Nein. “The key will be someday can we bring in that kid that can go in at 16 or 17 and make an impact on what’s happening, but I think it really promotes what we’re doing on the youth level, that we’re creating good players from this area of the country and we need to keep exposing them to these opportunities.”