The Man Who Has Made A Huge Difference in Women’s Soccer
Jerry Zanelli is known around the USA as a champion of the women’s game — perhaps the most diehard, opinionated and focused man fighting the fight to help the game of women’s soccer grow.
From creating an opportunity for high-level women’s soccer to exist in 2012 after the WPS league folded to always helping develop great talent and coaching his team, the California Storm — Jerry Zanelli founded and sustained the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) — the largest women’s league in the world. He has coached women’s soccer and championed the game for decades and has made a difference in our world.
Resigning October 1st as Commissioner to work on new projects, Jerry Zanelli deserves a small tribute — and we asked people if they agreed. They did and here are their thoughts.
“Jerry created something exquisitely beautiful when he created the WPSL,”
says San Diego SeaLions owner Lu Snyder, who has worked with Jerry as a WPSL official since the League’s founding.
Snyder has been with Jerry since the beginning of the WPSL but even those who have only known Jerry briefly realize his powerful and positive impact.
Here are some of the quotes we have received.
Duncan Riddle – USASA Executive Director says, “Jerry is a strong advocate for women’s soccer — The USASA would like to thank Jerry for all of his hard work and dedication in both growing and promoting the WPSL. His input will be missed.”
Sean Jones – New WPSL League Commissioner says, “What Jerry Zanelli has accomplished for women’s soccer over the past 20 years is truly remarkable. Jerry’s passion, vision, mixed with a bit of being ‘stubborn’ — never taking no for an answer — created an incredible league.”
“The WPSL has benefited tens of thousands of female soccer players over the past 20 years.”
“I am truly honored that Jerry has chosen to pass the torch on to us to carry on the legacy that he started. I know there have been a great many individuals who have also been instrumental in the league becoming what it is today, but without Jerry, there would be no WPSL.”
Lee Billiard – Boston Breakers President says,
“Jerry has made a significant commitment to the women’s game, building a platform for players to continue their passion of the game and compete at high levels.
“His dedication over the many years is astonishing, Jerry Zanelli deserves all the praise coming his way,” Lee Billiard.
“When the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) folded, there were a number of professional clubs who wanted to keep the brand alive in what was a bridge year to the NWSL. It was Jerry who worked diligently with a number of us pro clubs to quickly form the WPSL Elite and keep not only professional clubs competing at a higher level, but be able to provide a platform for other WPSL clubs to rise up to and a platform for many players to show their talents, some of which are still playing professional today.”
Lu Synder – San Diego SeaLions owner says, “Jerry has been instrumental in helping soccer, and women’s soccer, become part of the fabric of the USA.”
“Jerry gave life to the soccer dreams of thousands of kids, both young and old.”
“We are honored to now try to pick up where he is leaving off, to take the League to even higher levels.”
Sam Snow — Coaching Director, US Youth Soccer says, “I had the pleasure to meet Jerry Zanelli two years ago at the Women in Soccer symposium. What a consummate professional he is! We worked together on a panel at that symposium and it was clear that he had not only a deep knowledge of our sport, but also a passion to help women grow within the game as players, coaches, referees, and administrators. His retirement leaves big shoes to fill. Jerry, thank you for your dedication and service to the game.”
Wendy Louque – KC Courage says, “Jerry built a platform for women to pursue their dreams of playing professionally and also continue to play at a high level while having careers outside of soccer.”
“Jerry had a vision long before many and he put his dream into action.”
Alondra Hernandez – SoCal FC General Manager says, “Jerry’s vision to create the WPSL has positively impacted the lives of countless girls and women who play soccer.
“I’m sure women’s soccer would not be where it is today without the WPSL.”
“Jerry’s commitment to the game has been tremendous, and the women’s soccer community has greatly benefited from it. We, at SoCal FC, thank him for welcoming us into the league in 2015 and for everything he has accomplished while growing the women’s game over the span of 20 years.”
