Ironbound SoccerThe Salvation Army’s Award-winning Soccer Club
Newark, NJ – The Salvation Army Ironbound Corps Community Center and Boys & Girls Club has many programs and services designed to meet the needs of Newark citizens and provide unique opportunities, just like most corps in the United States. But in the Ironbound neighborhood in Newark, The Salvation Army is providing a ministry unique to its area: an official soccer club.
The Ironbound Soccer Club is an official club with an academy league supported by the United Soccer League (USL), the second largest league in the United States after Major League Soccer (MLS). Nemin Jaya, director of administration for Ironbound, calls it “one of the largest, most successful inner city soccer programs in the country.” The club has over 1,200 members organized into 80 teams that play on six different fields. Players that climb the ranks of the organization’s structure can go to the New York Red Bulls Club, which is in the MLS.
The program started 30 years ago and was used as ministry outreach to Brazilian and Portuguese families in the Newark community. What were originally two separate clubs, Ironbound Strikers/Sports Club and Ironbound Crusaders, eventually combined in 2006 to create the Ironbound Soccer Club, which has since grown exponentially.
Some might not expect a club operated by a church to be so respected and professional, but many don’t even realize Ironbound Soccer is associated with The Salvation Army. “A lot of people, even within The Salvation Army, don’t know that we have one of the largest, most successful inner city soccer programs in the country,” Jaya said.
The club prides itself on its professional approach. Their official philosophy reads: “Ironbound SC was established for the specific purpose of developing a competitive youth soccer program whose goals are to achieve state, regional, and national soccer championship titles, as well as developing players capable of receiving college scholarships based on their playing ability and academic achievement. However, the realization of these goals must be accomplished within the proper framework by instilling character, self-esteem, confidence, and sportsmanship within the young athlete.” They also state that members of the club can expect “an opportunity to participate in a professional soccer environment in one of the premier soccer clubs in the country.”
Despite such professionalism, Ironbound SC is always sure to be accessible to their local community. Additionally, the price of membership is more afforadable than most similar clubs, costing half as much, and the Army still provides scholarships when needed. Membership in the club is also an avenue to introduce families to the other services and ministries The Salvation Army offers, which they may need.
Ironbound Soccer Club teams have won six Super Y League National Championships, three NCSA Cups, four US Club National Championships, 10 New Jersey Youth State Cup Championships, and seven US Club New Jersey Cups. The 2006 ISC Elite team were finalists at the Super Y League National Finals in Tampa, FL. In addition to their accolades, the club has also produced stellar players that have gone on to great success, such as Tyler Adams, who was the captain of the United States men’s national soccer team at the 2022 World Cup.
Photos courtesy of Ironbound Soccer Club