What is Club Soccer? All You Need to Know
Club soccer in the U.S. has grown significantly over the last two decades. Blossomed out of the natural progression from town travel, more and more soccer clubs have been created. But, it begs the question…what is club soccer?
Soccer clubs here in the U.S. provide an opportunity for youth soccer players ages 8 through 19 to experience a competitive soccer environment. Clubs focus on the development of the player as they progress through the organization.
Clubs in the U.S. are typically independent entities and affiliated with a regional and/or national organization such as US Club Soccer, Major League Soccer or US Youth Soccer.
In this environment, teams usually practice at least 2-3 times per week, play regular season games in the fall and spring and attend various tournaments.
Club soccer can be a great avenue for young athletes who want to take their game to the next level!
In this article, we’ll go over what club soccer in the U.S. is all about and some of the finer details. I’ll also provide my personal experience on the landscape through out the article.
What is Club Soccer?
Club soccer in the U.S. is a form of youth soccer that provides athletes a year-round experience with training from paid coaches and games throughout the year.
It is a level up from town travel and, thus, typically requires more travel and is more costly.
Players get an opportunity to grow their skills and mature within the club over many years. A reputable soccer club will develop a pathway for their players.
How Does Club Soccer Work?
Age Groups and Divisions
Club soccer is typically organized by age group and division. The age groups typically range from U8 (under 7 years old) to U19 (under 19 years old).
Within each age group, there are different divisions and teams based on skill level and attendance.
In the spring, players will compete during ID sessions (tryouts) for placement in the fall.
On some occasions, players could temporarily move up an age group or play in another division in the same age group over the course of a season. This helps challenge players who are excelling or fill gaps if rosters are short players.
The age is based on the year a player was born. This is different from other sports where the age group is determined by the school year.
Season Schedule and Format
Club soccer in the states usually runs from late summer to early spring, with a break during the winter months.
Again, the format of the season varies depending on the club and division. Leagues such as MLS NEXT, ECNL and Girls Academy will incorporate their own in-season and end-of-season tournaments.
Most clubs have a set schedule of games and practices, while others allow teams to schedule their own games. For a larger organization, the season is laid out to avoid scheduling conflicts with other teams and sports.
Teams will typically play 7-13 games in the fall and spring seasons.
Pay-to-Play Soccer System
Unfortunately, club soccer in the U.S. is a pay-to-play system where youth players have to pay a fee to be on a team.
The annual fees can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over a few thousand dollars. In fact, last year we spent $3,500 for my 13-year old son to just play for his team. We ended up spending over $7,000 for the year when all was said and done.
I really dislike the concept. It not only makes it hard on the families but it can also exclude many talented kids altogether.
I really don’t have an answer for combatting it but I would love to see it changed. Making it more affordable will only help the U.S. level up our talent in comparison to other countries.
With that said, most clubs offer scholarships to those families that need it. Explore all your options especially if you think you have a talented player at home.
Player Development and Training
One of the main goals of club soccer is to provide players with the opportunity to develop their skills and improve their overall game.
To achieve this, clubs often have experienced coaches who train their players on a regular basis. These coaches design training programs that focus on individual skill development, team tactics, and physical fitness.
In addition to regular practices, clubs may also offer specialized training sessions, such as goalkeeper training or speed and agility training.
In our case, strength and conditioning training is introduced as part of the weekly training for U15 teams and older.
Player development is key for club soccer. If parents feel like their child isn’t developing under the organization, they may opt to switch clubs. For parents (watch out!), the grass is usually not greener on the other side.
Benefits of Club Soccer
Club soccer offers numerous benefits to youth players, including opportunities for skill development, exposure and advancement, and teamwork and leadership skills.
Improved Skills and Performance
Club soccer provides a developmentally appropriate environment for youth players to improve their skills and performance.
With access to experienced coaches and advanced training techniques year-round, players are able to refine their technical skills, tactical understanding, and physical fitness.
Additionally, club soccer allows players to compete at a higher level, challenging them to push their limits and reach their full potential.
Opportunities for Exposure and Advancement
Club soccer can provide players with opportunities for exposure and advancement.
By competing in regional and national tournaments and showcases, players can get scouted and recruited. This can lead to college scholarship, professional and national opportunities.
Also, as the player gets older, the scene seems to shrink. Elite players could be recruited by other clubs. For instance, a U15 player who plays for a club in Ohio could get recruited to play for the Columbus Crew Youth Academy team.
I love this for the U.S. in general. There is more fluidity in the system rather than an elite player being stuck with no advancement.
