WIth a great leap into the unknown in 1970, Rod Agar and George Kesel started Mt. Lebanon's first boys soccer team with Hal Elsasser assisting and just a handful of boys aged 9-14 with several volunteers. There were fewer uniforms than players, and players would often hand theirs off as they were subbed. They played in the West Penn Soccer Association Juvenile League against teams including Beadling, Bethel Park, Heidelberg and New Brighton.
A few years later, Rod's daughter, Julie, asked why there wasn't a girls team yet. Thus was born the girls program in 1975, with 62 players in grades 4-8, coached by Marilyn Doherty, Ann Fox, Janet Lemmons and Katie Anderson.
The youth soccer program in Western Pennsylvania was formed in 1977 by Mr. Agar, John Wilcher and Reed Sission. Eventually it would become PA West. In 1979 MLSA was incorporated, and in 1980 Dale Colby became the association's first president.
The teams flourished over the years, participating in groundbreaking events like the Allegheny 80 in 1980 (coached by Mr. Wilcher and Kerry Solomon), which brought teams to Pittsburgh from all over the world, as well as several noteworthy tournaments and countless successful seasons. They also prompted the beginnings of the Mt. Lebanon High School Boys Team in 1973 and the Girls Team in 1979 (along with creating a PIAA girls league).
By the 1990s, there were more than 1,000 players playing soccer here. In 1995, Sallky Taylor became the first and stll only female MLSA president. Bonnie Doran added TOPsoccer in 1996, which gives players with disabilities a chance to play soccer.
In the early 2000s, MLSA entered a team coached by Mark Flaherty in the PAWest Classic Division, the highest level of soccer in Western PA.
There are annual events that became MLSA tradition, like the Lebo Cup tournament every fall and the Edinboro tournament every spring.
Over the years, thousands of players and volunteers have made up the MLSA and guided it to where it is today - one of the strongest soccer organizations in Western PA, and partnered with a high school program that has won 16 WPIAL and two state titles.
Rod says, "When my wife Julie suggested I answer an advertisement in the Mt. Lebanon News soliciting coaching help for a Mr. Lebanon soccer team little did I know how my actions wouild affect my life, our children's life and that of our grandchildren....Meeting George Kesel sealed my fate. In George I found a talented athlete, a sportsman and above all a gentleman. It was rewarding to have such traits rub off on me, not to mention the players.... I learned more from my players than they probably did from me....I guess today it would be called bottom up management, however it simply comes down to picking good people and empowering them to perform to the best of their abilities. Where would I be if my wife didn't read the classifieds?"
Through it all, the MLSA has maintained its commitment to providing the four pillars of soccer to its players, and fostering a love of "The Beautiful Game" among the community. "It is remarkable to think that when MLSA was founded hardly anyone in this area knew anything about soccer," remembers Fred Carragher, former MLSA President. "We learned it 'together' under the guidance of the same people that started this vision."
And now, in our 50th year, the vision continues.