When I first started in competitive soccer, I had no clue how the club world worked. I bet there are parents out there in the same situation I was. Stick with me...read on...I think I can help.
Let's start with the big picture. Soccer, as a global sport, is governed by the Federation International of Football Association (rough translation from the French). In the US, we call the game soccer. A name derived from its proper name - Association Football. For the US, Association got truncated to "soc" and eventually soccer. The rest of the world calls it by the more common name of football.
Each country has its own federation for administration. Our US federation is USSF - United States Soccer Federation. USSF makes the rules for competition in the US including guidelines for youth soccer. Each state has its own federation that works under the USSF. In Nebraska, we fall under the NSSA - Nebraska State Soccer Association. NSSA takes the rules from USSF and implements them at the state level.
Levels of play...this is where it gets interesting. There are basically two different levels that get tossed around - recreational (rec) and club (or select). Recreational clubs typically have kids that want to have fun for fun's sake. They may be athletic, but not very much into soccer. They may not be athletic and are playing to hang out with their friends. There is a lot to be said for playing recreational ball. There are no tryouts. If you want to play, you get to play. It typically doesn't come with the financial or competitive pressures of club ball. All parish teams are considered rec.
Club or select soccer is considered competitive. Each club holds tryouts and selects their players based on ability. Typically, these kids have aspirations of playing high school and maybe college. They generally love the game and want to play at a more competitive level. They are willing to take on the increased time and financial commitment. It should be mentioned that some clubs offer both competitive and recreational. Therefore, you need to know what you are looking for when evaluating clubs.
One more layer to get through - leagues. Leagues are technically not part of the association. For example, Catholic Youth Soccer League is a league that facilitates competition among Catholic parishes. ENSA is a league that facilitates games between recreational clubs in the eastern Nebraska area. NYSL (Nebraska Youth Soccer League) is a new league that took the place of the Nebraska Soccer League. It is the defacto competitive league for the state. The league is open to competitive teams.
Then there are regional leagues. One of several is the Midwest Regional League (MRL). This league is for teams that want to compete on a regional level because some teams need higher level of competition than they are getting locally. Teams that compete in the MRL or other regional leagues travel throughout the Midwest.
And now to dive a little deeper within leagues… Within leagues are divisions of play. Typically, the division of play is designated as Premier, Division I, Division II. The most competitive teams play in Premier and it steps down from there. However, like most international leagues (except for MSL but don't get me started), there is promotion and relegation. At the end of a season, the bottom two or three teams in a division will move down to the lower division, and the top two or three teams in a division will move up a division (except for premier of course). For example, if a team finishes at the bottom of Premier, they will play Division I the following season. And, the top team in Division I will move up to Premier. This is soccer's way of giving teams incentive to play their very best either to avoid relegation or to obtain a promotion.
How is the helpful for the parent interested in club level soccer? The higher the level of play, the more one will have to spend in both time and money. It really is that simple. Then it becomes a family decision on what is right in terms of money, travel, coaching, aspirations, etc.
United Association of Football (UAF) was founded as a club particularly focused on giving CYSL players an alternative place to play select soccer. Select soccer can be time consuming and money eating. But, it doesn't have to be. That's where we comes in.
So what makes us different? That's a whole different post, look for the post "What Makes United Unique" coming soon!
Can't wait to see you on the pitch!