In a move designed to further cement Portland’s reputation as Soccer City, USA, and inspire the next generation of female footballers and fans, the Portland Thorns FC have expanded Tobin Heath’s role with the club.
Heath, now in her fifth season with Thorns FC, is set to become Thorns FC assistant youth technical director with the club’s newly formed development academy, set to launch this fall. Heath joined the widely popular club during its inaugural National Women’s Soccer League campaign in 2013, and helped guide Portland to the NWSL championship.
“Having a player and personality like Tobin invested in the Thorns FC Academy is great for both the club and soccer in general,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for Thorns FC. “Tobin’s passion, technical ability, professionalism and leadership, coupled with her experiences at every level, make her the ideal role model to positively influence the direction and growth of the Thorns Academy.”
Working closely with youth sporting director Mike Smith and team head coaches, Heath, 28, will assist in all technical matters regarding the Thorns FC Academy. She will play a critical role in helping to market and implement a Thorns FC statewide development program while taking an active role in helping to evaluate and enhance the quality of play in games, assess the clinical needs of players, and work with the club's coaches. In addition, Heath will assist in advising college placement for all academy players and will work on earning her U.S. Soccer coaching licensing.
“I’m very excited to begin working with the Thorns FC development academy," Heath said. "The formation of the DA and the Thorns involvement has given me a unique opportunity to use my experiences to inspire the next generation of footballers,” said Heath. “First and foremost, my main priority at this point in my career is being the best player I can be, but my ambition is to change the culture of football in this country for the better. And that starts with our youth.”
In 2016, Heath led Portland to its first-ever NWSL Shield and earned NWSL Best XI honors, while establishing a new NWSL single-season record for assists with 10. At the international level, Heath has made 131 appearances for the U.S. Women’s National Team, winning two Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012) and a Women’s World Cup title (2015).
One of the 25 founding clubs as part of the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy, Thorns FC will compete in four age groups: U-14, U-15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. The games will be scouted by U.S. Soccer and the program will serve as the primary pathway to the youth national teams.
Portland’s love affair with soccer began in 1975, when the Portland Timbers joined the old North American Soccer League. They went all the way to the finals that year, prompting a Timber’s executive to describe Portland as “Soccer City, USA.” The passion for the game continues with the Thorns, which are not only the most well-attended team in the NWSL, they are the most popular women’s team in the world. The Thorns have 10,500 season ticket holders and averaged a league-leading 15,639 fans per game in 2015.