Finding the right level of soccer for your child is crucial in his or her development.
Soccer in the US is growing fast, and there are more options than ever for players to find a team that is right for them. For parents though, this is a very important decision to make. Finding the right level of soccer for your child is critical in ensuring that they have a positive experience and just as important for you to have a positive experience as well. Your decision needs to be based on a number of factors and we can discuss them below.
When deciding on the right level of soccer, it is important to take the following into consideration before making the final decision:
1. Goals for playing soccer – When a player is very young and just starting the game, the decision is easy to make as you just want a player to get experience. But as they get older, it’s important to figure out why your child is playing the sport. You need to ask the following questions:
- Is my child playing to be with his friends?
- Does my child want to be a professional soccer player?
- Is my child just happy with where they are?
- Do I want them to see what soccer is all about?
- Does my child want to play soccer in college?
These are all important questions to ask when making a decision on the level of soccer to play in as it’s important to match up their goals with the experience to keep players motivated.
2. Budget – The highest levels of youth soccer can get quite expensive with annual fees potentially ranging between $5,000 and $10,000. Therefore, it’s important to consider this when deciding on the next step for your kid. There are more and more opportunities for scholarships within some of the top soccer academies in the US, but just like any other scholarship, these will be selective and tough to get.
3. Time – Just like any other activity, it’s important to evaluate the amount of time you and your child are willing to spend on soccer. Time commitment can range anywhere from an hour or two a day once or twice a week at the lowest levels to two hours or more a day 6 times a week. Finding the right balance of time with your schedule (and school) based on the goals for your child is important to make sure that other things in life do not suffer.
Based on these factors, here is a short summary of the levels of leagues in the US that teams participate in that you can choose from. As noted, there is a place for every player to play.
1. Recreational Soccer – This is the entry level for almost every soccer player and often a level that players continue to play in if their interest levels are just to stay active and make friends. This is a perfect place for players who are not overly competitive but enjoy the social experiences of the sport. There are many recreational options locally as every city typically has an option.
2. Travel Soccer – This is a very broad category with a wide range of leagues and competition levels, but this is ultimately for the player that would like to have a more competitive experience and still want social experiences as well. These players will typically play in high school but maybe not pursue any soccer further once they get to college. United States Youth Soccer Association (https://www.usyouthsoccer.org/) offers a number of options that fall into this category.
3. Travel Soccer with plans for College – There are a number of newer leagues that have formed for these players. Players looking to play in college at the different options there with or without a scholarship should pursue playing with clubs that fall into this category. Some of the leagues include Elite 64 (https://www.usysnationalleague.com/elite-64/), ECNL (https://www.theecnl.com/), Elite Academy (https://eliteacademyleague.com/), and GA (https://girlsacademyleague.com/). In addition to regular games in a league during the season, these programs offer different college showcases and national tournaments that help get players visibility.
4. Plans to play professionally – This is another area that is relatively new and still forming within the US, but professional teams have begun to develop their own academies to identify and develop players for the top stages of soccer. Programs like MLS Next (https://www.mlssoccer.com/mlsnext/) and USL Academy (https://www.usl-academy.com/) give players a stage to showcase themselves to professional scouts.
Soccer continues to expand in the US with the ultimate mission of getting more and more players into the game while offering options for all levels of players. Additionally, players can independently train outside of their regular team training to help them with their goals whether it is to stay fit or progress to the next level. This is where training solutions like Sogility offer opportunities for players to achieve their goals.