19 responses

  1. Muz
    December 4, 2007

    This is a great article with a lot of research. I am unable to comment on youth development in the US however I can comment on it from an Australian perspective. We do have similar problems however our youth systems are probably not as structured as yours. Cost to register to play in say an U14 side would be approx $120US for the season which is about 18 games. Travel is minmal as the games are generally local. Representative soccer is where the costs start to add up from $1000 upwards.
    We do need to strike a balance. We need our kids playing sport to distract them from ‘other’ things they are faced with during their growing years, additionally sport is a great outlet and is also recommended to reduce the increasing weight problems associated with our youth.
    More Federal and State Funding is required to develop our youth teams and ultimately provide those players with ability, an avenue for them to progress. However, we also need to make this game affordable for the families and the kids that just want to get out there and kick a ball and have some fun. It doesnt always have to be about producing a superstar – Make it affordable so the kids can play.

  2. JohnT
    December 17, 2007

    I came upon your blog with aninterest in hearing what people have to say about containing costs…but do not see that discussion.

    It is my experience, from having been involved in team management within a “classic” level club that while many of those involved in the upper management of a club really do care about the children, the game and the children learning and competinig at the highest level…too many of them believe the club which they manage and/or direct is “theirs”, …like a fifedom. The have a diffciult time opening up participation of others within the club, on its boards and in its decision making processes. These clubs often their financals, even though most of them are designated by the IRS and their state governments as foundations and/or non-profits and have a responsibility to make their finances public. Since many of those who run the clubs are part of the “coaching brotherhood”…and as such their expenses, including tournaments costs and others are paid for by the families of the players, the cost of a player playing isn’t really given the scrutiny and consideration it should. Too often if it is desired or wanted by the coach(es)it is received…leaving the required payment(s) of the coaching get their wish granted to fall in to the hands of parents who may or may not be able to pay for it!

    If the US soccer world was truly concerned about opening up the world of competetve soccer to any child capable of playing at that level, then they would be seriouly considering the state of affairs when it comes to youth soccer tournaments and the rising travel costs for families and the social responsibility of driving so much, using unnecessary fuel consumption and furthering the discussion that “elite: level soccer is only for those with $$$$

  3. Soccer Dad
    December 22, 2007

    While I believe some leagues are run as fiefdoms, the more common problem I see is that the core group that want the league to succeed have trouble recruiting others to help. But I can absolutely see how it can be viewed as protective. In many leagues, a core group of people spend countless hours a week ensuring the league operates smoothly and succeeds. So they have a natural interest in wanting to ‘protect’ the league. I’ve seen first hand how one person on a crusade can put a league at serious risk. So in our case, we absolutely welcome additional volunteers and board members to help, we also want to ensure those that do help have the leagues best interests at heart regardless of personal agendas.

    The part about the finances is something I’ve never understood. I can’t believe soccer leagues are that worried about what people would find. Seriously – you take in money from registrations and camp fees and pay it out for referees, training/coaches, equipment, and facility maintenance. We happily will send our budget and income/expense statement to anyone who requests it. We’re a non-profit organization and we serve at the pleasure of our members – the families who participate.

    I think it can be said of MOST leagues, people aren’t getting rich off the kids. Yes, many coaches are paid. How much is always a matter of debate. But the truth of the matter for many metropolitan leagues, tournaments are a MAJOR source of income for their leagues. If the income wasn’t coming from tournaments, it would have to come from registration fees, further increasing the barriers to participation. Though I will say the inflation rate of tournament fees has been pretty drastic. It’s seemed that five years ago you were paying around $350/team and now it’s pushing $450/$500 a team.

    Yes, some teams go crazy with tournaments. But they are good experiences. My girls went to three this year, but all were local (we’re very lucky to live in a soccer hot spot in the state with large leagues and excellent tournaments within an hour or two drive) So there was an added cost of about $100 per player. But we also told the parents ahead of time that that was likely to be the case and players were not bound to participate and we also have a financial aid program available.

    I just don’t know what US Soccer can do regarding tournaments that would really have an impact. The vast majority of players and parents I’ve encountered enjoy going to them. One thing they could do – and this will seem strange – is if the state affiliates were less stingy in approving tournaments. If you have more tournaments in a given state – travel would probably be lessened somewhat. Sure the elite teams would still go to the major ones. But a vast majority of teams would probably prefer to stay more local, yet still would face tough competition.

