BRANDON — On a steamy Saturday last week, 100 or so kids split off into different age groups and listened for instruction. But the coaches' orders had a different sound, a tone that made it clear they grew up far from Tampa.
"Good work getting back," said one coach with a thick British accent. "Defend, defend."
World Cup fever may have passed for the time being, but the West Florida Flames are making sure international soccer stays on the local radar. The Flames recently announced a partnership with legendary English Premier League football club Liverpool.
"This is a true partnership with substance," Flames technical director Bryn Lloyd said. "It's really a win-win for both sides."
Liverpool FC, founded in 1892, has won more European trophies than any other English team, in addition to a record eight League Cups.
"The kids will also be able to go and research about Liverpool and its history and educate themselves on the world game," Lloyd said. "Rather than just getting into their own thing in Tampa Bay and thinking this is where it begins and ends. That's important to me."
The Flames unanimously voted to rebrand the club for the fourth time since 2010, forming under Liverpool FC America — West Florida. The Flames, which play home matches in Brandon and Tarpon Springs, are the largest club in the state.
"Being able to connect with a brand with over 100 years of history is huge," said Peter Brody, CEO of Liverpool FC America. "And to allow the kids to experience the history and tradition of the Liverpool Football Club over here."
LFCA launched in Texas in 2006 with three teams. Since then, the club has expanded to 150 teams, one of the largest in the state. The LFCA has also branched out into South Carolina and now, for the first time, in Florida.
"Having that opportunity to connect with the global brand like Liverpool and do it in a way of character, quality and values was important to us," Brody said. "Really those are very traditional American aspects of American youth soccer and it helps to enhance the experience for the kids."
There are a number of advantages for the Flames. The club will have access to the same training material Liverpool utilizes in Britain. Coaches will be able to learn from their counterparts overseas. And Liverpool will periodically send coaches over to train with local kids throughout the year.
"It's not just an affiliation," Lloyd said. "The access we have to their coaches and materials means we will be able to provide something no other club, particularly in the Tampa Bay area, can provide."
Athletes will also be exposed to "The Liverpool Way," which is a set of guidelines players are expected to adhere to both on and off the pitch.
"(The Liverpool Way) is fairly old fashioned but something that's important for kids these days," Lloyd said. "To have those core values of honesty and integrity. They are things people talk about a lot but don't actually do. The Liverpool Way is about having respect for coaches and referees and other players. It's about setting good examples. That sums up the Liverpool Way."
Contact Brandon Wright at email@example.com.