Questions - Youth Soccer Roadmap
What are the youth soccer
options for my child?
In the United States there are two levels of
youth soccer: recreational and competitive (aka "travel
is where all youth begin playing. This is traditionally a Fall season
sport in Florida. There are programs offered through your city,
school or community programs such as the Boys & Girls Club or the Y. Players learn soccer
from volunteer parents or community coaches, with "equal" playing time for
After a few years of playing at the recreational level, as a parent you
will know whether advancing to a higher level is right for your child
and your family. If not, there is plenty of excitement found in
playing recreational soccer.
Some city recreational programs often are affiliated with organized
national soccer associations such as US Club, US Youth Soccer Association (USYSA),
American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), etc.. where there is an agreed
upon practice of equal playing time for youth recreational participants.
This is necessary for player development and the pure joy of playing.
Most city programs are not members of these association and you will
find most of the volunteer coaches and administrators lacking knowledge
of accepted practices, which they can only learn about through these
types of national associations. It is unfortunate, but there is
little that can be done unless you are willing to volunteer your time to
reshape and educate those involved in your particular community or
school program. Middle School soccer teams are considered
recreational as well. Fall recreational soccer is the most popular season in
Florida; however, some cities and schools offer Winter seasons as well.
An advantage of a city program being affiliated with one of the national organizations is a national championship
series. AYSO for instance has several regions in Florida where the
various city leagues send a champion to compete. The winners of these
regions are invited to play for the AYSO national championship held each
summer. It is a great event with some of the best recreational
soccer being played. The USYSA through their state affiliates,
FYSA in Florida; offers Region Cup (March) competition for
Competitive soccer is the next level of youth
soccer. This includes both High School and what is commonly
referred to as "select, travel or club" soccer leagues. The traditional season
is Fall and Winter; however, many clubs play year-round, mixing a
combination of field and indoor soccer. The quality of play is strongest in the
travel club leagues. High School soccer in many areas of the country is
a mix of recreational and competitive players. Equal playing time
is usually not a consideration for most coaches, teams and clubs in
competitive soccer, hence the term "competitive". You compete for
both a spot on the team and playing time.
Soccer has the most organized and integrated youth competitive (travel)
network of all the sports played in the United States today. There is
just one governing body for soccer in the United States, USSF ("The
licenses (affiliations) two main affiliates flow, USYSA and US Club.
This allows for greater control and ease of implementation. In
contrast, sports like football, baseball, softball, volleyball,
basketball and many others are highly fragmented with competing
infrastructures, which do not produce a unified state, regional or
national championship. Sports like football have city or
sometimes county travel leagues depending on what area of the country you
live; however, they do not have state, regional or national travel
leagues. Football recruiting is done at the high school
level and through special combines and camps. Lacrosse is a sport
still in its infancy and the jury is out whether US Lacrosse Association
will be able to quickly organize a travel league infrastructure.
Compare this to soccer where 100% of the college recruits are selected
through the travel club network, not high school.
High School soccer in Florida is sanctioned through the FHSAA and is
officially a Winter season. The season runs from
October through the middle of February. High School teams compete first within their FHSAA assigned districts (local) as well as non-district games. At the end of the season they compete to
determine a district champion. The two district finalists advance to a state
region tournament with the winners advancing to compete for the state
championship. Throughout the course of the season,
some high schools travel nationally to face the best competition. This is becoming more of an accepted practice amongst the best
high school teams. There is no National Championship for high
schools at this time. In Florida, the championship series
consisting of district, regional and state competition is referred to as
the FHSAA state championship series.
Outside of Florida many state high school associations offer Fall soccer
The other area of competitive soccer is known as "travel or
for players between the ages of 7-18. There are three national organizations
for travel soccer, USYSA, US Club and Super Y League
(Nike). The largest is USYSA . Every state has an affiliate of USYSA. In Florida that affiliate is FYSA (Florida Youth Soccer
Association). FYSA sanctions or approves leagues throughout
the state for both boys and girls. In order to play in any FYSA
sanctioned league, you have to sign up with a club approved to play in
In South Florida the FYSA
travel soccer league is FLUGSA and the boys
league is SFU. Both are FYSA sanctioned leagues. A list of the
member clubs is found on the official FYSA league web site. Each
club offers as many teams, both boys and girls, as they can find
competitive players in different age groups. Each
year, open tryouts for clubs is held following the FYSA State Cup
tournament around the last week of May. Most clubs only offer two
(2) tryout dates per team so register early and keep in mind these dates
usually overlap which means you might be only be able to tryout for one
club during this period. That said, teams which are in need of
players will allow you tryouts on an individual basis until their team
roster fills up.
It is imperative that you attend during the "open" tryout periods before
the rosters are determined. It is possible to find a team after
that but the choices narrow quickly. Your best bet in your first
year is to find a local club with a team in your child's age group.
A local club offering both girls and boys travel soccer is
The age groups are U9-19. (Under 9 on Aug 1 - Under 19 on Aug 1).
