Capelli Sport Partnership Opens Pathway to Professional Level For WPSL Players
WPSL’s own Lauren Sajewich and Maddie Pokorny sign professionally with Capelli Sport owned HB Køge of Denmark
The Women’s Premier Soccer League has always strived to provide the highest level of developmental opportunities for amateur players in the United States and by uniting with Capelli Sport last season, this partnership has taken the league’s mission even further directly impacting the players.
“We feel very positive with our partnership with Capelli Sports,” DeBray Ayala, WPSL Vice President said. “Their involvement in soccer is extremely impressive.”
Capelli Sport – a sports apparel line founded in 2011, has grown into a global brand for soccer around the world.
As of 2020, nearly 100,000 players wear Capelli Sport in 19 countries on five continents. The brand has been on elite stages from the UEFA Champions League and FIFA regulated events with National Teams all the way down to recreational youth and academies around the world.
The partnership with Capelli Sport, however, is far greater than simply outfitting WPSL clubs each season – together more player development pathways will be created, opening more opportunities for players to advance their career.
Two former WPSL players, Lauren Sajewich and Maddie Pokorny of the Chicago Red Stars Reserves experienced first-hand the positive impact of this new partnership when they each signed professional contracts last season with HB Køge (Denmark), as the club eyed promotion to the First Division – Gjensidige Kvindeliga, the highest level of the league competition for Danish women’s soccer.
“I was excited to be a part of a club that was trying to promote and qualify for the top league in Denmark,” Pokorny said. “The team welcomed me with open arms, and from the start, I was willing to do whatever I had to do to get this team to the next level.”
Once restrictions were lifted allowing soccer to resume play after COVID-19 led Denmark to go on lockdown in March, the American duo helped HB Køge secure promotion with a 3-1 victory over AaB on June 28 – Sajewich and Pokorny both started this match.
For the WPSL, the unique connection making this partnership with Capelli Sport come full circle is George Altirs having majority ownership of HB Køge – Altirs founded Capelli Sport and actively serves as CEO and President of the company. Capelli Sport also owns shares in top clubs in Germany and Ghana as well as Cedar Stars Academy that is based in the U.S., Denmark, and Ghana.
“Our professional club ownership model and player and coach development pathways help Capelli Sport offer unique opportunities to our partners, and WPSL as a league is positioned well to pass this on to the players, coaches and clubs of the league”, Jason Arnold, Capelli Sport Vice President of Sporting Business, said. “We are happy to be a part of this and look forward to many more success stories.”
Prior to the start of the new season which kicked off August 8th, both Sajewich and Pokorny signed new contracts for two more years with HB Køge.
“The people always make the place, and the people in HB Køge are brilliant. It was such an easy decision to then sign a two-year contract,” Sajewich said. “The aim of the club to make it possible for women soccer players, especially in Denmark, to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams of playing professionally in a top-class environment is something I am totally passionate about.”
For both Sajewich and Pokorny, the WPSL has provided them an opportunity to train with elite players and excel in both their collegiate careers and WPSL seasons – setting themselves up for next level advancement.
Pokorny, a St. Louis native, started her WPSL career with the St. Louis Lions before joining teammate, Sajewich, in Chicago with the Red Stars Reserves. Both even received call ups to the First Team Roster for the Red Stars during the 2020 NWSL Preseason.
“I played in the WPSL with the Chicago Red Stars Reserves every summer during my collegiate career [Texas Christian University] and it was a huge part of my development as a soccer player in so many ways”, Sajewich said. “I got to learn from different coaches and expand my tactical knowledge of the game.”
The partnership with Capelli Sport will only increase these opportunities for WPSL players and its impact will be monumental. However, it is not just the brands that make this possible, it’s the people behind the brand who put players first and are passionate about the women’s game that make these opportunities flourish.
“The people who make up Capelli Sport are not just any ordinary brand owners, they all keep up with each game we play, and they stay invested in personal and team success”, Pokorny said. “I am very proud to represent Capelli Sport.”
In their final seasons with the WPSL, Sajewich played in 10 matches with one assist, while Pokorny played in 11 matches scoring two goals and earning three assists. Chicago Red Stars Reserves finished the 2019 Season undefeated and won the Midwest Conference for the East Region.
“We truly appreciate what Capelli Sport does for women’s soccer and look forward to a great partnership for many years to come,” Ayala said.