    Clearly – leagues and coaches need to be more upfront about the true costs of youth soccer. Even our league has debated making financial aid more encompassing – ie covering tournament fees, etc in addition to the normal registration fees. But all too often smaller leagues face resistance trying to get a tournament sanctioned since there are already others going on on the same weekends – its protective (the big clubs protecting their interests and income streams), yet having more local tournaments would significantly reduce travel costs.

    I personally think it’s great for a team to make ONE hotel trip a year. They’re fun, the kids have a blast, and it’s doable for almost all the families. But the rest of the tournaments should be local. We’ll probably do five tournaments this year. None or one will require a hotel stay. The rest we can drive to. I think that’s a good thing.

  4. Kristopoulos
    January 4, 2008

    Hello ,
    Great article! I´m really glad that I live in Finland..My son is playing in local U-13 team (KyIF). The equipment costs are similar here too. Son´s team takes part on summer time on regional league and in winter-time they will take a part to Futsal-league and Hall-league. There will be about 6-8 tournaments on summer time.. and this wil cost about 300€ (Euros) that´s includes insurance and licences and all participate costs costs for coach and this is for whole year!

  5. Joel Maners
    April 8, 2008

    Last year, me and another volunteer coach (along with our daughters) decided to put together a Select U-11 team made up of the academy players that we coached in the previous spring season. Both of us are experienced E certified coaches. We wanted to experiment and see just how affordable we could make our team. We ended up charging $265 per player (11 players) for the fall season. We played 2 friendlies and 3 tournaments, two of them included travel to neighboring cities. That $265 included uniform, bag, state registration fees, and tournament entry fees. It did not include travel expenses. We did limit the coast of the rooms to under $80 per night but that included breakfast. We were granted the use of a private soccer field so we had no expense related to practice fields. Neither the coaches or trainers took a salary but we were able to provide a great experience for some kids that might not have been able to afford Select soccer. This spring, we’ve been as competitive a team as any in our division.

    The bottom line is, soccer doesn’t have to be expensive. Spending more money does not make a kid better necessarily. I resent the way some coaches have turned soccer into a profit machine which excludes those families who can’t afford “professional” coaches.

  6. Soccer Dad
    April 9, 2008

    That’s excellent Joel! We try to keep costs low here as well. We charge $200 a season, which includes two uniforms, soccer bag, a ball, coaching equipment, two tournaments, the end of year State Cup/Festival, gas cards for the coaches, referee fees, registration/insurance fees, and so on. We don’t pay for hotels, since many tournaments our teams attend are local. The good news is we look to have some breathing room in our Challenge division budget to add in some skills training.

    It doesn’t have to be expensive, but like you, we don’t have field costs, which I believe can make up a sizable portion of a competitive team’s budget, in addition to paid coaches if they are used. I think paid coaches get a bad rap, when many are truly devoted to what they do and are trying to make a living doing what they enjoy. But that doesn’t mean volunteer coaches are inherently bad – I’ve never understood the vitrol from some soccer folks towards parents who coach or volunteer to coach teams without their child.

  7. Joel Maners
    April 11, 2008

    I guess what bugs me is when a select team adds a marginal player to their club knowing that they have little chance of succeeding or even enjoying playing at that level. Some kids just need to stay at the rec level and enjoy it. I have 1 daughter in Select and one in rec so I’m not biased one way or the other. The only reason I can fathom that you would add a marginal player is to get their money. I’ve see it too many times. A parent signs their kid up to play for a Select team. they pay their non-refundable fee. The kid and the parents soon figure out what the coaches knew all along, the player needed to stay at rec. the kid ends up dropping out of soccer altogether. The only ones that come out ahead are the professional coaches. I’m not against paid coaches by any means. What I am against is coaches taking advantage of parents just to add a paying player to their roster.

  8. John Koziol
    June 2, 2009

    I want to put together a u15 team and see how affordiable I can make it. You still need to be part of the US Soccer Federation. Any suggestions how to proceed.

  9. hey lyle ;0
    January 6, 2011

    i like to play soccer too

  10. Danielle Daves
    February 14, 2011

    How much total nwould it be each season including uniforms?

