Little Guy Soccer founder joins youth soccer hall of fame

COURTESY OF JOHN ROBORTELLA

Little Guy Soccer founder Edward Merante has been inducted into the New York State West Youth Soccer Association’s Hall of Fame in recognition of his more than five decades of service to young people and youth soccer programs.  

Based in Corning, NYSWYSA is affiliated with U.S. Youth Soccer and the United States Soccer Federation. The announcement was made by Rochester District Commissioner Roger Best. A presentation ceremony will be scheduled at a later date. 

Merante started the first boys soccer program in the U.S. for 7-year-olds in 1968 with four teams. In 1969, the name changed to the Chili Soccer Association with the first team of 15- to 18-year-olds known as the Westsiders. The team competed against other local teams known as the Eastsiders and the Baysiders. 

In 1970, the first intertown season began with about 80 boys who were recruited in response to an idea Merante publicized in the local media. Churchville, East Rochester, Gates, Greece, Hilton, Irondequoit, the city of Rochester, Scottsville and Spencerport formed teams in 1972. The Association was chartered and girls teams were added.   

In 1974, the Chili soccer program was recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and North American Soccer League as the nation’s first organized youth soccer program. That same year, the Chili Town Board erected signs at the town borders reading “Welcome to the Home of Little Guy Soccer.” In 1983, the town dedicated the soccer field in Memorial Park as Ed Merante Field. 

Merante organized an international soccer tournament in Chili in October 1990 with Canada, Italy, Russia and Ukraine participating. The U.S. was represented by the CSA team. 

In 2010, St. Pius Tenth School dedicated its athletic field to Merante and the Rev. Donald Murphy, school founder and the church’s first pastor.  

The town of Chili dedicated the soccer field in Memorial Park as Ed Merante Field in 1983.

Merante was born in Pentone, Catanzaro, Italy. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1956 at the age of 20, played for the Italian-American Sports Club team and served as club comptroller, correspondence secretary and on the board of directors for 26 years. 

He was a member of the founding committee with Patsy Frank, Rudy LePore, Tony Pullano and Charlie Schiano at the club, which started the process to secure a professional soccer franchise in the American Soccer League. The team became the Rochester Lancers. Merante served as a part-owner from 1967 to 1985. 

Merante was honored by past Monroe County Manager Gordon Howe, past Rochester Mayor Frank Lamb, past Chili Supervisor James Powers and the Town Board for his dedication to the youth soccer program. For 13 years, he took select boys and girls teams to Italy for international soccer tournaments. 

The Town Board dedicated a Wall of Fame in the Recreation Building to Merante. He also was inducted into the Rochester Rhinos’ and Rochester Lancers’ halls of fame.