The GOALS Council is a national strategic advisory council working together to better the game of soccer for the next generation. It’s members encompass leaders in their respective youth soccer communities, with countless years of experience. The mission was crafted amongst the group and is “to expand participation in soccer by connecting and inspiring current and future athletes, unlocking potential by seeking diversity in our sport, and partnering in our communities to foster a lifelong love of the game.”

Joel Dragan
Joel Dragan
Executive Director, Florida Youth Soccer Association
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

JD: Absolutely! I’m a lifelong fan of soccer, and I currently serve as the Executive Director of the Florida Youth Soccer Association. I am originally from Michigan, where I began my soccer journey as the Director of Programs for Michigan Youth Soccer and took the next step in my career by serving as the Executive Director for the Kansas Youth Soccer Association before migrating to my current position. My passion for the game lies within the Risk Management portion of youth soccer. I am a current member of the National Risk Management Committee for U.S. Youth Soccer, a member of the U.S. Soccer Safesport Taskforce, and I lead the Risk Management Program for Florida Youth Soccer. My principle goal is to keep kids safe on the soccer field.

Your extensive experience within soccer has more than equipped you to be a contributing member of the GOALS council, but what is it specifically about the goals council that resonated with you?

JD: I genuinely enjoy being a part of this group that is helping to advance the game of soccer within the United States by implementing solutions to connect and unite current and future athletes and their families with the game. The members of the GOALS Council are leaders within the industry and I’m so honored to be able to work with them.

what excites you most about the youth soccer community in your state?

JD: The community that FYSA has built within the state of Florida excites me the most as the Executive Director. Florida’s membership is extremely passionate, placing an importance on the game of soccer within the state of Florida that translates to the competitive nature of the sport. This passion and dedication from the surrounding community drives the state office and administrative team to uphold a higher standard at all levels. From the coaches, to the directors, to the players and the parents, Florida Youth Soccer is completely rooted in an overall investment in the game. In addition to adapting to the involvement within the community, we have made it our mission to foster continued accessibility within the sport. This past Fall, FYSA founded our first DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) committee to spark conversations on how to make the game of soccer more affordable and accessible to all underserved populations of the state. Ranging from creating soccer fields in rural areas of Florida to providing equipment to underserved communities, we have made it part of FYSA’s mission to continue to expand and serve all members of the Florida community wishing to play soccer.

What are your 2022 goals for florida soccer?

JD: My goals for Florida Youth Soccer align with those of the GOALS Council: the state association’s main priority is to expand both our current member and player bases. Currently, Florida Youth Soccer’s player base consists of roughly 50,000 competitive soccer players and 50,000 recreational soccer players.

Florida Youth Soccer is focused on engaging our recreational programs more through the implementation of coaching education courses and the FYSA Bucks Program. The Bucks Program is very unique and has been a huge benefit for our members so far. For every recreational soccer player that is registered through FYSA, two dollars are returned to the clubs of those registrants. They can utilize FYSA Bucks to help purchase vital soccer equipment including soccer balls, pinnies, or coaching education dollars.

what do you consider to be the biggest challenges that youth soccer is facing today?

JD: I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing youth soccer as a whole today is the participation of young female soccer players throughout the entire country. In order to combat the dropoff in female participation within Florida specifically, FYSA has founded the Women in Soccer Committee to offer free coaching education to females, support the free U.S. Soccer C License Coaching Course which took place in 2022, encourage female mentoring within Florida’s Olympic Development Program, and partner with Fearless and Capable. FYSA’s commitment to growing female participation within the game is helping to set an example for other governing bodies across the country and it is something I am extremely proud of.

What do you hope is the outcome of the goals council or your subcommittee? how do you think the goals council can help alleviate some of these challenges?

JD: I am passionate about the GOALS Council because I wish to make a lasting impact in the soccer community which will be felt for a long time to come. I feel that my involvement with the GOALS Council equips the committee with the capability of tackling some of soccer’s holistic challenges at a broader level. As a member of the Media and Marketing subcommittee I hope that we can bring the game to kids who aren’t currently participating in any fashion. Too often we get bogged down in the details. You don’t need anything other than a ball and an area to play the game.

2022 is an exciting year for soccer. which country do you think will win the 2022 world cup?

JD: I really enjoy watching the United States National teams on the field outside of my day-to-day activities with Florida Youth Soccer and believe that the Men’s National Team will add their first star to their crest by winning the 2022 World Cup hosted in Qatar.

what role do you think florida youth soccer will play with the 2026 world cup being hosted in the u.s.?

JD: With the 2026 World Cup being held in the United States, the state of Florida and the city of Miami are beyond honored and excited to host some of the matches. With hosting these World Cup matches, we are aiming to continue to build the legacy of soccer within the state fueled by the attention that will be centered around the international soccer tournament.

Do you have hobbies that keep you busy outside of soccer?

JD: In my free time, I enjoy watching soccer at all levels and playing golf. I truly am a massive fan of the sport and continuously try to support the sport’s future both as a spectator and administrative member.