  11. soccer dad
    June 7, 2011

    A pretty good estimate that holds up today — but the real costs kick in when a team is successul enough to make the USYA regional tournaments. Those can involve thousands in travel for one tournament alone . . . My daughter’s Maine-based team costs ended up being $1150 fee; travel to two spring tournaments ($300 each); two pairs of cleats $250 (trust me, $100 cleats do NOT last for a full year, plus it helps to have two pairs for muti-day tournaments in the rain); UA top, tights and undershorts+ other equipment (about $125); and the kicker, a week-long trip to Region1 championships: hotel – $800, car rental ($450), food ($500 and that included several team dinners we cooked ourselves) and airfare (about $900) for a season total of about $5000. Could have saved a little by driving, but still a $4000+ investment for a year.

  12. Soccer Dad
    June 8, 2011

    Absolutely – at the higher levels when you’re competing regionally – the costs are much higher. But that was the main point here – often you read these articles and they complain about how costs to play soccer are ‘so high’ and yet that’s often the rare exception (compared to the total number of kids playing), but that’s never mentioned. The top teams absolutely pay more $$$ given how much farther they’ll travel for decent competition and exposure, but overall most teams don’t travel that far and the costs are (or can be) lower.

  13. A
    August 28, 2011

    Two main points here, one detail-oriented, one philosophy oriented:

    1. The costs to participate are low-balled. Onc eyour child is over age 6, equipment costs are $30 for cleats, $15 for shinguards, and $18 for a ball. The only truly affordable piece for soccer is the shorts ($10-20, lots of uses, and easy to hand-down). Also sport wear for practice, waterbottles, etc. ratchet the cost to play upward.

    2. The concept of “select” drains the community of model players who would still succeed if left in community ball, and the coaches that are sometimes their parents (either by coaching in select or just no longer being available and invested the community leagues). I would like to know based on the highly talented players that ultimately DO make it to college, etc., how many of them are from rural locations that don’t even have select teams as an option, as an argument AGAINST the need for select teams and organizations to even exist.

  14. COL
    August 30, 2011


    Very few players select/travel players end up playing college soccer, especially from the “colder” weather regions where you are not playing outdoors all year round. But if you look at most college programs when they announce recruits, the players’ club (or ODP participation) is mentioned. In areas where school soccer is in the fall, the goal of many of these kids is simply to make their school team.

    To develop, players need both good coaching and an environment of other committed, skilled players (not including the main factor which is the self discipline to become technically proficient and physically fit outside organized training). Select/travel/premier is just a more efficient manner to do this, especially in smaller communities. I know a few “town” programs that have reached the level of forming teams competitive with premier/club programs, but they have essentially created a ‘select’ subprogram within their larger organization. Conversely, you see even more clubs/premier programs forming “academies and junior programs” at the U8/10 level that mimic what town programs do. Not only are you paying (in theory) for better coaching, but you are paying for your kid to be around other kids who take it seriously.

    At the $50-100 rec level, you accept some of the kids are there for different reasons other than just to become better soccer players and the coach may be a parent who only has basic knowledge/experience of the game. You hope the program overall is run by experience enough people that provides enough support so kids learn to love the game in a safe setting and get some basic fundamentals. And for the most part, town programs generally do a good job in that regard (or hopefully go out of business/get new leadership) and should consider the kids that go onto select/premier as well as school/ODP as a measure of their success. If you club can do the $250-500 travel teams that have some success or graduate kids at U14 and higher to more “select” programs, than that is great as well.

    And yes, there are premier clubs that take on players to make a team when they should not accept the player. It’s like any other high end “purchase” you make — due diligence is involved. What’s the club’s player development/playing time philosophy? What’s the team’s expectation for commitment to training and what are the penalties for kids who do not meet them? What are the coaches’ credentials? What facilities does the club use? What’s the return rate of existing players and where have graduates of the club ended up? Etc..(you get the point).

    And I disagree on one point — I actually think there are too many tournaments. Look at guidance for training to playing ratios and/or the guidance in the new US Soccer curriculum and you find a lot of teams end up playing way more when they should be training. I’m generally not for adding rules or restrictions, but perhaps limiting tournament participation beyond State Cup to 2 a season might help self-correct. I do appreciate many clubs need a tournament to keep team costs lower and more local tournaments reduce costs for more general select programs, but teams should be training a lot more than playing and that would keep costs (and injuries) lower.

  15. Melissa
    June 14, 2012

    Interesting. I got to this article by way of researching the “stay to play” phenomenon that I’m seeing more and more these days. However, I just wanted to say… soccer has NOTHING on hockey. My daughter is 15 and we don’t live in a hockey hot spot. For her to play at the top level last year both travel ice and travel inline hockey during the ice off season, with tournaments across the country, gear, coaching, clinics, etc… I paid just under $14,000. And I didn’t even go with her to most of the tournaments, she travelled with other families.

