Background: U.S. club soccer is a national organization that is a part of the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF). Its goal is to “foster the growth and development of soccer clubs throughout the United States to create the best possible development environment for players of all ages in every club.” U.S. club soccer hopes to improve and develop players’ skills to elevate the overall level of play on U.S. National teams and in professional leagues. U.S. club soccer also includes recreational and adult programming. Due to the fact that U.S. club soccer has recreational, youth competitive, and adult programming in one organization they hope to build a “members for life” culture within each club to promote longevity. Finally, U.S. club soccer has a 14 member Board of Directors comprised of experienced coaches with national licensing in member soccer clubs.
Costs: On average, club soccer can cost families between $2,760 – $11,810 per year depending on the team their child plays for, how much they spend on equipment, and how much their child’s team travels per year. These costs include: membership fees for the club, uniforms, insurance, league and referee fees, coaches’ salaries, player development programs, registration fees, travel costs, cleats, and protective gear.
Benefits: Club soccer teams offer more personalized and intimate coaching sessions that help to improve players’ skills. Participation in club soccer is often seen as an investment by parents as the continued development of skills amongst players can lead to a scholarship to play on a college soccer team. Moreover, a spot on a prestigious college soccer team could then lead to a chance at a successful professional career in the game. All in all, club soccer can help to increase players’ visibility amongst scouts to help further ones success in the sport.
Drawbacks: It is expensive and can lead to the exclusion of children from lower income families. 35% of youth soccer players come from families who make over $100,000 annually, whereas families with incomes below $25,000 annually only make up around 10% of youth soccer players. It can also exclude players from lower socioeconomic statuses because there are a limited number of college and academy scouts who often look for players at high-profile tournaments or those who are enrolled in elite academies that these kids cannot afford to play in. Moreover, due to high costs, pay-to-play has also led to a lack of diversity in youth club soccer teams as the expenses have restricted minorities from lower income backgrounds from playing. For instance, in 2018, only 28 percent of families with incomes below $50,000 were involved in soccer and the 2018 median income for Hispanics and Blacks were $51,450 and $41,361, respectively. Furthermore, club soccer can often lead to a lack of creativity in play as children develop their skills from repetitive drills at practice rather than developing their style of play with other children for fun. Since, creativity is often built in street play in lower income areas, the pay-to-play structure has limited the usage of this style of play in U.S. club soccer and thus in U.S. national teams and professional leagues as well.
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Guzman, Gloria. “New Data Show Income Increased in 14 States and 10 of the Largest Metros.” US Census Bureau, 26 Sept. 2019, www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/09/us-median-household-income-up-in-2018-from-2017.html.
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