2011 Soccer America's Best Boys Clubs

[RANKINGS] For a record fourth year in a row, the Baltimore Bays remain the No. 1 team in Soccer America’s ranking, launched in 2003, of the nation's best boys clubs. The Bays beat out three MLS clubs -- FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire -- in this year's rankings.

The Bays won their record ninth U.S. Youth Soccer boys title when their Bays Chelsea team beat the Chicago Fire Juniors, 2-0, to claim the 76th McGuire Cup championship at the 2011 National Championships.

The Bays U-19s finished their run as three-time national champions, having also won titles as U-14s and U-15s.

More impressive, the Bays have won at least one USYS national title in each of the last six years.

The Bays Chelsea also finished fifth in the Development Academy's U-17/18 age group when Michael Gamble scored four second-half goals in the 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls in their placement game.

Criteria: Soccer America selects the top 30 clubs based on success of their teams in national youth competitions over the last three years (2009-11) and the selection of their players to national youth teams and other national achievements in 2011. Club profiles may reference other accomplishments, but accomplishments of former players and the number of players placed in college are not considered.

Club profiles appear in Soccer America's Best Boys Clubs feature in the Best of American Soccer 2011 magazine, which is included in magazine subscriptions and also available for purchase (see below).

2011 Top 30 Boys Clubs
1. Baltimore Bays
2. FC Dallas
3. New York Red Bulls
4. Chicago Fire
5. PDA
6. Dallas Texans
8. Concorde Fire
9. Cal Odyssey
10. Michigan Wolves
11. Pateadores
12. Real So Cal
13. D.C. United
14. Crossfire
15. Columbus Crew
16. Vardar
17. Los Angeles Galaxy
18. Carmel United
19. PA Classics
20. Fullerton Rangers
21. Grand Rapids Crew Juniors
22. Chicago Magic
23. Seattle Sounders
24. St. Louis Scott Gallagher
25. West Coast SC
26. RSL AZ
27. Arsenal FC
28. Yardley Makefield Soccer
29. Westside Metros
30. Albion SC

No. 1 Boys Clubs
2003 -- FC Delco
2004 -- Chicago Magic
2005 -- Chicago Magic
2006 -- Chicago Magic
2007 -- Dallas Texans
2008 -- Baltimore Bays
2009 -- Baltimore Bays
2010 -- Baltimore Bays
2011 -- Baltimore Bays

Soccer America's annual Best Boys Clubs story, detailing the accomplishments of the ranked clubs and their players, will appear in Soccer America's Best of American Soccer 2011 magazine, which is included in magazine subscriptions.

Readers interested in purchasing individual copies of Best of American Soccer 2011 magazine can do so at: Soccer America subscriptions

Clubs interested in purchasing copies of Soccer America's Best of American Soccer 2011 at bulk rates should contact Soccer America's Christopher Carney at: chrisc@mediapost.com

Clubs interested in advertising in Soccer America's Best of American Soccer 2011 should contact Soccer America's Doug Murdock at: doug@socceramerica.com

34 comments about "2011 Soccer America's Best Boys Clubs".
  1. John Ruprecht, December 14, 2011 at 8:02 a.m.

    "Club profiles may reference other accomplishments, but accomplishments of former players and the number of players placed in college are not considered."

    Absolutely pathetic! A youth club's main focus should be on producing the best players. Therefore this should be the highest criteria when considering the "Best Club". It's a weak cop-out to use tournament results as your main criteria rather than the obvious - producing quality players.

  2. Amos Annan, December 14, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.

    This is about money and only encourages the winning at all cost attitude. There is no measure on quality of training and advancement of players... just winning.

  3. R2 Dad, December 14, 2011 at 9:14 a.m.

    Tracking the wrong metrics. This type of media feedback reinforces bad coaching & bad parenting. You should only be allowed to publish Top Club information if you also publish Club Revenue numbers and Coaches Salary figures. This is La Liga writ small.

  4. Walt Pericciuoli, December 14, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.

    Agree with all comments. This ranking again reinforces the need to win at all costs mentality.Its' amazing how many coaches/trainers are consumed($)by these National Ranking services and Tournaments.
    Youth club soccer should be only about reaching and developing as many players as possible.