Teamwork and Leadership Skills
Club soccer emphasizes teamwork and leadership skills, helping players develop important life lessons that extend beyond the field.
By working together towards a common goal, players learn the value of collaboration, communication, and trust.
Club soccer provides ample opportunities for players to take on leadership roles, such as team captain or mentor, helping them develop confidence and responsibility.
Choosing a Club Soccer Program
Choosing a club soccer program can be a challenging task for parents and youth players.
With so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when selecting a club soccer program.
- Find Clubs In Your Proximity: Find different soccer clubs in your proximity. If you don’t want to travel far for weekly training sessions then you can create a short list of organizations within a certain distance from you.
- Research Programs: Doing online and offline research on a particular club can narrow down your selection.
- Financial Considerations: Figure out how much it would cost to play for a soccer club. Take into consideration possible tournaments where players are responsible for their own travel expenses.
- Coaching Credentials: Research various coaches and their credentials to ensure the club hires experienced staff. This will make a big difference in player development.
If you’d like to learn more, I’ve written an in depth article on How to Find the Best Youth Soccer Club for Your Child.
Commitment for Club Soccer
Club soccer requires a significant commitment from players and their families.
Players are expected to attend practices and games regularly and on time. Practices are typically held two to three times per week, and games are usually played on weekends.
Players are also expected to maintain a high level of physical fitness and conditioning to perform at their best on the field. This can sometimes be tough as they go from fall to spring season with the winter months in between.
Club soccer also requires a financial commitment. Players and their families are responsible for paying for registration fees, uniforms, equipment, and travel expenses.
For players who have the talent and/or drive to be better soccer players, this commitment can prove invaluable.
They will be in an environment where soccer is a priority. For my son, soccer is his happy place so the commitment is priceless.
What Type of Player Should Consider Club Soccer?
While club soccer is not for every soccer player or soccer parent, it can be a great option for those who are looking to accelerate their game to a higher level.
The type of soccer player that should consider playing for a club is one that has a passion for the game, who is coachable, and can commit all year.
The type of player who excels in this environment can vary. But, typically they are players who have a drive to become the best, who realize they become better during trainings (not games) and can stomach honest feedback.
Club soccer is a great way for players to challenge themselves if they feel ‘bored’ with town travel or middle school soccer.
Lastly, players who are interested in playing at the collegiate or professional level should consider club soccer. Many college coaches and professional scouts attend club soccer games and tournaments to identify potential recruits.
Again, club soccer is not for everyone. Evaluate your son or daughter’s appetite for soccer and their love for the game. If you think that it’s a good fit, then go for it!!
Does Playing Club Soccer Help Getting Recruited?
Yes! When it comes to getting recruited for college soccer, playing club soccer can give athletes an advantage in the process.
Club soccer is a year-round commitment that offers athletes more opportunities to focus on skill development, while also giving college coaches more opportunities to evaluate athletes during competitions.
College coaches expect their recruits to have club soccer experience, as club teams are incredibly influential in the sport of soccer. Club teams often play at a higher level of competition than high school teams, which allows athletes to showcase their skills and abilities to college coaches.
At the same time, playing club soccer is not the only factor that determines whether an athlete will get recruited. Other factors, such as academic performance, character, and work ethic, also play a significant role in the recruiting process.
Can a Player Play Other Sports?
While club soccer demands a significant amount of time and dedication, players are not prohibited from playing other sports.
In fact, participating in different sports can improve a player’s athleticism, coordination, and overall fitness, which can ultimately benefit their performance in soccer.
My son has played basketball in conjunction with club soccer for the past 5 years and I think it has helped him with his coordination and his vision on the field.
It’s important for players to communicate with their coaches and ensure that their participation in other sports does not interfere with their soccer schedule.
Some clubs may have rules or expectations regarding outside activities, so it’s crucial to understand and follow those guidelines.
Players should also consider the risk of injury when playing multiple sports. Certain sports may pose a higher risk of injury to certain body parts, which can impact a player’s ability to perform in soccer. It’s important to prioritize injury prevention and take necessary precautions to avoid getting hurt.
Ultimately, the decision to play other sports is up to the player and their family. It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks and make an informed decision that aligns with the player’s goals and priorities.
As you can probably guess, I’m an advocate for club soccer. I think we’ve made significant strides in the U.S. by developing these talented players in a safe environment.
Club soccer can become a second home for many of these players. Not only will these young athletes develop their skills but they will also create lifelong friendships.
Club soccer creates more opportunities than ever before because of the organized pathway many of the organizations have instituted.
If your young soccer player wants to level up their game, consider registering for club soccer!