Where Should You Play Recreational Soccer?

There are a number of recreational soccer options for both youth and adult soccer — sometimes in places you wouldn’t think to look.

Youth Soccer Clubs

Youth soccer clubs are still usually the most popular youth rec soccer league in town. Some of the larger clubs also form their own adult leagues.

The quality and atmosphere of youth soccer club rec leagues can vary widely. Some clubs put a lot of effort into having a good league. Others only have a rec league because the local government makes it a condition of renting a park for travel soccer or because they use rec registration fees to fund their travel programs.

Some leagues emphasize fun, learning, and sportsmanship. Others routinely have parents and coaches acting like fools ruining everyone else’s fun but do nothing to stop it.

Coaches can also be a mix since rec soccer coaches are usually volunteers.

If you can, try to go out and watch a game day before you sign up for the next season.

AYSO Rec Soccer

The American Youth Soccer Organization is a national organization that focuses only on rec soccer and requires everyone involved to be a volunteer. AYSO leagues focus on fun and community and usually do a great job of keeping out the bad behavior you see in club soccer.

AYSO leagues are non-profit organizations, but you’ll still need to pay a registration fee that covers things like field rentals, uniforms, and equipment.

Whether you have AYSO near you can be kind of hit and miss. It’s really popular in some areas but absent in other areas.

While AYSO doesn’t officially sponsor adult soccer, many leagues have a separate parents and coaches league.

Parks and Rec Leagues

Some cities or counties run their own adult or youth rec soccer leagues. Coaches and officials are either part-time government employees or volunteers.

If you have one, a city league is usually the cheapest option. Instead of needing to turn a profit, they often don’t even charge their full cost to put the league on since tax dollars help pay for programming.

These leagues are usually focused on playing for fun, and the coaches won’t be professional trainers. Since they’re usually overseen by a parks department manager, they’re usually fairly well organized.

Seasons can vary with some leagues focusing on summer vacations rather than the traditional fall and spring club soccer schedule.

Church Leagues

As youth sports get crazier, church leagues are becoming more popular. Since they’re focused on following Christian values, church leagues are much more likely to not put up with negative behavior. Most of the people seeking out these leagues do so because they’re looking for a more positive experience.

Churches might play on their own fields, have an indoor rec soccer league in their gym, or rent a nearby park or school. Most leagues don’t require you to be a member of the church, but sessions often start and end with prayers.

Many church leagues aren’t heavily advertised since the leagues are mostly church members and people they know. To find these leagues, you often need to ask around.

Franchise Leagues

For-profit youth leagues are also becoming more popular with i9 Sports and Super Soccer Stars being some of the more recognizable names. These leagues often operate under a franchise model where each local league is independently owned and operated.

Even though these leagues are for-profit, the costs are usually comparable to club soccer leagues. Most large youth soccer clubs that are non-profit on paper have coaching directors who run the club as a business and seek to maximize their own salaries. So the franchise league model can actually be more honest in that regard.

Like going to a bar, the quality of these leagues can vary. Some leagues focus on having a fun atmosphere. Others let anything go.

Another benefit of these leagues is that they usually have short seasons running throughout the year. So there’s less of a commitment and if you’re too busy to play now, it’s easy to catch the next season in a month or two.

Small Independent Leagues

There are also a ton of small independent rec soccer leagues out there, especially for adults. They can be based at an indoor soccer center, a private outdoor field, or rented fields.

Youth soccer clubs often talk bad about these leagues saying things like they don’t have insurance or qualified coaches. The truth is that many of these leagues are very well run by some very good people. They’re just not playing under the big youth soccer organizations.

With smaller leagues, each league will have its own character that may or may not be right for everyone. You may need to check out a few, and you may find that the best league isn’t the closest one to you.

Leave a Comment