  5. Luis Arreola, December 14, 2011 at 10:24 a.m.

    Can't agree with you guys anymore. This is exactly what is wrong with soccer in America. The focus is on winning as this is what they are measured for. I wonder what the defenition of "Development Academy" is for the USSF? Because so far the main focus has not been the individual players. The fantasy right now in this joke of "Academy" system is to try and gather the best talent that can pay together so they can play at the highest level. When this is not enough to win then these clubs go to other states or even countries to bolster their teams. Development?

  6. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 10:26 a.m.

    I watched the U17 MNT play in Nike Friendlies, there was not one player from the Bays (or even Region 1) on that team. How can the #1 Boys club have no players on that team? (especially if it wins that title every year?) Also... they should do the story properly or not do it at all. They need to look at clubs from top to bottom, not just the teams they piece together for tournaments. Does the club have facilities, are the second and third teams at an age group being treated the same as the top team? How many of their players start at D1 schools? Licensing of coaches? etc...

  7. Luis Arreola, December 14, 2011 at 10:34 a.m.

    I have seen first hand how 2 of these "Top" clubs go out and recruit in other states and countries which many times are the best players on their "Academy" teams. Soccer America, you are also to blame for this irresponsible behavior by glorifying these meaningless achievements! !!

  8. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 10:34 a.m.

    Someone needs to do a ranking of best clubs if you want to play D1 or professional. Soccer America could step up and do that?!?! Only measure "accomplishments of former players and the number of players placed in college are not considered." Oh, and professional indoor soccer (paying $10k a year) does not count as an accomplishment. That is where the top Bays players too often end up.

  9. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.

    Super Man -- Sorry, it seems like I did look at the wrong roster, or it was posted wrong wherever I read it weeks ago. Yes, there are Region 1 players on the team and others in the US MNT player pool at that age. Yet, still not one Bays player! Go figure that from the #1 Boys Club. (and by the way, the Bays have posted it on their website as #1 club. They left out that they are not the #1 Girls club on their website. Nice how they do that.

  10. Luis Arreola, December 14, 2011 at 10:50 a.m.

    Stuper, again with the ignorance. The teams that win are usually the ones with the better players? Have you played soccer or any competitive sport for that matter? If you glorify winning over individual player achievements at the youth ages the focus will be on recruiting size, strength and speed to win, especially at the younger ages. If you glorify the individual players achievemnets of top clubs then the focus will be to recruit talent and teach skill at all ages. Parents that are willing to pay for the best go by these very articles that falsely promote these clubs as the best. These clubs know this and take advantage of this fact as much as possible. Since there haven't been many pros coming out there should also be a focus on college players produced as this is also a better than usual achievement. I would also base these club rankings on how long these top team players had been developing under these same clubs before. I think this alone would drastically change this order.

  11. Ronnie j Salvador, December 14, 2011 at 10:59 a.m.

    There's a bunch of Region 1 players on the team. However, not all made the Region 1 pool. Identification of top players isn't a science. My only gripe with ranking clubs like this, is that for the most part players arrive at these clubs *already* skilled, and thus were mostly developed elsewhere. Most coaches will admit, at least in private, that all they do is recruit/grab/steal players who are already skilled.

  12. Luis Arreola, December 14, 2011 at 11:15 a.m.

    Ronnie, exactly. This all starts at the top. If the federation bases their ranks on win/loss results this will always be the same. Parents should do their homework and look up the clubs in their area where the "Top" clubs go to recruit the most. Many times they will find that these clubs are much cheaper but better training even without the grade "A" facilities. When I make enough money to retire I will personally start a website ranking the top clubs by players produced at all ages disregarding where they end up.

  13. Walt Pericciuoli, December 14, 2011 at 11:29 a.m.

    The rankings is a self promoting and perpetuating program. Clubs coaches/trainers use them to recruit players from anywhere they can so they can continue to place high in the rankings and charge outrages fees to earn their salary. Parents will pay these fees with the hope that their little soccer prodigy will someday "earn" a "free" education.The system is corrupt.If we are purely about professional player development, then the professional MLS clubs must be involved in a much deeper way than they are now.The smaller clubs should be a feeder program to their local pro club academy program. There should be no age requirements and the local pro club should offer monetary rewards to the local clubs for any players developed and accepted into the Academy system.This will offset costs and encourage local clubs to search high and low for players, not rich parents. The Pro clubs should also offer the local clubs training guidance and standards.Once the player enters the Academy program, they should never have to pay any fees.Academy players should also be released to compete with their own clubs whenever they are not needed by the Academy.Their should be constant evaluation, promotion and demotion within and out of the system at all ages with age not being a barrier before the age of 18.The top local clubs will then be measured by how many players make it to the Academy program and the Academy programs will then be judged by how many local players reach the highest levels of professional soccer. School ball will be for all others.

