Should Your Youth Soccer Club Start a UPSL Team?

Many youth soccer clubs are forming UPSL teams. Should your club jump on the bandwagon?

Why Youth Clubs are Joining UPSL

With the rise of UPSL and the fact that clubs always chase the hottest leagues, it’s no surprise that youth clubs are joining UPSL. The difference this time is that UPSL is predominately an adult amateur or semi-professional league.

Some clubs are using UPSL as a way to provide an additional challenge for their top boys’ teams. Others see UPSL as a step after their youth programming and focus on college-age players who are alumni of the club.

And, of course, some UPSL teams are expanding their profiles by forming youth academies.

Pros of Forming a UPSL Team

Youth clubs may see several advantages from forming a UPSL team.

Expand Your Club’s Profile

UPSL is a great way to boost your club’s reputation. Parents will see that your club is connected to a semi-pro team and believe that it has top trainers and expanded opportunities for their kids.

UPSL teams also often attract fans from surrounding clubs and the general community, so many more people will be aware of what you have to offer.

Provide Additional Challenges for Players

UPSL is a great way for older teenagers to get experience playing against older players. This goes beyond just playing against players who are bigger and stronger.

Youth soccer has become a bit sanitized over the years. Youth players rarely experience the gamesmanship, tactical fouling, and pressures of higher-level play. While UPSL is not a dirty league, its strong inclusion of international players from many different countries creates a much different feel than youth soccer.

UPSL also plays under the full FIFA rules without modifications that water down youth soccer like water breaks and unlimited subs.

Create Additional Membership Events

Most youth soccer clubs don’t actually operate as a club. Most players and parents only come to their own team’s practices and games and don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the club. Clubs rarely offer other types of events to help create the feeling of an actual club.

UPSL is a great way to bring your entire club together. In addition to the actual game, you can create a carnival-like atmosphere with additional activities before, during, or after the game. This will also help your player retention as families will feel an actual connection to your club rather than treating all clubs in the area as similar commodities.

Cons of Forming a UPSL Team

While forming a UPSL team can be a good idea, there are also some disadvantages to consider.

Fixture Congestion

Most youth teams already have trouble fitting in all of their games. It’s common for teams to enter two youth leagues plus play three to six tournaments each season.

If you’re adding a UPSL team for your youth players, it may be hard to fit all of your games in. You also risk injuries and burnout from playing too many games.

A better solution is often to focus on older players in UPSL and occasionally call up some of your youth team players as appropriate.

Revenue vs. Expenses

Most UPSL teams are just breaking even. A pay-to-play model will rarely work in UPSL. Many USPL players are paid at least their travel expenses, so it’s a tough sell to get people to pay for your team when they don’t have to pay to play at a nearby team.

A lot of UPSL teams sell tickets, but you really have to work to get a decent crowd. While some teams regularly draw a few hundred people, attendance in the dozens is more common.

League Standards

UPSL teams also have to meet a number of minimum standards including having a quality, international-sized field, hiring athletic trainers, and providing away teams and referees with things like drinks and towels.

The standards aren’t as high as USL League Two or the W-League which is why many youth teams that passed on those leagues are entering UPSL. However, depending on your existing facilities, it can still be somewhat difficult to meet the UPSL entry standards.


Forming a UPSL team is definitely worth a look if for no other reason than that many clubs are doing it. However, it’s important to carefully weigh the pros, cons, and long-term outlook before you jump in.

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