Asked how many players have gone through the ranks of the Santa Monica United soccer club, Daniel Schwartz responded not with a number but with amazement.
“Oh my goodness,” the club’s president said, trailing off as if to marvel at the organization’s staying power.
More than 600 kids are enrolled for the upcoming year, he said, and he estimated that tens of thousands have developed their soccer skills in the locally based youth organization.
Their stories are all pieces of the club’s 40-year history, which will be celebrated during an anniversary carnival Aug. 9 at West Los Angeles College in Culver City.
The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature food and games as well as a silent auction with items including a ball signed by Lionel Messi, a jersey signed by Cristiano Ronaldo, a ball signed by LA Galaxy players, tickets to a suite for a Galaxy game and gift certificates to area restaurants.
Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown will attend the event and honor the club with a commemorative declaration. He’ll also pay tribute to the girls squad that recently captured a national title in the Presidents Cup tournament in Kansas.
That team extends the numerous successes during Santa Monica United’s decorated history, which will be on display in a special exhibit during the 40th anniversary event.
Santa Monica United was established in 1975 by Robert Marchis, who brought AYSO soccer to the area a few years earlier. Formerly known as the Real Santa Monica Soccer Club, it was designed for athletes who wanted more serious training and competition.
Standing as one of the oldest youth soccer clubs in the region, it now features 33 boys and girls teams with players ranging in age from 8 to 18.
Families are on the hook for as much as $2,600 annually to cover expenses associated with coaches, referees, tournaments, travel and equipment, according to the club’s website.
About 10 percent of kids in the nonprofit organization receive financial assistance, Schwartz said, and the teams raise money to help families and the club overall.
“We don’t turn kids away because they’re in need,” he said. “We try to make it work.”
In his four years with the club, Schwartz has seen firsthand how its training sessions and games have helped prepare players for soccer after high school. Several dozen Santa Monica United players have continued their careers at the collegiate level over the last five years. Bradford Jamieson IV, a former club member who attended Santa Monica High School, is currently on the LA Galaxy roster.
“The main objective of our club is to develop our kids to love the beautiful game of soccer,” Schwartz said. “That’s our main goal. If we can help kids get into college, that’s wonderful. If we can help them be better people on and off the field, as teammates, even better.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.