Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports among kids between the ages of 6 – 18, according to a 2017 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
The Wall Street Journal reports that youth soccer participation is twice as much as football, with the Huffington Post stating around 3 million American kids currently play in youth soccer leagues. It’s also a popular choice among parents, with a poll conducted by YouGov showing 24 percent of surveyed adults picked soccer when asked which sport they would be most likely to suggest “if a child who didn’t play any sports wanted to take one up.” In comparison, football only garnered 4 percent of the vote with baseball and softball combining for 30 percent.
Soccer in the U.S. continues to grow, thanks in large part to the success of the men’s and women’s national teams, as well as the wealth of soccer matches on T.V. (according to a report from Gilt Edge Soccer, 3,557 soccer matches were broadcast across 39 different channels in 2016—over nine matches a day). In addition, the growing concerns over the safety of tackle football have parents and kids searching for different sports. Add to this list the exceptional organizational structure of the leading youth soccer program in America—US Club Soccer.
A member of the U.S. Soccer Federation with about 500,000 participants and 70,000 registered coaches, US Club Soccer offers a host of leagues, national championships and training opportunities for anyone interested in the “beautiful game.”
In August 2015, US Club Soccer launched its Players First philosophy at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR, with the aim of providing holistic club soccer experience that prioritizes the development of every individual involved, and helps parents better decide on where their children should play. It’s US Club Soccer’s belief that the development of better coaches will invariably lead to the development of better players. Players First achieve this through its five founding pillars; Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education, and Player Health & Safety.
These cornerstones shift the focus from obsessing over wins in the short term to meaningful development.
“US Club Soccer and its member clubs know how important it is to parents that their children play in the safest possible environment,” said Kevin Payne, CEO and Executive Director of US Club Soccer. “We’re committed to ensuring that environment by providing resources and services to clubs, coaches, parents, and players, including our Sideline Sports Docs training program for coaches, and best in class background checks for coaches and staff. When we introduce Players First licensing in the near future, parents will be able to search for Players First clubs in their area, knowing that those clubs will have proven that they are providing a holistic club soccer experience that prioritizes the development of every player to be his or her best, and emphasizes first and foremost the safety of those players.”
US Club Soccer also stands out as a leading youth sports organization due to its best-in-class partnerships, highlighted by the support of LaLiga, the top professional division of the Spanish football league. LaLiga provides US Club Soccer and Players First clubs with training curriculum, which helps create a better learning environment and day-to-day experience to enhance the growth of all players. US Club Soccer is working with member leagues and clubs to host LaLiga Formation Methodology coaching education courses throughout the country, featuring top player development experts from LaLiga, engaging digital presence and future seminars. There have been nine courses to date with nearly 1,000 coaches from 325 clubs and organizations in attendance. Of those, more than 150 coaches from nearly 100 clubs and organizations have advanced to completing their Level 2 coaching qualifications.
Future progress should be the focus for every player in youth soccer – whether they aspire to make the national team or simply just love the game. Grassroots soccer should therefore provide the pathway for maximizing the potential of every player based on their skill level and ambitions, while disseminating resources that coaches, teacher and parents will find invaluable. Through US Club Soccer, every party involved can feel confident that the players will be getting the full value from participating in the sport.