Parents in the Penalty Box: Soccer, The New Social Nexus

Come fall, I’d save my “best” outfit of the week—Spanx underneath my one pair of $200 jeans and Frye motorcycle boots (I’m a Bloomingdales shopping kind of rebel)—for my two older boys’ kindergarten soccer games.


The good outfit came out on Saturday mornings because kindergarten soccer seems to be the social nexus of the North Shore. Every kid plays. Every parent comes. Everyone seems to care.

The numbers don’t lie. According Sahar Milani, a marketing and communication associate for American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), boys and girls under 8 years old (U8) comprise the largest group of registered soccer players in the country. While lots of kids stick with soccer, the intense focus and all-encompassing community aspect wanes as our kids get older.

“They try different sports, and they get distracted with their social lives and move on from soccer,” Milani says.

And so do we. Momentarily, our collective North Shore consciousness gets diverted back towards soccer: New Trier High School winning 5 Illinois state soccer championships in the past 6 years (2003, 2004, 2006 for the girls, 2006 and 2008 for the boys), the United States Men’s team’s surprising success in this summer’s Confederations Cup, Brandi Chastain’s ripping off her shirt after her famous World Cup winning penalty kick. Can I say that if I had her abs, I’d wear just my sports bra to the Dominicks … in the winter.

Ultimately, Chicago is a football town. Still, there’s a lot to love about soccer, and whether you’re single, have toddlers or college-age kids, you can still put on that flattering outfit—think posh Spice rocking the couture look to watch her hot husband David Beckham—and enjoy some soccer locally.

The Chicago Fire:

Five years back I went to a Fire game when they played at the 61,000-seat Soldier Field. The crowd included 2,000 actual Chicago Fire fans—not one of whom spoke a word of English, a few dazed drunks left over from the Kenny Chesney concert and a handful of similar suburban looking families with soccer playing children. Not wanting to play in an empty arena, the Fire moved in 2006 to a 20,000-seat brand new, but still half-empty stadium, Toyota Park in Bridgeview. The Chicago Fire’s home season continues through Oct. 22.

For Information and Tickets, visit:

Premier League Soccer on the Telly:

Googling “family friendly soccer bars” made me question my journalistic sanity, a fruitless search for the ultimate oxymoron, after “inexpensive Chanel purses” and “marriage strengthening sexy Swedish nannies.” But rabble-rousing soccer hooligans don’t often frequent downtown Evanston, so you can bring your kids to the Celtic Knot, enjoy a couple of pints and the pub grub while watching Premier League games (some of the best soccer in the world with perennial power houses Manchester United and Chelsea) most weekends beginning at 11 a.m.

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