Recreational soccer is the lowest level of organized soccer in the United States. It is open to anyone who wants to play, as long as they are attempting to play in the correct age group. One of the most popular and tenured recreational soccer groups is known as the American Youth Soccer Organization, or AYSO for short. This nationwide youth soccer program has existed for more than 50 years, and its motto is “Everyone Plays”.
Recreational soccer is meant for youth to build up a love for soccer, and developing soft skills that will translate at higher levels. The coaches are not strict and are usually parents or older youth soccer players volunteering. The games are played in quarters usually instead of halves (with water and snack breaks). And while it does get a bad reputation from players at higher levels, it is a place where players are encouraged to experiment, as the stakes are not as high as other organized youth soccer.
Recreational league coaches are on a volunteer basis. They play other teams in the town or nearby. There is not very much cost involved in running the leagues so costs are fairly low compared to higher levels of youth soccer.
- Town Recreational Youth Soccer Leagues average around $75-125.00 per season (Spring and Fall).
- AYSO costs around $45-$60 depending on the region (for either Spring or Fall).
Recreational youth soccer is the least problematic when it comes to pay-to-play in the United States. This is mainly because it is the cheapest level of organized youth soccer. The fees are very small when compared to travel club teams or youth academy teams, often costing less than $125 for a full year. However, the players still receive kits to play in and participate in 11v11 games, just as they do in higher levels. As stated, the game structure and time might be different, but the basic system is identical.
The recreational level is a good place for a young player to develop without too much pressure on the player, and their parents’ pockets. In recreational soccer, you are encouraged to try out different positions to get a feel for the game, and mostly are never limited by the coaches. This changes when you get to higher levels, as the competition level increases and winning matters more.
Even though it is the cheapest level of organized youth soccer, there is no way for it to be free at any point. No matter how good a player is, they will not receive a scholarship or waiver to play, whereas this is a possibility at the club and academy levels.
In comparison to other countries:
In other countries, recreational soccer is usually not as organized. The reason for this is that youth soccer players are on average more motivated to play the sport on their own than in the United States, mainly because soccer is the primary sport in other countries. Foreign players at the recreational level play religiously, whether it is pickup on the street using garbage cans as goals or on actual fields. “Brazil’s Neymar honed his sublime moves on the streets of Sao Paulo, France’s Zinedine Zidane in a cement courtyard of a housing project outside Marseille” (Zeigler). And this is without the intervention of parents, who sometimes force their kids into playing the sport in the United States. Players can also be discovered through playing recreationally just as Neymar and Zidane were, whereas scouting in the United States is not usually done at this level.
Most foreign youth soccer players start playing organized soccer at the club level on travel teams. However, these teams put more of an emphasis on practice than the teams in the United States do. “As soon as a kid here starts playing, he’s got referees on the field and parents watching in lawn chairs,” John Hackworth, the former coach of the U.S. under-17 national team and now the youth-development coordinator for the Philadelphia franchise in Major League Soccer, told me” (Sokolove). Sokolove harps on the United States’ obsession with putting youth soccer players into competitive environments as soon as possible. This leaves less time for practice and development of individual skills of the player. It might be best for recreational soccer to just consist of small side versus side games as it is does in soccer hubs worldwide, so that players can develop those individual skills and then come together as a team stronger.
- “How Much Does Youth Soccer Cost?” DashSport, godashsport.com/how-much-does-youth-soccer-cost/.
- Sokolove, Michael. “How a Soccer Star Is Made.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 June 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/magazine/06Soccer-t.html.
- Zeigler, Mark. “Column: US Youth Soccer Is Broken, Here Are Some Ways to Fix It.” Tribune, 16 Aug. 2018, www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/sd-sp-youth-soccer-solutions-pay-to-play-20180816-story.html.