Sculpted by Sports

What is club soccer?

When we ask various individuals about what is club soccer, the answers are as different as the people themselves. To a world soccer enthusiast, it’s a place of pride and passion. An American soccer enthusiast might view it as a developing theory in our country. Conversely, the average soccer parent might tell you they’re uncertain, associating it more with the team’s name emblazoned across the front of a jersey. This variety of perspectives reflects the multifaceted nature of club soccer. Let’s attempt to clarify the definition and purpose of a true soccer club and what they actually mean.

What is Club Soccer?

In the U.S., club soccer represents a specialized form of youth soccer. It provides aspiring athletes a comprehensive year-round experience, encompassing professional training from paid coaches and competitive games throughout the year. This level of play goes beyond local town travel teams, often requiring significantly more travel and, as a result, is typically more costly.

Club soccer is not just about the immediate season; it offers players a unique opportunity to grow their skills and mature within the club over many years. A reputable soccer club is committed to developing a pathway for its players, guiding them from early development stages to advanced play, ensuring a steady progression in both skills and personal growth.

What is the purpose of a football club?

In the world of association football, a football club serves a vital role beyond just being a sports organization. It acts as a pivotal entity, a cornerstone in the community that brings together individuals with a shared passion for the game. These clubs are not just teams; they are institutions that organise and foster sporting activities for both players and fans alike.

A football club is the heartbeat of local, national, and even international football culture. It’s where teams of various levels—from youth to professional—hone their skills, compete, and strive for excellence.

These clubs provide a structured environment for athletes to grow, not only in their physical prowess but also in their understanding and love for the sport. Through these clubs, the tradition and spirit of football are preserved and advanced, connecting generations through a shared love for the game.

How Does Club Soccer Work?

Club soccer is a structured form of youth sports, distinctly organized by age groups and divisions. It primarily targets ages U8 (under 7 years old) to U19 (under 19 years old), categorizing players into teams based on their skill level and attendance records. Each age group boasts its own division, allowing for a tailored approach to player development.

The Season’s Cycle

In the spring, young athletes eagerly participate in ID sessions or tryouts, competing for placement on teams for the upcoming fall season. These tryouts are a critical step in determining each player’s developmental path for the year ahead.

Flexibility and Adaptability in Player Placement

On certain occasions, players may temporarily move up an age group or play in a different division within the same age group. This flexibility within the season is instrumental in challenging players who are excelling, or to fill gaps in rosters that are short on players.

Age Criteria

In club soccer, a player’s age is based on the year they were born, a method differing from other sports, where age group categorization is often 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. The season schedule and format can vary greatly, depending on the specific club and division.

League Structures and Tournaments

Prominent leagues like MLS NEXT, ECNL, and Girls Academy often incorporate their own in-season and end-of-season tournaments, adding another dimension to the competitive landscape.

While most clubs have a set schedule of games and practices, others allow individual teams the autonomy to schedule their own games. In larger organizations, efforts are made to avoid scheduling conflicts with other teams and sports, ensuring a harmonious operation.

The Cost of Participation

Club soccer in the U.S. unfortunately operates on a pay-to-play system, where youth players must pay a fee to join a team. The annual fees can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand. For example, last year, we spent $3,500 for my 13-year-old son’s participation, and a total of over $7,000 when factoring in all associated costs.

The pay-to-play model is often criticized for being hard on families and potentially excluding many talented kids. While there’s no easy answer for combatting this issue, making the sport more affordable is crucial to level up our talent in comparison to other countries. Thankfully, most clubs do offer scholarships for families in need, providing some relief.

Focus on Player Development and Training

The main goal of club soccer is to provide players with the opportunity to develop their skills and improve their overall game. Clubs often employ experienced coaches who train players on a regular basis, designing 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, like goalkeeper training or speed and agility training. For instance, in our club, strength and conditioning training is introduced as part of the weekly training for U15 teams and older.

The Importance of Making the Right Choice

Player development is a key aspect of club soccer. If parents feel their child isn’t developing adequately within an organization, they may opt to switch clubs. However, it’s important to watch out; the grass is usually not greener on the other side.

Benefits of Club Soccer

Club soccer offers a plethora of benefits to youth players, encompassing everything from skill development to leadership skills. It’s a realm where young athletes find not only opportunities for exposure and advancement in the sport but also learn valuable life lessons.

  1. Improved Skills and Performance

In club soccer, the developmentally appropriate environment provides players with the chance to improve their game. With year-round access to experienced coaches and advanced training techniques, they can refine their technical skills, enhance their tactical understanding, and boost their physical fitness. This setting allows players to compete at a higher level, challenging them to push their limits and reach their full potential.

  1. Opportunities for Exposure and Advancement

The path of club soccer leads to opportunities for both exposure and advancement. Participating in regional and national tournaments and showcases, players gain visibility, which can lead to college scholarships, professional, and even national team selections.

As players get older, the soccer scene might shrink, yet elite players could be recruited by top-tier clubs. For example, a U15 player from a small club in Ohio could be spotted and recruited to join the prestigious Columbus Crew Youth Academy team.

  1. Fluidity in the System

What I particularly love about club soccer in the U.S. is its fluidity. Unlike other systems where an elite player might find themselves stuck with no room for advancement, the American club soccer system is more dynamic, offering continuous growth opportunities.

