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May, 2018

Guidance on Youth Soccer Programs for Parents

Dear Georgia Soccer members, 

Our office receives thousands of calls a year from parents asking where their child should play. Our best answer is to play as close to home with your child’s friends. That is where they will have the most fun. However, we appreciate that parents want to place their kids in competitive programs and the competitive landscape has many programs. We have created this graph (above) to try to explain the different soccer programs and where they fit in the soccer hierarchy.
Almost all players start in recreational soccer. Some play recreational all their lives. We have recreational programs for ages 3-80. Most of our clubs offer Academy level play for ages 9U-12U. This provides more practice, better coaching, and more competitive games in an environment where we keep score but not records. Academy focuses on player development.
At 13U-19U Georgia Soccer offers Select Leagues. Our Classic league for boys has 5 divisions and our Athena league for girls has 4 divisions. A team can start in the lowest division and get promoted all the way to the top Classic 1 and Athena A divisions based on your play.
Teams can get promoted from Classic and Athena divisions into the US Youth Soccer National League. US Youth Soccer is the largest and oldest youth soccer league in the country. Georgia is in a conference with North Carolina and South Carolina, which limits travel and provides top level competition from teams from those states who have also earned the right to play in the National League. The National League also provides elite showcases for the top teams from all 50 states. The showcase National League events bring in hundreds of college coaches, pro scouts, and U.S. Soccer national team scouts. Here are some videos of the events:
Some Georgia Soccer clubs also offer other programs such as ECNL, NPL, and SCCL. These programs do not offer promotion from one into the next, it is one team per club in each league. Most clubs who offer these programs put the top team in ECNL, the second team in NPL, and the third team in the new SCCL. The ECNL has historically had a strong girls program. The boys ECNL program is new last year and is not as strong as the girls ECNL. We have tried to provide guidance to where these programs fall compared to Georgia Soccer and US Youth Soccer programs. It is always the case that the best team from one division might be better than the last place team from another division, but we are providing this chart as a guide for parents.
At the top is the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Every MLS team and several clubs in Georgia have a U.S. Soccer Development Academy. You cannot reach this level through promotion, but players can tryout for U.S. Development Academy teams.
We hope this is helpful as a guide to the soccer world of programs. We are always happy to provide information so that your child has the best experience. Thanks, good luck, and see you on the soccer fields!
Greg Griffith
Executive Director
Georgia Soccer

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