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Peoria City Soccer unveils new coaching staff for 2024 season

Peoria City's Mike Paye, Bobby Parker, Jim DeRose, John Dorn and Matt Sheehan
Mason Klemm
Peoria City's Mike Paye, Bobby Parker, Jim DeRose, John Dorn and Matt Sheehan

Following back-to-back years of success in USL League Two, Peoria City Soccer announced a slew of changes for their third season on Thursday.

Clarke University head coach Mike Paye will lead the team for their new season.

A former national champion at Tyler Junior College as a player and assistant coach, Paye has been the head coach at Clarke for the past three years, leading the Pride to their most wins since 2015 in his first year and coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in program history. He also played at Creighton for his final two years of college soccer.

“I love to build, I love to compete, and most importantly I like to win,” Paye said. “And when this opportunity was presented to me, [there] wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it would be something that I would love to be a part of.”

Hailing from North Carolina by way of Liberia, Paye has club and prep experience, including training with the U.S. National Team as a teenager. He’s also played in USL League Two going back to his freshman year of college, making coaching in Peoria an easy decision.

“It’s a no brainer,” Paye said. “It’s a very, very easy transition from what I’m doing now to bringing it here. It’s gonna be amazing.”

He also hopes to bring some of that national championship-winning pedigree to Peoria.

“My expectation for this team is to win,” Paye said. “Win everything that comes our way, win every game. My expectation is to be a professional on and off of the field for every kid that comes through this place, be a role model in the community [and] represent us very well.”

Jim DeRose, former Bradley soccer head coach and current Peoria City team president, says Paye checked all of the team’s boxes, including his commitment to the local community. Both this and Paye’s experience made him the right choice for the Carp.

“What was impressive was how quickly he built the program at Clarke, his access to players domestically and internationally,” DeRose said. “He really wants to not just be on the field, he wants to be in the community and he wants to get the players out there and that’s what our vision is so he met all those things.”

Paye will be joined by assistant coach Ryan Woodside, the head coach at nearby Eureka College who led the Red Devils to back-to-back 10-win seasons and their first conference tournament in program history in 2022.

DeRose also said the window just opened up for teams to register and announce players. Parts of the roster are expected be released in the next couple weeks. There will be a focus on announcing local players first, both those that play for Bradley and those that play for other schools but hail from the area.

Peoria City is once again playing in the Heartland Division for 2024, with Joliet-based Sueno FC and Aurora-based River Light FC joining them as expansion teams. Their schedule features a home-and-home against the six teams in their division and a two-game exhibition against Springfield FC. That series, named the Lincoln Cup, will be played on aggregate.

Bradley’s Senior Associate AD for Event and Facility Operations Bobby Parker is stepping down from his position with the school and will become Peoria City’s full-time COO. Parker is also starting his own event management company.

The team also announced seating changes, including a kids zone, grandstand fieldside seating and a fieldside club. Games will be played at Shea Stadium.

Mason Klemm is a reporting intern for WCBU. He is studying sports communication at Bradley University and is expected to graduate in May 2024.