Burlington's CityGate Dream Center soccer club traveled across the Atlantic, facing off against international competition in England.
After winning the 5v5 Warrior Soccer Tour National Championship in Florida last fall, coach and head of athletics Armando Camacho said his players’ reactions were priceless when they traveled to England this summer.
Boasting a squad of 14 talented players — including Franky Maya and Henry García, who both play for Major League Soccer Next teams — the team delved into a world of top-tier soccer and training with seasoned professionals from the European Premier League.
Their journey also included exclusive tours of the cutting-edge facilities used by powerhouse teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United.
Camacho said support from the surrounding community was plentiful with donations, fundraising and even a billboard being constructed in their honor.
CityGate Dream Center director Lisa Edwards said the Dream Center is so much more to the community of Burlington than just a soccer program — it is a haven for everyone.
“The main purpose of the Dream Center is to create a place of belongings for kids, students, and parents in the area,” Edwards said.
Edwards also said that for many kids, the Dream Center is one of their favorite places to be.
Edwards said even players who traveled internationally participate in the community via the Dream Center by acting as soccer coaches, referees and mentors to younger players.
Camacho created Burlington’s CityGate Dream Center soccer club program just two years ago, starting with around 80 kids of all ages ranging from 11 to 14.
Camacho said within a year, the program almost quadrupled its size and was able to form five travel teams.
But, Camacho said the soccer program is more than just a haven for talented players in the area to showcase their skills, it's also a place where the young players can develop their character and learn valuable lessons.
According to Camacho, the teams have big expectations for the players to keep up their “grades, attitude and behavior.”
Edwards said the Dream Center is also heavily involved in the local Hispanic community since the majority of the families that use the community center speak Spanish and come from Spanish-speaking countries.
According to Edwards, they offer a bilingual program to the kids, which helps foster community.
“It provides a comfortable space for them to be around a lot of other people that also come from Spanish-speaking countries,” Edwards said.
Camacho said he has high hopes for the future of the soccer program.
“Just because we went to England, there are always bigger fish in the pond, and we just want to continue to grow,” Camacho said.
According to Camacho, the program still struggles with structure as its size grows exponentially each year.
“The more kids that join our program, the more issues that come … so we want to add more structure to our league,” Camacho said. “Parents play a big part, they have to bring and support the kids, so we have to make sure that everybody is on the same page, and make sure that we have our feet grounded. Just because we went to England, there is still much room to grow.”
Both Camacho and Edwards said the team has been inspirational and impactful to the community.
According to Camacho, his motto for the team is “Act like, walk like and talk like a champ.”
Edwards also said the community support has meant a lot for the program.
“They can make dreams come true,” Edwards said. “We believe that destinies can be transformed the more that we get to say yes to the dreams in our community.”
The 14 and under teams' success has inspired the younger divisions to be as dedicated as the older ones.
“I have never seen a group of 10-year-olds more motivated,” Camacho said.
As the program continues to grow and develop, Camacho said he is excited for what the future holds.
“Getting in is hard, but maintaining is always the hardest part,” Camacho said. “Our kids are great and their parents are great, so I have high hopes for the future.”