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Domenic Pultrone: A Coach with a Passion for Player Development

Domenic Pultrone’s heart was broken the last time the USA hosted the World Cup. Next time, it could be bursting with pride… as young stars he has helped to develop push for the opportunity to line up on soccer’s greatest stage.

Football Careers client Domenic, 46, is at the heart of a student development project in Florida that is gaining a growing reputation for producing a talented new generation of professional players.

The Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy (SIMA) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and in its short history has guided over 50 players into the professional ranks and more than 300 students into the top level of college soccer in the States.

Pultrone, a Canadian with a strong Italian heritage, is rightly proud of that impressive track record, having served as Director of Methodology and Head Coach for the past five years. Now he’s hoping to see at least a couple of his students progress to the next stage and star for their countries at the 2026 World Cup in America and Canada.

And that will help banish his memories of the 1994 Final when, as an Italy-mad teenager, Domenic watched his hero Roberto Baggio famously fluff the penalty that handed the trophy to Brazil. He said:

“Although I grew up in Montréal, Québec, my whole family is Italian and I remember as a 16-year-old cheering for Italy in the ’94 tournament. We had a great team at the time – players like Zenga, Baresi, Maldini, and my hero Baggio. That defeat in a penalty shoot-out in the Final was a real heartbreaker.

“That was 30 years ago and football in North America has come a long, long way since then. The MLS has grown and continues to grow, new USL clubs and franchises are popping up around the country and the fan base is expanding all the time. It’s an exciting time for the sport here and I’m really excited to see what impact the next World Cup in 2026 will have on the US and Canada.

“I’ll have split loyalties when it comes around. I’d love to see the US win it, or at least get to the latter stages of the tournament, because that would really boost the popularity of the game here. But I’ll be rooting for Canada and Italy, my two nations.”

Pultrone will also have a close eye on two African nations and will be hoping two of his former students – Mbacke Fall and Ali Fadal – can make the breakthrough into the Senegal and Ghana squads.

Both players were developed within the SIMA project and are now making strides in Europe, Fall with Barcelona’s B team and Fadal at Valencia. They are just two of the many success stories celebrated within the multicultural environment of the Montverde Academy, which guides and develops student-athletes from all around the globe.

As Director of Methodology, UEFA A Licensed coach Pultrone has a key role in shaping the future direction of the Academy’s soccer programme and in providing a springboard for talented youngsters to progress in the sport. He said:

“I believe SIMA is quite unique in terms of what we offer as an Academy. It is a private college preparatory school with around 1200 students, representing more than 90 nations. In the soccer programme, we currently have 145 students from 20 different countries, including Brazil, Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Colombia, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Thailand and, of course, the US and Canada.

“Most of the boys board with us full-time, staying in dormitories on the campus, and we take a holistic approach to their development, focusing on their personal, academic and athletic development – in that order. They all want to be professional footballers and our goal is to help them move up to the next stage. They train five days a week, play in matches and local leagues and are immersed in football, but we are also responsible for their education and their personal development.

“Their parents invest a lot of money to send their boys to us, and they invest a lot of trust in us as coaches and teachers. It’s a major commitment for the families and the athletes, but our track record both in producing professional players and in helping students achieve full scholarships at leading universities proves that the methodology and model does work. It is a formula that has brought us success and we have graduates playing professionally in major leagues in Europe as well as in the MLS and USL.

“We take care of every aspect of their development and instil in them the values and ethos of the Academy, guiding them through the various challenges they face. There is such a wide diversity of cultures here and I think that helps give our students a more rounded experience than they would get otherwise.

“Each year we also host showcase events which give our players the opportunity to be seen by scouts from leading clubs. Our last one was in January and it attracted about 50 college coaches along with representatives from MLS and USL clubs and one from Spain.

“Our reputation has grown over the years and there is recognition nationally for what we are achieving. In fact, before the last World Cup, both the Canadian and American national teams used our facilities and trained with our students. Team Canada even played a game against our senior team as part of their preparations for a qualifying match against Jamaica.

“It’s so rewarding to see our students progress in the game and in their lives, and we keep in touch after they graduate from Montverde. As a coach, I feel like I’ve participated in their successes and achievements, and I’m not sure there are many working environments where you can get that kind of job satisfaction.

“The boys are getting the kind of opportunity I wish I’d had at their age. When I was growing up there were no professional clubs in Canada. I played at the highest level I could with a leading provincial club, West Island Lakers, in the National Championship but I never had the opportunity to go professional. I then got into grassroots coaching, I loved it, and I decided to pursue my dream of making a career in coaching.”

Domenic believes his decision to travel abroad to study for UEFA licences, rather than following the North American pathway, was pivotal to the success of his coaching career. He attained his badges in England and Ireland and admitted:

“That was a big financial commitment for me, but I felt it would be beneficial to my future prospects so I made the decision to invest in myself. I knew that the UEFA licences would be recognised all over the world so what better place to go and learn coaching than in Europe?

“I would encourage other young coaches to do the same. The qualifications have given me opportunities, but so too have the contacts and lifelong friendships I made while on these courses. In Ireland on my UEFA A and B courses, for example, I worked on assignments with another American coach, Michael Nsien, and we became close friends. He later became Head Coach at Tulsa Roughnecks in the USL and asked me to join him as his assistant.

“I also struck up a friendship with Toni Hernandez, who is now Academy Coordinator at Barcelona, and it was he who invited me to become part of the project at Montverde. So those contacts have been invaluable to me in my coaching career, and that was the result of taking the plunge and going abroad to study for my licences.”

With his experience in both the USL and in elite youth development, Domenic now has his sights set on a future professional role in American soccer.

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