  1. Teamwork and Leadership Skills

Club soccer strongly emphasizes teamwork and leadership skills, crucial both on and off the field. Working together towards a common goal, players learn the value of collaboration, communication, and trust. The sport provides ample opportunities for young athletes to take on leadership roles, like team captain or mentor, fostering their confidence and responsibility in the process.

Choosing a Club Soccer Program

Choosing the right club soccer program can be a challenging task for both parents and youth players. With many options available, it’s often difficult to know where to start. It’s essential to have key considerations in mind when selecting a program that aligns best with the player’s needs and aspirations.

Proximity and Research

One primary factor is the proximity of the club. Find clubs within a reasonable travel distance from your home to facilitate easy access to weekly training sessions. Creating a short list of organizations based on their location can significantly narrow down your selection. Additionally, conducting thorough research both online and offline about particular programs can provide deeper insights into what each club offers.

Financial and Coaching Considerations

Financial considerations are crucial. It’s important to figure out the cost of playing for a club, considering not just the fees but also possible tournament expenses, where players might be responsible for their own travel. Another vital aspect is the coaching credentials. Ensure that the club hires experienced staff, as this will make a big difference in player development.

What is difference between club and team?

In the realm of club soccer, understanding the distinction between a club and a team is essential. A team is a group of people who take to the field to play their sport. This includes not only the players but often extends to dedicated support staff like a coach and a manager. The team represents the players and personnel directly involved in the competitive aspects of the sport.

On the other hand, the club can be defined as a wider organisation from which the team derives its support. Usually, a club will encompass and support more than one team, providing a broader infrastructure that includes administrative, developmental, and logistical aspects of running a soccer program. This organisation plays a crucial role in sustaining and nurturing multiple teams under its banner, making the club a fundamental pillar in the community of the sport.

Commitment for Club Soccer

Participating in club soccer demands a significant commitment not only from the players but also from their families. Players are expected to attend practices and games regularly and on time. These practices are typically held two to three times per week, and games are usually played on weekends. This schedule requires players to maintain a high level of physical fitness and conditioning to perform at their best on the field, which can be tough as they transition from the fall to spring season, with the winter months in between.

The commitment to club soccer extends beyond time and effort. There’s also a financial aspect, as players and their families are responsible for paying registration fees, uniforms, equipment, and travel expenses. The cost can be a challenge for many families, but for those with the talent and drive to become better soccer players, this investment can be invaluable.

Club soccer creates an environment where the sport is a priority. For many young athletes, like my son, soccer is their happy place, making every effort and expense priceless. It’s a world where passion for the game meets dedication, shaping not just skilled soccer players but resilient individuals.

What Type of Player Should Consider Club Soccer?

Club soccer is not for every player or parent. It is, however, an excellent option for those looking to accelerate their game to a higher level. The type of player who should consider playing for a club is one who has a deep passion for the game, is coachable, and can commit to the sport throughout the year. These players typically have the drive to become the best they can be, understanding that improvement comes more from trainings than games, and they are open to honest feedback.

Players who excel in this environment often vary in skills and background. However, they are united by their willingness to challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zones, especially if they feel bored with town travel or middle school soccer. Club soccer is a way for them to continuously grow and refine their abilities.

Lastly, for those interested in playing at the collegiate or professional level, club soccer is almost indispensable. College coaches and professional scouts frequently attend club soccer games and tournaments to identify potential recruits. It’s essential to evaluate your son or daughter’s appetite for soccer and their love for the game. If it seems like a good fit, then embracing the club soccer journey could be a rewarding decision.

Does Playing Club Soccer Help Getting Recruited?

Yes, playing club soccer can give athletes an advantage in the process of getting recruited for college soccer. Club soccer demands a year-round commitment and offers more opportunities for players to focus on skill development. This continuous exposure is beneficial, as it gives college coaches more chances to evaluate athletes during competitions.

College coaches often expect their recruits to have club soccer experience, considering that club teams are typically more influential in the sport than high school teams. These teams often play at a higher level of competition, which allows athletes to better showcase their skills and abilities.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize that playing club soccer is not the only factor that determines whether an athlete will get recruited. Other essential factors, such as academic performance, character, and work ethic, also play a significant role in the recruiting process. Therefore, while club soccer provides a platform for skill enhancement and visibility, holistic development remains key in the journey to college soccer.

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. For instance, my son has played basketball in conjunction with club soccer for the past 5 years, and it has helped him with his vision on the field.

However, 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, as certain sports may pose a higher risk of injury to certain body parts, which can impact a player’s ability to perform in soccer. Ultimately, the decision to play other sports is up to the player and their family, and they should weigh the benefits and drawbacks, making an informed decision that aligns with the player’s goals and priorities.


Club soccer presents a unique and rewarding journey for young athletes, offering not just skill enhancement but also character development. It’s a path that requires commitment, adaptability, and a love for the game.

While balancing club soccer with other interests, like academic pursuits or playing other sports, can be challenging, it’s feasible with good communication and time management. Families and players considering club soccer should reflect on their goals, resources, and passion for the game, understanding that the journey is not just about competition, but also about personal growth, team spirit, and life lessons learned both on and off the field.