Example: August 1, 2008 Travel Soccer Age Requirements
born between 8/1/1999 and 7/31/2000
born between 8/1/1998 and 7/31/1999
born between 8/1/1997 and 7/31/1998
born between 8/1/1996 and 7/31/1997
born between 8/1/1995 and 7/31/1996
born between 8/1/1994 and 7/31/1995
born between 8/1/1993 and 7/31/1994
born between 8/1/1992 and 7/31/1993
born between 8/1/1991 and 7/31/1992
born between 8/1/1990 and 7/31/1991
All clubs are not created equal, so check them out during their
traditional season. Attend practices and observe. Once you join a
travel club team, you will have some obligations which you need to take
seriously. Attendance at all practices and games is a near
must, even for the youngest age groups. Lots of money and time have
been committed to developing these clubs for the benefit of the players,
so do not abuse this privilege if you are fortunate to make a team.
There may be tournament travel obligations.
A full years cost for a U9-12 team is around $500 +/- depending on
whether they attend out of area tournaments. Older ages groups
cost average $1,100 +/- excluding out of area tournaments. Some
of the best teams play a very aggressive travel tournament schedule.
This can cost a family $2,500 +/-. Financial aid is
available with all clubs.
Beyond the basic local travel
leagues there are "advanced" leagues which the top travel club teams play in. Some
travel leagues include but are not limited to:
Florida State League for U13-U19 girl's teams.
This is intended to be an early Fall league only. They do not play
in the spring except on rare occasions. Here you
may find the top 10 or so teams from various Florida regions who are invited to participate
in what is commonly referred to as a supplemental season. Some
teams skip the local league and only compete in the FSL due to the time and expense
R3PL (Region III Premier League) is a
Fall league and "by invitation only" for the
very top teams from each of the USYSA National Regions, I-IV.
Region III covers the states of FL, GA, AL, MS, SC, NC, AR, TX, LA,
TN and OK. Winners of each of the Region Premier Leagues compete in
Region III Southern US Regional Championships with the winners advancing
to the USYSA National Championships held each summer.
(Nike owned) is a mid-summer to early fall league for boys and girls ages U13-17.
There is no spring league. Over 700 teams
compete nationwide. Nike purchased the league and parent company
in 2008 when it acquired Umbro sportswear.
League (FPL) is boys and girls ages U13-U18 and consists
entirely of seven of the top clubs within the state. This is
exclusively a Fall league and intended to dovetail with the FHSAA Winter
season meaning they will not play games during the high school season. There will be
some clubs with great teams who will not participate, however, overall the
level of competition should be unrivaled in Florida. Winners
of the FPL will advance to the US Club regional and national
Elite Club National
League (ECNL) is a sanctioned US Club event.
The league is similar to the USSF Development Academy but unaffiliated.
The ECNL replaced the Red Bull National
League that operated for two years. There are 40 teams teams
nationwide which will compete in age groups U15 through U17. The 10-match
regular season schedule is conducted through multiple showcase
events, with semifinals and finals both for league championships and
promotion and relegation conducted for the top and bottom four teams in
each flight. Three teams advance from the 2nd tier to the top, with
three teams being relegated. A club championship will finish the
Additionally, there are new
national and other elite leagues forming every year. We cannot
list them here as it changes with the wind. Keep in mind this is
ultra-competitive soccer and the time and monetary commitment is
substantial. Many of the players involved in these programs
don't have the social or family life that you might require for your
child. You can and will get pulled into the vortex as you seek
more and more elitism.
End of Season FYSA (USYSA affiliate) Travel Competition Roadmap (Region Cup, State Cup and Beyond)
At the end of the Fall
season beginning in March there is the FYSA Region Cup
Championship for U11-19 teams competing in the four FYSA regions, A-D
(Region A is South Florida). No teams are allowed to compete in
both Region Cup and State Cup (discussed below). At Region Cup all FYSA teams are
invited to compete within their region in three different competitive
Division II is
reserved for all teams registered as a FYSA Division II team or "B"
level in their respective leagues (e.g. team code 312). The
winners from each of the top brackets of the D-II region in ages
U11-U16 advance to the
Davis-Hackworth Cup Championship. FYSA Division II teams
are permitted to compete in Region Cup Division I play.
Division III is
exclusively for recreational teams. Winner is declared FYSA Region
Cup Division III Champion.
At the end of the Fall
season beginning in March there is the State Cup competition. This
is an open competition for all Division I and II U13-19 teams and not competing in Region Cup.
There is preliminary group play with teams advancing to the round of 16.
The final four teams from the previous year are given a bye from playing
each other in the initial rounds if their returning roster is at least
75% from the previous year. State Champions in the U14-19 groups will
represent Florida in the USYSA Region III Southern Regional
Championships leading to the USYSA National Championship competition.
Winners from the R3PL (Region III
Premier League), discussed above, automatically advance to the USYSA
Region III Southern Regional Championships regardless of how they fare in
State Cup competition.