  14. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.

    Walt...you are right and a new attempt at a solution is coming. The MLS teams should be the only academies and where there are no MLS teams, they should run some sort of program tied to the closes MLS teams. For example, New Mexico has no MLS team so perhaps FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, or LA could put an academy there that they run and control. That way the purpose of that academy is develop players. The non-MLS academies have to try and win to recruit players, which hurts the development tract. MLS teams want to find the next player that they can play on their team, or sell if necessary. That is the model abroad. So.. and this is a rumor, but what I hear is that the MLS clubs are going to start an ID program to find kids that are not in their academy. That will make it possible for kids to not play for non-MLS academies (due to distance usually) and still get the exposure they need for MLS or college. This should cripple or kill the non-MLS academies out there. They never should have been given that status anyway.

  15. Luis Arreola, December 14, 2011 at 11:53 a.m.

    Duncan, before we talk about the nonMls Academies why don't we first talk about what the MLS Academies have done better? Both follow the same system and look for the same outcomes to profit the same way. The "only" solution is what Walt just mentioned. Who needs an attempt at a solution when the solution is so simple?? What makes Walt's solution so complicated is the money and profits involved. That's all. Why would MLS invest in its "Academies" if rich USA parents are more than willing to do so themselves? What it will take is continued underachievements at the National team levels to raise the red flag and have people open their eyes to these facts.

  16. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 12:02 p.m.

    Luis-- I agree with Walt up to a certain age. The existing clubs, and even travel programs in some areas, are good enough to develop players up to an age. I still think that at U16 kids of a certain level would be better off in an academy. I don't agree with you that the non-MLS academies and MLS academies follow the same system or look for the same outcomes. I am close enough to two of them to see how different they look at players, the level of coaches differ so much, the fee structure, the pre-academy invention, facilities, and so much more. They are night and day.

  17. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.

    Ric -- Clubs abuse the 5013c thing anyway though. We regularly have coaches come to our club from a club that is now an academy (for a variety of reasons). We do pay our coaches but it is not a lot (sometimes as little as $500 for 4 months). No one else in the organization gets paid a dime. All our finances are audited annually and presented to the families each year. The issues we face with many of these coaches is that we pay them legally (1099 IRS) and the other club does not. Plus, we have a policy that coaches cannot get paid to train their own players outside the team practices or push them to do camps they own or are involved with. The other club does not have such a policy. The result is that to coach at the academy they make way more money, all under the table or unethically in terms of the training/camp. That is aside from all the other shenanigans going on with non-Academy teams' fees funding the better teams in their age group, better players playing on scholarship that is nothing more than the weaker players on a team paying their fees without knowing it, the 5 coaches listed on the academy team staff getting paid when the boys only see 1-2 of them, claiming they provide goal keeper training for free, when it really just comes out of your fees but you don't see it itemized. This sound familiar to anyone? Yeah, it happens ALL over.

  18. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.

    I coach club and at a school, and have done so for years. Here is my plan for my son, who is 13. I have some advantages because of friends and family connections, but the following is what i am doing with his soccer future. If we lived closer to certain academies, we would consider that but school is our priority, not spending 2 hours in the car (one way) to get to an academy. There are two academies closer which he would make (we were approached directly by one), but their priorities are all wrong, politics there affect players and training, etc. My so plays club (at a non-academy) and will do ODP this year because the trip is somewhere he really wants to go (but then he will never do it again). He will be a freshman in HS next year and will make varsity. He is big for his age, so he will play some each game and the coach is very good (foreigner who played abroad 3 years in England's second division). SO, he will get good coaching the next few years in HS and in club (his club coaches played professionally in MLS and in Europe). At 16, if he is good enough, he will go to Spain, Portugal, England or Brazil to train with a club for two weeks (might be a way lower division club, but who knows). He can do this because of the people I am fortunate to know. If he is good enough, they will let him train another 4-6 weeks, then return over our holiday break and the following summer. Then we will decide what to do. Somewhat of my point here is that you can be fine with training outside an academy as long as you have a way to get judged and push to another level at 16 when you basically know what sort of athlete you have.

