DETROIT -

The inaugural season of the "Goal Detroit" youth soccer league was officially launched on Thursday.

Mayor Mike Duggan was joined by Detroit PAL and Detroit public and charter schools at Henry Ford Academy to announce details of the new league. It's comprised of about 700 students from 44 teams representing 15 Detroit Public Schools and charter elementary schools. The Mayor’s Office is paying half of the team registration fee, which is between $250-$350 depending on the age level.

"Soccer is one of the world's most popular sports but until now, Detroit students largely have not had the same opportunity to participate in it,” said Mayor Duggan, a former youth soccer coach. "Team sports in general are great fun and exercise, but they also help build self confidence and develop teamwork and leadership skills.

The Mayor's Office says Duggan been working on the plans since shortly after he took office in January. Duggan hired Shawn Blanchard to serve as his youth services director. He spearhead the creation of the league as one of his first projects. 

Soccer leagues traditionally have been embraced more in suburban communities, but the Duggan's office said the mayor felt the time was right to bring the game to Detroit students at a new level.

Opening day is Saturday. The season will run through Nov. 1. Weekly games will be played at city parks including Coleman Young, Farwell, Patton and Milan.

The league is open to all Detroit elementary schools, whether public, private or charter. The Mayor's Office says initial response has been so strong that the new league already is full for the fall season. League coordinators say the new league will add capacity to bring on more schools for the spring 2015 season and more schools already are on the waiting list.

Detroit PAL, which has teamed up with the Mayor’s Office and Detroit public and charter schools, is the facilitator of the league.

The teams will be grouped as follows:

• First and second grade
• Third and fourth grade
• Fifth grade

How do students register?

Students and coaches can register by contacting the Detroit PAL Office at (313) 833-1600, Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or email Shay Lewis at slewis@detroitpal.org

What PAL will provide:

• Half the cost of registration fees
• Transportation
• Uniforms (Jersey, Shorts & Socks)
• Coaches Training
• Shin Guards
• Player Clinic
• Equipment (balls, ball bags, cones)
• Game Day Playing Fields
• Soccer goals & maintenance
• Awards and Trophies
• Referees

Individuals who have committed to serve as a team coach for the season will receive a $500 stipend through the program.

What schools will need to provide:

• Team manager to serve as a contact person (this can also be the coach)
• Practice Space
• Coach
• Registration fee for team (The Mayor’s Office pays half of the registration fee)
-- $250 for 1st& 2nd Grade teams – You only pay $125
-- $350 for 3rd& 4th Grade teams – You only pay $175
-- $350 for 5th Grade teams – You only pay $175

The results of the league games will be posted on the City of Detroit website (www.DetroitMi.gov) each Monday, so people can see how each school is doing.