USYSA REGION III SOUTHERN
Winner of the State Cup
championships and your Region's Premier League Champions compete in the
USYSA Region III Southern
Region Championship, even if they do not win their particular
Winners of each USYSA Region
Championships advance to the
USYSA National Championship held each summer. The winner is
the best youth "travel" team in the USA.
HOW DO I SIGN UP MY CHILD
FOR COMPETITIVE SELECT AKA TRAVEL SOCCER?
Usually you are required to
attend a tryout with a travel club such as
Select FC. Most clubs are short players, so making
at least one team is likely if your child has recreational soccer
experience. Many clubs have multiple teams in the same age group, e.g. an
advanced level U14 team and an intermediate U14 team. Some clubs
even have three teams in the same age group. Tryouts dates
for U13-19 age groups usually begin the first Monday after State
Cup ends. This is regulated by USYSA and all their state
associations. Recruiting of players by coaches or parents of a
travel team is strictly forbidden until the end of the State Cup
tournament. Violations will be sanctioned by the
applicable state association. As a parent of a registered FYSA
club player, you alone are permitted to approach a
coach or parent from outside your club about playing opportunities for
The "poaching" rule applies only to club coaches and existing members recruiting you
and your child away
from a different club. Poaching guidelines help maintain the
stability of teams and clubs, considering there are substantial expenses in
operating a club.
Whilst all clubs
advertise tryouts dates, many are short players and will add them to the
team if the fit is right. Never be afraid to approach the head
coach and ask them for an individual tryout during the season. If
they have two teams and you are fine with either team, it will make it
easier for a coach to give the ok for a tryout. So don't be afraid
to ask, some will say no, but most will say yes.
Recreational players with
the passion to play and train are encouraged to move up to travel club
at any time during the year.
HAPPENS IF MY CHILD IS CURRENTLY REGISTERED TO ONE CLUB AND WANTS TO
JOIN A DIFFERENT ONE DURING THE SEASON?
Most clubs would prefer not
to deal with "transfers" during the season as it breeds animosity
between clubs and coaches. However, there are many instances where
it is perfectly acceptable, such as if you are moving out of an area and
can no longer make the drive. If you signed a club contract you
may find there is a transfer fee buried in there for local transfers. It can be several
If your child is not receiving adequate playing time, that is a good reason to ask the coach
for a meeting to discuss your child's progress. There may be very good reason,
such as all parties understood in the beginning of the season that the
player was going to be on a team many levels above their skill level.
Consider training/practice time, as well as game time, before making
your decision. Playing time
is the number one reason behind transfers, followed by lack of
acceptable training regime.
It is always preferable to
wait until the season is over before moving to another club.
At the end of the year you then have the option to tryout for a more advanced team
within your club as well as competing clubs. However,
if your child is older and does not have time to wait, there is
nothing inappropriate with making a switch mid-season. Just do it
for the right reasons, not a parents pride or ego. Children need
positive role models and sticking it out until the end sends a message
that they are not a quitter. This is a team sport after-all.
WHAT ARE THE IDEAL
OFF-SEASON CROSS TRAINING SPORTS FOR SOCCER?
Volleyball, Field Hockey and Track. To increase stamina, try
swimming or cross country. There are many SAQ programs now being
WHAT ORGANIZATION IS
RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TWO LEVELS OF YOUTH SOCCER?
USSF (United States Soccer Federation)
is recognized by FIFA (Federation Intl Football Association) as the
national governing body for soccer in the USA. FIFA is the global
organization that controls the
body of soccer rules known as the Laws of the Game.
In the USA, the four national youth
affiliates of the USSF are:
1. United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA) - Recreation and
2. American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) - Recreation
3. Soccer Association for Youth (SAY)
3. US Club Soccer (SYL) - Competitive
Most recreational programs in the USA are
member affiliates of USYSA,
such as in Boca Raton, Florida; while others are affiliates of AYSO like
Weston, Florida; and still other city programs such as Fort Lauderdale,
Pompano Beach and Deerfield are unaffiliated with any USSF member
choosing instead to run their own program without guidance and hope
nobody complains too much.
At the competitive (travel) level, clubs are member affiliates of USYSA
and participate in a series of state, regional and culminating in a
national championship. A second organization, US Club Soccer
recently came about to provide an alternative to USYSA travel soccer.
The USYSA competitive
season begins August 1 and ends with a national championship tournament
series in July of the following year. Within this one year
timeframe there are many different leagues, some with overlapping dates,
that are available to players. In the middle of April each
state member of USYSA holds a statewide tournament referred to as
"State Cup". All eligible clubs compete against each other until a
state winner is determined. This winner then goes on to play
in their US regional tournaments against other state winners.
Florida teams compete in USYA Region III against teams from GA, TN,
The winner of Region III goes on to compete in the National tournament.
The table below give you a macro view of
organized soccer from the youth to the professional international level.
Overview of the women's roadmap to the
FIFA World Cup.