  19. Roger Herdrich, December 14, 2011 at 12:31 p.m.

    I am an old fart-56-with a national coaching license who very actively coached multiple boys and girls teams each year, at virtually every age and skill, for over 20 years. No, I didn't play till I was adult. And no, I never won a state cup and certainly no national championships. So, ignore me if you want.

    Anyway, the current youth soccer system in the U.S. is irretrievably broken, and as many posters have said, it is because of the total emphasis on winning. That is, in turn, copied from American culture. You can try to change the soccer culture, as I did for 20 plus years, but until the broader culture changes, good luck.

    I have known, taken classes from, and coached against directors of coaching at some of the clubs listed. With few exceptions, I would not leave them alone with my wife. They are not nice people, but supposedly sane parents send their kids with them for extended tournaments, and "shop" their kids to even crazier coaches if they promise to make their kid a star.

    So,it ain't just the directors of coaching who are seeking wins/fame, but many of the sick minded parents too. See what I mean about a sick culture?

    It is all sooooooo sad, because there is not one doubt in my mind that it IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GAME IN THE WORLD, and we obviously have an enormous talent pool, even with the dilution from the big 3 American sports. But look at the international sanctioning bodies and their scandals-it isn't very pretty there, or even in the EPL where the quality of the soccer is in part produced by do or die pressure.

    Glad you young guys get to figure it out. I'm much happier since I gave up most club coaching. I like coaching in my church league-all sane people there.

  20. Joey Tremone, December 14, 2011 at 12:48 p.m.

    @ Duncan, "Someone needs to do a ranking of best clubs if you want to play D1 or professional."-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Someone does. US Soccer has an official Development Academy ranking. See:
    http://www.ussoccer.com/Teams/Development-Academy/Academy-Overview.aspx, scroll to "Evaluations" and click on the pdf. FC Dallas came in #1 with the only "four star" (out of five) rating.

    But I agree with you that SA shouldn't be putting out this 'mixed message' that runs against US Soccer policy for evaluating top clubs.

  21. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.

    Stan-- Thanks for the link. They have that pretty well hidden! After looking at a variety of clubs I know on that list, it is clear that even US Soccer knows the academies are falling short in far too many respects. A ton had 2 out of 5 stars and the #1 Ranked Boys club Soccer America only got 3.5 out 5.

  22. Brian Jackson, December 14, 2011 at 4:11 p.m.

    Do you have any idea how absolutely inept at least one of the top 10 clubs is as an organization? Financial mismanagement to the point that the club is insolvent (not paying coaches, begging families to pay early or to loan the club money, etc.), extreme violation of Academy regulations but the tech directors don't include that in Academy evals so they get to move on without probabtion, improper operation of a non-profit (board meetings or lack of, financial decisions without board discussion or approval general meetings manipulated for board President's benefit, board members receiving financial benefit from membership), using the lower 90% of Academy players to fund the top 10% who are allowed to not pay bu play, using club funds to pay for Academy kids who don't (non-MLS club/Academy), misleading Academy prospects with delusions of playing time while they fund the ones who really do play, defendant in lawsuits by families and businesses who have not received benefits or payment, violations of regional Academy decisions about high school participation, loss of credibility in the community and with club families who have few options,few college players come out of the club an those who do go to schools that any club player can play for, etc. There should be many more criteria for being a TOP CLUB than # of tournament wins or change the name of the ranking to something like TOP TOURNAMENT WINNER as they certainly aren't a top club.

  23. Robert Williams, December 14, 2011 at 9:51 p.m.

    I can not agree more with everything that was said in this post about "academy soccer in the US" and their rankings.
    Duncan, you are right, that is the way to go.
    We are in a similar situation with my son, we live 10 minutes away from the "Number 1" ranked team in the nation.
    My son also played 3 years for that "NUMBER 1 " rated program in the nation.
    My son is also 13 years old. He was invited to train with the Boca Juniors U 13 academy team in Argentina for a period of 2 weeks this past November and he will go during summer and will spend 6 more weeks playing and training for their 98 academy program. He also does ODP and just came back from a national ID camp in Texas.
    What I can assure you is that after watching Boca Juniors academy training, and playing, the number 1 academy program in the US look like more like the REC number 1 program in the nation.
    The particular coach that is coaching my son team in the US is the closest that I ever saw to Boca Junior training and philosophy of play for their academy teams, for the Boca teams, winning is a consequence of the superb training that those kids are going thru.
    They do not go out stealing players from other programs and became "Winners", they develop their own!!!!!
    Their teams are trained by experienced former pros, not a bunch of guys that played D III college ball in some Midwestern college or a Baltimore community college.
    Their philosophy is about techniques and fundamentals not about winning in Disney or loosing....
    How many players the "number 1" ranked club in the nation are playing professional ball overseas. (Baltimore Blast does not count as a professional overseas team)

  24. Robert Williams, December 14, 2011 at 9:56 p.m.

    Duncan in what part of US are you located????

