Updated: Feb 27, 2019
Despite the weathers best efforts, State Cup winners have begun to emerge and an always entertaining tryout period is coming to an end. Naturally players have moved on, new players have moved in and it becomes an exciting time. You can sense an eagerness within the group that they are ready to compete with their new team-mates. Coaches, players and parents will now be turning their attention to Spring Soccer. But with league season not returning until September and the distinct lack of intensity in spring scrimmages, I ask what more can we all do to provide promising young soccer players with the competitive soccer that they crave.
"Only 25 competitive games within 52 weeks of the year"
First and foremost, and it’s a conversation that I have had many times. Why is US Youth Soccer a seasonal sport? Not just at a beginner’s level but all the way up to D1 College Soccer. In England throughout my youth I was accustomed to the soccer season replicating the Premier League. A competitive season would run from August – May and weekend tournaments were available in the summer months. This all equated to a considerable amount of competitive game time. Which is in a stark comparison to the US, where I believe players are missing out on the the valuable development experience of competitive games. If I look back at my own development and ask "How did I learn how to effectively communicate with my team-mates? How did I know how to defend a 1-0 lead in the last few minutes of a game?" I could never pin point a coach and say they taught me that, it was always through the experience of playing in competitive games.
Breaking down the Numbers
Firstly looking at both the SCDSL and the Coast Soccer League, teams are playing between 10-13 league games in a season. Add on 3 guaranteed State Cup games, then say a team enters 3-4 tournaments in a year, with 3 guaranteed games each. You are looking at an average of only 25 competitive games within 52 weeks of the year! For me that’s just not enough!!
What Can We Do?
Many have now turned to providing Spring Leagues, giving teams the opportunity to play competitive soccer all year round. But even so is it enough? Should it not be on a State or National level that these opportunities are provided. Why not prolong seasons or State Cup? There’s certainly no lack of competition, especially here in Southern California. You only have to look at the number of teams that entered this years State Cup. There's not much worse than training and training without getting to play a competitive games and to reiterate this, I recently asked several players at a South Bay Soccer Clinic what they loved about us. Even though the answers were awesome and they all differed, one aspect that always came up was that they loved the competitive tournament at the end of the session. Even if one of the players lost all their games, they still preferred to be scrimmaging than practicing their dribbling or shooting and from a coach's perspective it was very interesting to hear that.