Kick Start 

We have Elvis. They have the Beatles.

And, as of last Thursday, Memphis and Liverpool share something besides being the hometowns of rock legends. The Liverpool Football Club, five-time European world champions, announced that it will develop a soccer program in Memphis for underprivileged kids.

At a press conference at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex last week, representatives from the team announced plans to build 30 soccer programs for inner-city youth across the country, starting with Memphis.

"In England and most other countries, there's no class barriers with this sport. But in America, soccer is very much a middle-class sport," said Simon Lacon, assistant general manager of the Mike Rose Soccer Complex. "There's a lot of talent in other classes in America. You see it mostly in basketball and football, but this will give kids an opportunity to look into other sports."

The Memphis program is tentatively called the "The Strawberry Fields Academy." However, Bill Bygroves, the Liverpool Football Club's community coaching coordinator, says he'd rather not use the term "academy."

"In England, the term 'academy' has to do with the elite," said Bygroves. "We're interested in developing grassroots soccer centers."

The national programs will be funded by a $1.5 billion donation made to the Salvation Army by the estate of philanthropist Joan Kroc.

Bygroves said he isn't sure where the Memphis program will be located. Memphis has applied for a Kroc Center, which could possibly be located at the Mid-South Fairgrounds. The program could be housed there or at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex. An actual start date for the program is also uncertain.

In addition to developing the soccer program, Bygroves said the Liverpool Football Club will also begin sending its "under 17" team and its ladies' team to compete in tournaments in Memphis.

"This relationship will help put the Memphis soccer community on a different level," said Lacon. "Hopefully, people around the world will realize that we've got a lot going on down here as far as soccer's concerned."

The relationship between the cities began when the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau partnered with Liverpool during the "50 Years of Rock 'n' Roll" celebration.

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