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Is High Level Youth Soccer Worth The Investment?

Published: 2021-05-21
Is High Level Youth Soccer Worth The Investment?
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Iain Byrne, head coach at Oneonta Men's Soccer and former professional player in South Africa, breaks down the pros and cons of higher level youth soccer.


Hello to all you future Lionel Messi’s, and Jurgen Klopp wannabes:

In this post, I thought I would answer a question I am asked from parents of many youth players. Should they pursue a competitive club program and all the costs associated with that adventure?

The youth sports world is a 15.3 billion dollar industry in the United States. In fact, soccer has boomed during the last years in the US and the Youth Soccer Association is now the biggest youth sports organization in the nation. Usually, players participate with the ultimate goal of landing a college roster spot — or even better, a college soccer scholarship


Clubs Have Costs They Need to Cover

You need to take into consideration that soccer clubs or teams are businesses. As well as any other business, they have expenses to cover which include:

  • They have to pay the coaches and personnel salaries.
  • Pay the rent for the training facilities if they do not own one.
  • Pay for the referees and league fees.
  • Buy training equipment such as goals, cones, soccer balls, weights, training rubber bands, etc.
  • Uniforms, bags, and travel suits.
  • Medical insurance to cover any accident that might happen at games or in the field.

This is why soccer clubs have so many fees, and they are passed down to each player. Clubs need to cover those expenses and make a profit in order to sustain themselves and keep existing. Fees can vary a lot depending on the club. There will always be clubs that are super expensive and others that are cheaper.


The Costs of Soccer Broken Down

So, how much does it cost to play soccer for a club? On average, anything around $5,000 to $10,000 per year is considered normal. Those fees normally include uniforms, insurance, referees and coaches’ salaries.

Now, this is not always the case and might vary in each country. Families have good reasons to pay for this as it may pay off in the future. Some of them even see it as an investment. Soccer teams and coaches always want the best team, so many talented but financially deprived players can oftentimes have their fees reduced or comped (scholarships).

Here are some of the expenses that players have to meet.

  • Registration fees
  • Monthly membership fees
  • Annual tournament participation fees
  • Equipment purchases
  • Travel for matches and tournaments

Travel expenses from soccer can add up very quickly if not treated with caution. Plain tickets, gasoline, car rental, hotels, restaurants and food, insurance, and international trips can be greater than the team’s annual fee or the equipment to play soccer. On the other hand, traveling does bring its own benefits: you learn from different cultures, meet new people, go to new places, and it is always a fun experience.


Benefits of Paying the Price

So, why do families spend such amounts of money on having their kids play for a soccer club? Well, parents say they have different reasons. Some are driven by financial motives, dreaming of their kids becoming professional soccer players one day. Soccer players at the top level earn A LOT of money, and many parents hope all the money they are spending today will return when their kid earns millions playing the game.

On a similar note, others say that they want their children to earn a soccer scholarship for college one day. Not having to pay college thanks to a scholarship would make all the thousands of dollars spent for years to play soccer in a travel club totally worth it. Therefore, you could say some parents see it as an investment.

Playing travel sports can be a major commitment for young athletes and their families, but the benefits of participation can last a lifetime. Here are some of those benefits.


  1. Takes Your Game to the Next Level

One of the main benefits of participating in travel sports is having the chance to experience a more challenging level of play. While recreational sports leagues are great for learning the fundamentals of a game, as players get older, the best athletes typically make the jump from rec teams to travel teams. If you are interested in eventually playing at the college level, a background in travel sports is your surest path to the college roster.

  1. Builds Close Friendships

Many lifelong friendships begin on travel sports teams. Between practice, games, and traveling, the sheer amount of time spent with teammates is virtually guaranteed to inspire camaraderie. The social benefits of being part of a travel sports team can be especially significant for children who tend to be quiet or shy.

Youth sports are one of the best ways to make lifelong friends


  1. Sharpens Time Management Skills

As we mentioned above, travel sports typically come with a demanding schedule. Rather than viewing this as a negative, however, we consider it a great opportunity for young athletes to bolster their time management skills. Figuring out how to balance academics and athletics fosters a discipline and work ethic that will serve players well in the future.


  1. Correlates with Career Success

Just as playing sports correlates with academic success, it also correlates with professional success. A survey of over 400 female executives found that 94 percent had played competitive sports in their youth. Similarly, a study conducted by Cornell University found that adults who played sports as teenagers had more career success and were also more likely to be involved in charitable work.


  1. Traveling Can Be a Lot of Fun

Of course, one of the best parts of playing travel sports is traveling! Young athletes on travel teams have the unique opportunity to visit new places and play against competitors from different parts of the country. Many families take advantage of their children’s sports travel by planning a vacation around a tournament or event.

Traveling with a team is always an incredible experience


None of this is to say that only high-level club players can progress to the college and professional ranks, but it is very difficult to do so if you do not have that experience under your belt. The vast majority of college and professional players played at the highest youth level where the best coaching and level of competition is offered.



I would be happy to answer questions you have about college soccer in the USA……Shoot straight to iain.byrne@oneonta.edu

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