The high school soccer vs Youth club soccer is something that has been around for years in the United States and it looks like this topic will remain fresh and never go away. I hear parents that state that high school soccer is very amateur and that youth club soccer is much more advanced. This general comment in many cases is wrong.
All three of my latest USSF instructors, all three USSF A licence holders are both high school and youth club coaches. Speaking to one of them during a 15 minute course field break, he confessed that he enjoyed coaching high school soccer a lot more than club. He also told me that at the end of the 2015 school year, four of his high school players were drafted into a college soccer program, while on his club U19 and U18 team no one made it to a college team.
The chance to play professionally or in college is not your right and it wont be given to you simply because you play for a DA youth soccer team or because you won two regional’s with your high school team. Players must earn it if they want to play soccer in college or even professionally through passion, dedication and sacrifices. The most important factor is that you must show that you’re mature and a well-experienced soccer player in order to be picked to play at the next level.
I grew up playing soccer on the streets. My friends and I would use the street light poles as goals or we’d sneak into the school playground after that we saw the janitors car was gone. Rome (Italy) has very few parks adapted for soccer and the closest one to where we lived was a 30 minute drive, 2 hours on a bike, so totally out of range! When I started to play at a club level, you’d be playing on clay, no grass! Holes all over the place, not to mention for us goalkeepers diving on clay meant bruises and abrasions all over your body. This is where I gained the confidence despite of the horrible field conditions. The streets is where I learned to do my first goalkeeper saves, I’d go home all cut and ripped and my mother would be furious. One would laugh, but this is where the basic goalie techniques started. Many professional keepers like Walter Zenga and Peter Shilton confessed that they also started on the street. Add to that a huge list of goalkeepers who are currently playing professionally around the world.
Playing the game, at any level, is where you master your skills and gain lots of experience. Games experiences can come from all different sources such youth club, pick up games, personal training, playing on your backyard, high school varsity and junior varsity soccer games and the list goes on…
In 2007, the United States Soccer Federation formed a league for elite youth soccer teams thus to develop better players and reorder what had become a jungle of tens of thousands of club teams, with summer development leagues and the Olympic Development Program. Now, more and more youth soccer clubs in the U.S. Development Academy league are insisting that their players forgo their high school teams completely.
But we tend to forget that since soccer became a really big sport here in the U.S., youths who play soccer think it’s fun here to play for their high school”. Mostly because people come to watch high school soccer a lot more than local youth soccer games, where in the most its followed only by family. High school soccer is a different crowd. your classmates, your friends, even people you don’t know, but support your school. For that reason it’s a LOT more fun to play high school. At the same time, a serious youth soccer club or academy improves you as a player.
Training environment and level of play can totally affect development. This because high school soccer brings together players of different levels, while youth soccer club players will suffer by playing alongside less-skilled players on the high school field. Add to this, that high school teams play too many games, which is against the rules at any serious development youth soccer program, where there should be one game per weekend and 3 to 5 training sessions during the week.
So, what are the chances of a high school soccer player making the transition to the college level? By comparing the number of athletes participating in varsity soccer at US high schools during the 2016-17 school year to the number of college student involved in a soccer program. Overall a little over 2% of high school soccer players (about 1 in 34) went on to play a soccer in college and less than 1% of high school athletes (1 in 68) went on to play at NCAA Division I soccer program. The largest percentage of both male and female college soccer players competed at NCAA Division III universities.
While with Youth Soccer Club soccer players (both make and female) have slightly higher numbers. 1 out of 27 players make it to a college soccer program, however 69% ended up playing in a lower division either NAIA, NJCAA or Division 2 or 3 of the NCAA. The fact that a significant number of high school soccer players simply simply do not continue on to college, just like a huge number of youth club players as well (like millions of students in every sport) is also a key player for students and club players that want to continue their love for the sport for four more years.
So, as you can see the numbers are slightly in favor of the youth soccer club players, but slightly!