Your talented child may be invited to the Olympic Development Program (ODP), or id2, or PDP, or to a U.S. Soccer Training Center.
In case all that wasn’t enough, coming soon to a field near you are even more options.
The USSF announced last February its launch of a Girls Development Academy (GDA) in the fall of 2017. That presents a competitor for the ECNL, which had since 2009 been the main destination for elite girls players.
In early May, AYSO -- which for 52 years has provided low-cost soccer for American children while introducing the game to the likes of Landon Donovan and Alex Morgan -- announced its expansion into so-called “competitive” soccer.
The program is called AYSO United and will give AYSO players who want to move on from so-called recreational soccer the option to stay with AYSO, whose 500,000 players are mostly pre-teens.
In late May, the ECNL and U.S. Club Soccer announced they’re collaborating to launch an Elite National Premier League (ENPL) for boys in the fall of 2017.
Is this an escalation in the turf war for registration fees?
When I interviewed U.S. Club Soccer CEO Kevin Payne in March of 2015, I asked him: “Do you feel it's still in the best interest of youth soccer in the United States to have competing youth soccer organizations? I often hear from coaches and club directors that they’d prefer a unified youth model instead of the alphabet soup of organizations …”
Payne’s answer included: “I think that there’s quite a bit of dynamism that’s encouraged by having different youth soccer organizations.”
He warned that a unitary approach could result in a particular orthodoxy being be imposed on everyone.
I vote against imposing orthodoxy. But I wish that the navigation of youth soccer options wasn’t so complicated for the kids, parents, coaches and clubs.
The reality is that American youth soccer, for better or worse, will always be a free market. And I’m pulling for the organizations that make youth soccer as inexpensive as possible.