  25. Robert Williams, December 14, 2011 at 10:01 p.m.

    Brian Jackson, you are so right!!! thank you sharing an absolutely true about academy clubs with us!

  26. Duncan Scott, December 14, 2011 at 11:50 p.m.

    Jouan, We live outside the Chicago metro area.

  27. Brian Jackson, December 15, 2011 at 1:35 a.m.

    My comments were made as an informed observer of our local soccer scene who does not have a child involved in any club program. If USSoccer, Soccer America, and other entities legislating and commenting on soccer operations would truly look at the reality of some of these clubs, they would be apalled. Without the convenience of hiding behind 501(c)3's, their "business" would fail due to dissatisfied customers, poor quality of product/service, and little value for the consumer. Our tax dollars are supporting these not-for-profits while the management rakes it in. Even if I had a child of playing age, why would I subject them to those values? As a wise rec advisor once told me long ago, "For all the money parents spend on trying to get their kid to earn a college soccer scholarship, they could have paid for the schooling twice over." Maybe not twice but certainly without the headaches. I now tell parents of the young ones to just enjoy it and not shoot for the moon. If their kid is a natural, he/she will find their way to the top. If they're not, don't sacrifice your family and finances to try to force it to happen or to fund someone else's rise. There are far more beneficial charities. Good luck to you all. Everyone has to find their own way through the muck.

  28. Walt Pericciuoli, December 15, 2011 at 7:02 a.m.

    I think everyone is pretty much in agreement here.Ranking club teams should be more than about winning tournaments.In my post I was also trying to make a case to have fewer Academy teams, run only by the Pro clubs, but widen the base for the search for and scouting of players by having local clubs with affiliation with the nearest Academy. Academies should offer monetary support,training programs and the availability of players to return to their local club teams whenever the Academy player is not active. A free back and forth. I believe then the local clubs would be more receptive to releasing their players for the higher development programs.It would also incentivize the local clubs to search for players and not rich parents.It would open the search process to reach every corner of the USA.Not to mention that for once perhaps all of US Soccer would be on the same page.

  29. Luis Arreola, December 15, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.

    Walt, for that to happen Academies would also need to profit directly from an overseas sale of an underage player, for example. Just like in every other part of the world. MLS seems to be the only one to want to profit directly from these types of sales, then distribute evenly amongst all Academies.

  30. Luis Arreola, December 15, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.

    Brian, I would put 2 of the top 22 on the inept list. Don't mind Stuper, he is probably an Academy part owner or investor who is looking to build an allstar team around his own kid who is probably not good enough to be on the B team. Just a guess.

  31. Walt Pericciuoli, December 16, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.

    Luis, yes that's true, and I don't see a problem with that except here in the US, parents will have a lot more to say about that.However,I think the Academies should be a part MLS pro clubs and should be included in their normal operating budget and not run for profit. The individual pro clubs should have first rights to players developed in their own academy before MLS has the right to disperse players. Some clubs would choose to sell players abroad, others might see the economic advantage of developing their own player. Just like the rest of the world.

  32. Luis Arreola, December 16, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.

    I completely agree with your last sentence. Parents?

  33. David White, December 16, 2011 at 7:58 p.m.

    I think MLS academies are scary. The Sounders just announced a partnership where UW gets first pick of their academy players. Owning the rights to players will have consequences which will surprise many parents.

  34. Claudia Helsdon, March 6, 2012 at 2:24 a.m.

    The key in youth soccer is development. There are star players on teams with small player pools. These clubs will never show in the rankings, but the players they developed usually move and eventually make up the teams on the list.

    The question is what's more important: Being on the number 1 team, or getting world class training. A great youth soccer player does not need to be on a winning team, but does need to have great skill, vision, endurance, be fearless, and love soccer. If a player develops these traits, eventually they will be on a winning team.

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