Two top Florida clubs announce merger

Two of Florida’s largest soccer clubs will merge this spring, fully becoming one joint club by May 2012, the clubs announced this morning. West Florida Premier SC and Brandon Area Youth Soccer League will merge to become VSI West Florida Flames, a club that will include more than 5,000 players from youth to adult leagues.

Both clubs have girls’ teams competing in the US Youth Soccer National League this season: West Florida Premier at the U16 level and Brandon FC at the U17 level. The merger also includes a partnership with VisionPro Sports Institute (VSI), an international player development organization for athletes at the high school level. VSI will operate adult teams in the Tampa area, including a new USL Pro franchise beginning in 2013.

The merger creates a large Tampa-based club that will immediately vie for prominence in Florida on the boys and girls side. Brandon FC’s current Director of Coaching Randy Belli said in a press release that "combining our resources will allow us to deliver increased opportunities to the entire region." Diego Vierra of West Florida Premier said that the merger "creates a number of new opportunities not previously available as separate organizations."

In an interview with ESPNHS.com last week, Belli said, "there’s a definite benefit to having a strong club structure … and we are doing everything we can to promote proper club development."