    Is it worth it? Well, I’m not doing it in hopes that she gets a scholarship. She may or she may not play hockey in college and she may or may not get a hockey scholarship. I’m still planning on having to figure out how to pay for college. Let’s be honest… if you are spending a ton of money on your kid’s sport in order to save money in college by way of scholarship, that is a bad plan. The plan is hopefully hockey can give her access to a school that she might not otherwise have been able to get into, like an Ivy. From there, academics are the best chance as far as $$$.

    I bet you can’t find any family with national average income that has kids in elite hockey, because it’s just impossible. Even ice hockey at high school level where I live is about $1500 for a season, not including gear which for basic, medium quality set you will spend at least $600-700. For a house league this fall, kids age 6-16 all pay $749 ($699 if you pay in full before a deadline) for a 6 month season of one practice, one game each week. That is the cheapest ice hockey at the lowest level there is to be found in my state.

    For me, I spend the money because she loves the sport, is quite talented, and I am able to afford it with careful planning and budgeting. So for me, I read this article and I definitely wish she played soccer!

  16. Tony Ziller
    November 14, 2013

    The cost to have whatever is top quality is high. I run a select club, and I do charge for the knowledge I’ve acquired all my life long.
    I am 60 years old, and I’ve been involved with soccer since I was a little boy. My father used to play pro soccer, and he would spend hours working with me in my early ages. I started playing for a club when I was just 5. I had to work hard 4 times a week,and play once on weekends.
    Like any doctor, or lawyer that has prepared for his/her professional career, I’ve done the same, the difference is the area we work in.
    I charge US$100,00 fee a month from each in player my club to train them. All the other expenses are paid separately.
    I believe my experience is woth more that that, but unfortunately if I charge more, players won’t come to me.
    If you want to play recreational soccer, it is a totally different thing. Coaches are usually parents that like and study the game, but without large experience about the game.
    I don’t think costs for select soccer are high. If you aim a schorlaship in a college, you need to be very well trained to get it, and that has a cost.

  17. Pocono Man
    November 30, 2013

    I think it is ridiculous for travel soccer coaches to get paid. All across the nation, Little league coaches, Pop Warner coaches, Travel baseball coaches, etc. do not get paid for the time they put in coaching kids – they do it for the love of the game and to give something back to the game – they do not do it for monetary gain. Paid youth coaches create a conflict of interest and can easily wind up using kids for their own agenda. U.S. soccer will lag behind the rest of the world until youth soccer in the U.S. becomes affordable for the lower and middle classes – currently, soccer is mainly available to the those that can afford it rather than those who love it.

  18. K
    May 14, 2014

    I think you have some good points. The problem I have is the disparity in cost between large clubs and small clubs. Due to moving, we left a small club where all coaches were volunteer to have to play at a large club where the coaches are paid and their are fees for every little thing.

    I have an E license which I paid for out of pocket and would like to get a D license. Yet while I was a challenge coach at my last club, the new club does not seem to be interested in me volunteering. Their paid coach system seems to be what they like and they will adhere to it come hell or high water. Never mind the fact that the club we just left was decently competitive at the Classic level (we played in the same league as the new club and finished with a better record) for 1/5 the price. So, if the paid coach system is working so great, where are the results?

    It also bothers me to hear the, “we’re big, so it cost more for us to operate.” argument from these bigger clubs. The club we left is privately funded through donations and fees. The club we are stuck with gets municipal help. You would think with taxpayer dollars cutting some of their overhead, they could offer a better fee schedule.

    The more I am finding out, the less I like it. The coaches tend to be school coaches as well, and it is becoming apparent to me, if you play for one of the smaller clubs in the area, you don’t have a shot of making the school team. It is starting to look like it is all an effort by the well to do in this area to make sure their kids have a lock on the opportunities that offer a path to college soccer and they have set up a system to make sure the “undesirables” don’t have a chance. Ability and skill don’t matter. It is all who you are and who you know. I hope that I am wrong, but the evidence I find the more I look is not encouraging.

  19. domain
    September 28, 2014

    constantly i used to read smaller posts which as well clear
    their motive, and that is also happening with this piece of writing which
    I am reading here.

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