Joe Barone, National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) Chairman says,” Jerry Zanelli is a fabulous leader of the women’s soccer game and is a fearless champion. He has always been helpful to me over the years and I really appreciate what he has accomplished.”
George Fotopoulos – Head Coach Tampa Bay Hellenic Rowdies says, “You can count on one hand the number of people that really had an impact on the women’s game in our country in the last 30 years. Jerry Zanelli’s passion, dedication, love for the game of soccer — and, for the women who play it — has allowed thousands of women to follow their dreams on and off the field.”
Stephanie Harrison – Steel City FC says, “The entire Pittsburgh Steel City FC team would like to thank Jerry Zanelli for his dedication and commitment to growing the women’s game. Without his efforts, we would not be able to continue playing the game we love at a competitive level. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you, Jerry, and hope to continue the mission and vision you set in place at the WPSL.”
Meghan Maiwald, US Deaf WNT, and California Storm Goalkeeper says, “Jerry is a one-of-a-kind gentleman who is a lifelong supporter of the game for women’s soccer.
“Jerry’s passion and love for the game are evident in the long-standing success of the WPSL, and as a coach of the California Storm.”
“I had the ultimate honor being coached by him for five seasons. The WPSL allowed me to stay sharp and compete with the best during the college soccer off-season and beyond — which prepared me for success with the U.S Deaf Women’s National Team.”
Lindsey DeLorenze – Oak City United says, “Thank you for everything you have done for women’s soccer. Not only have I, and numerous others, benefited by being able to play in the WPSL, but to be a part of an organization that has helped grow competitive women’s soccer on such a large scale and to have worked with you has been an honor.”
“I appreciate all that you have done and sacrificed to ensure the WPSL’s success.”
“You have allowed so many players the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of playing at the next level. I wish you nothing but the best with whatever is next for you, and will forever be grateful for the opportunity that you have given me.”
Marge Perry – FC Surge General Manager says, “Building the highly successful WPSL over 20+ years, Jerry Zaneli has vetted every team, knows every owner, respects every ref, and cares about every coach and player.”
“I don’t know anyone who cares more about or has done more for, women’s amateur soccer in the US than Jerry Zanelli.”
“Thousands of young women have gotten college opportunities, enhanced their college game, prepared for international and/or professional play and continued to play the game they love long past their youth/high school/college/pro careers.”
Michael Duggan – LA Galaxy San Diego Director of Operations says, “For those of you out there who have had the pleasure of meeting and working with Jerry you would know what a wonderful hard working person he is.
“Jerry had given so much to women’s soccer in the USA.”
“We wish him all the very best, Definitely going to be a hard act to follow. Thank you for everything you have done and for the path you have led us on, it’s up to us and his successor to keep it going.”
Matt Homonoff – Des Moines Menace General Manager says, “The current success of American women’s professional soccer– the NWSL — benefitted from Jerry Zanelli’s efforts in building and maintaining a base for the women’s game throughout the three prior leagues failures.”
“Jerry’s endless commitment and tireless energy will be hard to replace, his friendship is invaluable.”
Shereef Akeel – Motor City FC says, “Jerry worked tirelessly in advancing the game of soccer for women. His efforts will be felt for generations to come.”
Macy Jo Harrison – ISC Gunners FC Director and WPSL NW Regional Commissioner says, “Jerry Zanelli helped to expand, develop and defend all aspects of women’s soccer across the United States.”
“Jerry is a Women’s Soccer legend – a Blessing to women’s soccer in America.”
“Jerry also had confidence in me personally in my role as the Regional Commissioner and I thank him for all that he taught me professionally and I cannot thank him enough for all that he has done. His contributions are endless.”
Darren Sawatzky – Seattle Sounders Women General Manager says, “Jerry welcomed the Sounders Women into the WPSL and we appreciated the open arms at a time when we needed a new meaningful competition platform. He has given a lot to the game and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”
Editor’s Note: We will be adding more quotes as they come in! If you wish to be included in this tribute, please email Diane@SoccerToday.com