Club Soccer Information
Many parents new to soccer may have heard the term “club soccer,” or wonder about additional soccer playing experiences for the advanced player. This FAQ should give you enough information to decide whether club soccer might be a good opportunity for your child. We also point out an alternative to club soccer for the advanced player.
What is club soccer?
In Massachusetts, “club soccer” refers to very competitive boys’ or girls’ soccer teams that play in a competitive league such as MAPLE (Mass. Premier League) or NEP (New England Premier). Other states may refer to these teams as “select” or “premier” clubs.
Club teams require tryouts, which usually take place in June for the upcoming year. Getting into top club teams can be difficult. Players do not come from a specific town. Once a club offers your child a position on the team, they will ask you to sign a contract. Your child is usually on the team for the entire year.
MAPLE organizes leagues by age groups, starting with U10 developmental groups, and continues through U18. The age cutoff date is 7/31 of a given year; e.g., if your child is 10 years old on 7/31 then he/she is considered a “U11” player for the upcoming fall and spring soccer seasons. Beginning at U13, MAPLE groups team by competitiveness into Division 1, 2, and Developmental leagues. Play takes place all over the state, and regular season games take place on Sundays.
There are two seasons for U11 through U14 age groups, fall and spring, and club teams hold practices during the winter and summer. There are usually a few months of inactivity during the year. Starting with U15 (high school), there is only a spring season, but with winter practice sessions. Club teams often participate in tournaments, in special brackets against other club teams.
What are the advantages of club soccer?
There are many benefits to participating in club soccer:
- Improved soccer ability. Your child’s skills will significantly improve due to:
- More practices and games. All players naturally improve just by practicing and playing more.
- Professional coaching. Club soccer teams, unlike town programs with unpaid parent coaches, hire their coaches. These coaches might hold varying levels of coaching licensure. Be aware, however, that there are always good coaches and bad coaches at every level.
- Competition against other strong players. The best way to improve your play is to play with and against other good players.
- Exposure to good life values, including teamwork and individual work. Since most teams are together for the entire year (and typically the core of the team continues from year to year), players learn what it means to work for each other to accomplish goals. Players also make friends with players from different towns since the team may consist of players from many towns. With good coaches, they will be encouraged to work hard at improving their skills and to try their best on the field at all times.
What are some of the drawbacks to club soccer?
The biggest drawbacks to club soccer are:
- Commitment. There is no question that you will be spending a lot of time supporting your player. If there are other players from your town on the team, carpooling can help. But it also means less time for your child to explore other sports.
- Travel. Games are located throughout the state, and club teams often participate in tournaments out of state. Out of state tournaments can be a great experience for both parents and players.
- Expense. The costs can range from $1,000-$2,500+ per year on average, plus tournament and additional training expenses in some cases. Some club teams have a scholarship program, so don’t necessarily make this a “ruling out” factor.
- Competitive pressure. The level of pressure ranges from club to club and coach to coach. Competitive pressures to win can begin as early as the U11 and U12 season in some clubs.
- Inappropriate adult behavior. Unfortunately, some parents over invest in their child’s soccer success and some coaches care more about winning than your child’s development as a player and as a person.
- Coach Turnover. Some club teams experience more coaching turnover than others. Ask parents if they have had the same coach through the years or a new coach every season.
What should I look for in a club soccer team?
Here are some things to consider in choosing a club soccer team. Keep in mind that the club has to select your child to join the team first.
- What is the club team philosophy with respect to
- Winning vs. player development. Most clubs will say the correct things with respect to player development for their youngest teams. I.E., “Winning is secondary to player development.” Try to get a true sense for the club and the coach by speaking to parents of existing club players. Many of these parents will be standing on the sidelines during the tryouts, since players need to try out and make the team each year.
- Playing time. Different clubs and coaches handle playing time in different ways. Clubs usually do not guarantee equal playing time as team results determine placement for the following season.
- Multiple teams. A few clubs maintain a first and second team per age group. Some clubs will move players between teams based on their performance; this can be a source of both opportunity and stress.
- Who will be your child’s coaches and how do they interact with the players?
- Do they show a genuine interest in your child?
- Are they punitive in their practices?
- Are they positive with the players?
- Do they communicate appropriately?
- What are the costs?
- Basic fees (covers coaching, field expenses, league expenses, and perhaps a local tournament. etc.) can run from $1,000 -$2,000 and up per year.
- Uniform Fees (uniforms usually last more than a year)
- Indoor practice fees (often included in the basic fees)
- Tournament Fees and Travel Costs
- Where are the practice fields? Field space is at a premium, and many clubs use practice fields that may not be nearby and thus require travel (sometimes upwards of an hour) 2-3 times per week.
- How frequent are practices and how long do they last?
- What does the winter program consist of and is participation mandatory?
Where can I find a club soccer team?
The first place to look is the MAPLE web site. Be sure to check out the clubs’ home field locations to get ideas where they hold practices. Also, check the May issue of the Bay Stater, a twice yearly publication of the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association. This issue lists many clubs and their tryout sessions. MYSA mails this publication to the families of all Wayland Youth Soccer travel league participants.
Note that most players join teams following tryouts in June, after the state tournaments.
Players from Wayland have played with the following clubs:
Note that new clubs form all the time, or change their name, or merge, so be sure to check MAPLE’s online club directory or the NEP online directory. Clubs play in various leagues.
Can my child participate both in town and club soccer?
We encourage children to continue to play with their town team. We believe that playing with your friends is important, especially at the younger ages. We encourage WAYS coaches to be accommodating of club players regarding practice attendance. As mentioned above, MAPLE games take place on Sundays while town games take place on Saturdays. As kids enter the U13 and U14 levels, some drop town soccer due to increasing pressure on their time but many continue because of the opportunity BAYS soccer offers to play soccer with less pressure and with school friends.
Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association provides guidelines for players who want to participate on multiple teams. In general, club soccer games and practices take precedence over their town soccer counterparts, but town soccer games take precedence over club soccer practices.
The bottom line, of course, is your child, and whether he or she can handle playing on multiple teams.
How can I tell if club soccer is for us?
If you sense your child really enjoys the sport, and has a desire to learn more, it is worth pursuing. If you really have to push your child to try out, he or she could resent the whole experience.
Consider your child’s interests and needs over any vicarious need to compete and excel (there are adult leagues for you!). Be realistic in your reasons for having your child compete in this level of play. The reason to participate in club soccer is to have great experiences and fun playing at a higher level than what is available through the town travel league.