Soccer in Volusia County: Where it was, where it’s at, where it’s going…

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Back in 2002 when leaving Gainesville to come and live in Volusia County, youth soccer was in decline, at every level, however the clubs in the surrounding areas had some pretty good numbers. The soccer facilities in town at that time (Port Orange) were limited, but Ormond Beach and New Smyrna Beach already had some quality soccer fields set in place.

What I did noticed is that soccer is trend, it comes and goes. Thus not only in Volusia County, but widely across the state.

According to a very well detailed Forbes.com article, soccer in the U.S. is in decline. Between 2015 and today, the Sports and Fitness Industry Association reported that the number of 10 to 16-year-old’s playing soccer in the U.S. dropped by 20% and 16 to 18 a sounding 70%!!

Prior to this last drop, soccer had been on a meteoric rise in the US following David Beckham’s 2007 arrival to LA Galaxy. However, those days are long gone. In our county, soccer is still a popular sport, the fourth depending on who you ask.

Volusia county soccer players are leaving, but not quitting sports. The majority are just looking for something different. New trends are Volleyball and Lacrosse and along with the trends we have the comebacks of Basketball and Softball. In 2019-2020 these 4 sports in the state of Florida have grown roughly from 11% to 17% each.

Volusia County Soccer

A good reason of this latest drop could be that the model of “pay to play” has forced good players without funds to chose another sport, something that costs 80% less in average. Now with the Covid-19 pandemic still around us, parents are skeptical to invest that $1,000 into a sports program for their children or keep it just in case!

The youth soccer clubs of the past are still standing, they’ve been here for 30+ years and they will still be here in 30 years to go. Youth soccer in Volusia County will never die, however it has a restricted market.
Due to it’s team numbers it has no access to ECNL, so in 2017 the Port Orange SC let a franchise take over. It was a total disaster from the very start, prices skyrocketed, barrel scraping on anything and in-home tournaments at shocking prices.
The agony lasted two years and as soon as the deal was over the franchise was shown the door and the person responsible for cooking up this deal is now (fortunately) no longer involved in youth soccer.

3 county soccer clubs came up with a very good idea and it’s called Volusia United: It’s a new soccer organization created to allow clubs to work together to provide players increased opportunities to train and compete. It is not designed to merge or replace local clubs.

VUSA has been in the works for years, but only now the three presidents of Stetson FA, Southeast Volusia Soccer Club and the Port Orange Soccer Club have come together and cut a deal to work together, in expanding in many ways the game of youth soccer in our county.

The union of these three clubs has a purpose to augment the activities of local clubs rather than to detract from them. VUSA provides an additional weekly training opportunity on Wednesday where players can come together from all three clubs to train under the direction of qualified coaches. VUSA will provide opportunities to compete together in local club leagues and tournaments.

The 3 participating Volusia County youth soccer clubs agree that working together is more likely to produce much better results in youth athletes.

Will this change the face and format of soccer in Volusia County? It will if the 3 clubs involved cooperate and work together for the good of the athlete! However, the 3 clubs combined do not reach the minimum numbers of teams required to join the Academy or Elite state and national leagues. So the exposure of their players should be that of sending their teams to as many first class tournaments possible. This is where the Collage Coaches come to discover new talents!

The layout and the plan are not bad, but what about the price? How much will it cost to keep your child in this newly formed soccer organization? $1,500 per season? Well they’re keeping the cost affordable for local soccer families and the tuition fee is $100 per season. No contracts, no hidden fees, just one hundred bucks!

So, it is also good to notice that it’s not about the money, no one is going to liner their pockets with this.

VUSA is not a franchise, it’s a union, it’s different. Each of the three youth soccer clubs keep their name and identity. It’s a well orchestrated cooperation and if the three administrations can keep getting along, it’s going to be a long-term success!

How about High schools with soccer programs? They should be working to develop players like in football, basketball, and baseball programs. The coaches should be in contact with college soccer programs, taking video of their star players and sending the footage all over the country, right?…
…They are NOT! Coaches ego’s and old-school mentality is stalling our high school soccer programs (With the exception of Seabreeze HS).

Next question:
Would Volusia County be big enough to bring in a pro-soccer club? We’ve seen that as well with Daytona Soccer Club (now Daytona Rush).
The answer is no. Our county is not involved enough in soccer to have a USL academy, especially when there’s one in Jacksonville another in Tampa and a MLS academy 35 miles south from here in Orlando.
You can get the idea that pro-soccer is not of huge interest when at a USL soccer even here in Volusia County, the spectators in attendance are less than what you’d find at a high school soccer game. This is a big red flag that shows there is no market for that in this county!

I just stated that an academy has no market in Volusia County. How come that the ZEE Goalkeeper Academy is successful?
It’s a different ballgame! Our academy functions locally, but 50% of our students are not from Volusia County. We have parents that drive their kids from Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Ocala, Melbourne, Gainesville… to attend our Friday sessions. The academy is set at a very reasonable price that gives access to all families our goalkeeper education. We’re not a balls and cones academy, we actually invest in professional equipment.

Volusia County will never become a soccer giant, because of numbers and interest. However programs like VUSA could bring back the interest in the game. There’s a buzz out there on the street, I see they’re heading in the right direction… Time will tell!

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