Informative visit to the USA

Ralf Kellermann visited the Chicago Red Stars, with whom VfL Women have had a partnership since 2022.

VfL Wolfsburg Direktor Frauenfußball Kellermann posiert mit der ehemaligen VfL Spielerin Starke und einigen Funktionären der Chicago Red Stars.

How do professional clubs train, play and work in the USA? In order to find out, Ralf Kellermann, head of women’s football at VfL Wolfsburg, recently paid a visit to the Chicago Red Stars. Last year, VfL Women and the Illinois-based club agreed a strategic partnership.

Huge distances

At first glance, the conditions for both sets of players appear to be similar: VfL Wolfsburg Women and their American counterparts each play in a 12-team league and both compete annually in a domestic cup, respectively known as the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the NWSL Challenge Cup in the US. Furthermore, the Red Stars, like VfL, are pioneers in women’s football: since being founded in 2007, the club has invested in the development of a professional women’s department. That has already borne fruit, given the team’s seven appearances in the NWSL play-offs, two runners-up finishes in the league and a silver medal in the cup. However, there are still many differences between professional football in the two countries, including the play-off system in the USA. The distances involved are also very different. For example, the Red Stars have to travel over 3,000 kilometres to an away game in Los Angeles, which means they are on the road for three to four days.

Knowledge exchange

During his trip, Kellermann visited the Red Stars’ training complex and stadium, among other things. “I was able to get a good overview of the work of the coaching team on site and also the players’ daily and weekly routines,” he said. He also spoke to the club management, head coach, physiotherapists and conditioning coach during his visit, which lasted several days, gaining insights into match and training analysis. “There was an exchange of knowledge at all levels,” he said.

Matching philosophies

For Kellermann, it was important to get as comprehensive a picture as possible of the conditions in Chicago. “For example, if we think about loaning players to the Red Stars, it helps a lot to know how they work. The philosophy of the club has to match ours so that the players can develop there in a way that means they can play for us again afterwards,” he explained.

Another visit planned

Indeed, VfL sent a player on loan to the Red Stars for the first time in the recently ended season: Sandra Starke. The forward moved to the USA in April and will be in Chicago until 30 June. Red Stars centre-back Tierna Davidson moved in the opposite direction and took part in VfL’s mid-season preparations during the winter break in order to work on her comeback from a cruciate ligament tear. Further such arrangements are planned for the future, as the clubs are planning on working together in the long term. “The partnership has to grow, and the visit was another step towards that,” said Kellermann. The next meeting is already on the agenda: “We’re planning for the Red Stars’ coaching team to come to Wolfsburg during their break to accompany us closely for a week.”

First partnership for women

The partnership between the two women’s teams has been in effect since September 2022 and is the first of its kind for VfL Women. The aims of the agreement are for the clubs to further establish themselves on the international market and to pool know-how in order to continuously improve together in areas such as scouting, player development and management.