Is Competitive Soccer Actually Elite?

At what point is a competitive soccer team still competitive?  Is it fair to slap the label of "Premier" on a club that has 5,6 or even 8 or more tiers of players in any one age category?  Clubs are businesses.  It makes good business sense to add as many clubs in a tier as the parents will support, but... is it really fair to the players?

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You Can Call a Team Anything You Want

Many clubs boast multiple “competitive”  teams in each age group.  It makes sense that some of these larger clubs may have a deep enough pool to fill two or even three classic or premier level travel teams.  But five?  six?  seven or more?  At what point do you question the “eliteness” of the players?  

According to Merriam Webster, elite means “the choice part”, or the “socially superior part”.  A few years ago, when you heard that someone was playing on an elite soccer team you would think they must really be an outstanding player.  

Today, anyone who has the money can play competitive soccer.  Clubs charge a lot of money from their travel teams.  These costs are significantly higher than for the challenge or recreational teams.  

Many of these fees are easily justified.  After all, these teams usually have licensed coaches and often have a greater number of weekly practices than their challenge or recreational counterparts.

The problem is that the more we expand the number of these supposedly competitive soccer teams, the less value there is in playing at that level.  For me, this brings to mind a scene from the movie “The Incredibles”.   In the scene, the mother is telling the son, Dash, that  “Everybody’s special”.  His response is  “Which is another way of saying nobody is.”  

Is Competitive Soccer For Everyone?

Do clubs do a disservice to players by granting them a spot on a classic travel team when in reality a strong challenge team may be able to beat them?  

Is there any obligation on the part of the coach or club to tell a parent that their child may be better suited moving down to a lower tier of play?

Not really. 

I have known families who have moved from classic to challenge and thought it was absolutely the best decision for their child because it gave them more playing time and allowed them an opportunity to shine. Ultimately, it is up to the parent and child to consider their specific situation and goal and to determine what works best for them.

Club soccer celebrates those children whose parents can pay their fees.  We have a generation of parents who believe their child is the next Messi.  We are raising an entire generation of players who think they are better than they are because they are not being given the opportunity to play against what should be their true competition.

Some of the best talent in this country may not even be playing in the local clubs because they cannot afford the fees.  Yet we continue to perpetuate the myth that paying more for competitive soccer will improve our child’s chances at a scholarship or a pro career instead of reaching out to those players who may have the talent to become future stars.

Many of these young men and women will be spending thousands of dollars over their middle school and high school years in the hopes of getting a college scholarship followed by a team contract. 

Parents and players often fail to realize that most soccer scholarships cover only a small percentage of college fees.  Unless the player has the grades to warrant an academic scholarship as well or some other means to fund their education, college soccer may very well be a continuation of the pay to play system in which they have been brought up.