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Understanding US Youth Soccer and US Club Soccer

By Ohio Elite, 01/04/18, 1:00PM EST


What's The Difference?

Navigating the world of competitive soccer is difficult, especially if you are unfamiliar with the landscape.  With a little guidance, we will try to help you understand the two largest governing bodies for competitive soccer in the United States - United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA) and United States Club Soccer (US Club).


It is important to understand that both USYSA and US Club fall under the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). The USSF is the official governing body of soccer in the United States as recognized by soccer's international governing body, FIFA.

United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA)

Their Mission - US Youth Soccer is a non-profit and educational organization whose mission is to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America's youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition. Our job is also to make it fun, and instill in young players a lifelong passion for the sport.

The US Youth Soccer membership is divided into four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. Fifty-five member State Associations make up US Youth Soccer with one in each state, and two in California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Boys and girls then register to play with one of the 6,000+ clubs or leagues formed by their State Association.

US Club Soccer (US Club)

Their Mission - US Club Soccer will foster the growth and development of soccer clubs throughout the United States to create the best possible development environment for players of all ages in every club.

The Basics

Each state association (Ohio South) is part of the USYSA, but works independently with registration.  Teams must register with their state association and our governed by their state association rules and fees. 

US Club is a National organization where registration is run at the National level and online.  All registration is the same process and fee structure across the United States.

In USYSA, each state association is permitted to run their own "State League" (OSSL) which qualifies into the Regional League (MRL) which qualifies into the National League.  Each state association and regional association has different qualifying rules to advance to the next level.

US Club Soccer has local leagues, regional leagues and National leagues.  The NPL, ENPL and ECNL are all national leagues run in-house or by US Club Members.

The US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program was formed in 1977 to identify a pool of players in each age group from which a National Team will be selected for international competition; to provide high-level training to benefit and enhance the development of players at all levels; and, through the use of carefully selected and licensed coaches, develop a mechanism for the exchange of ideas and curriculum to improve all levels of coaching. ODP is a tryout format where players tryout to be selected for a district, state, regional, then national team. Players selected for their district team earn the opportunity to be selected for their state team. And the process continues until the national team. Each level normally consists of fees which cover coaching, fields, games, and/or camps.
US Club soccer uses two types of player identification - Player Development Programs (PDP) and id2. 

US Club Soccer’s Player Development Programs (PDPs) are regionally based identification and developmental programs conducted within the id2 Program umbrella. PDPs are focused around the National Premier Leagues (NPL/ECNL) and other top leagues in specific geographic areas.

PDP invitations are based upon objective scouting of elite clubs and leagues, combined with recommendations from top Directors of Coaching. Each PDP includes at least one training session and one internal competition. Some PDPs also include off-field educational components, as well.

Established in 2004, US Club Soccer’s id2 National Identification and Development Program provides an opportunity for the country’s elite youth soccer players to be identified and developed, and scouted for inclusion in U.S. Soccer’s National Team programs.

Founding Principles of the id2 Program:

  • The id2 Program is open to all players regardless of U.S. Soccer affiliation or lack thereof.
  • There is no cost to players to be identified for or participate in the id2 Program. For id2 Training Camps, all lodging, meals and training gear are provided at no cost by US Club Soccer and Nike. For National Selection programming, airfare/travel is also provided at no cost.
  • Players should be initially scouted within the environment they are most comfortable – their club training and competition environment. Clubs have the largest impact on player development, and club coaches and club competitions must be an integral part of the id2 Program.
  • Players are rated and evaluated for inclusion in the program based up on a combination of: (i) objective and independent scouting information; and (ii) information from the players’ regular trainers and coaches.
  • The id2 Program does not create significant additional demands on the calendar of the elite player.
USYSA is comprised of 55 state associations which all have input at the national level.  US Club Soccer has a Board of Directors of 8 elected officials (2 from West, 2 from Midwest, 2 from South and 2 from East) that must all be qualified "Soccer People" meaning  1. Need to be associated with a club as a President, Director, or coach with at least 5 years coaching experience in competitive youth soccer. 2.   Minimum of a "B" License.  3.  Need to have at least 8 teams of either gender from the Board Member's club registered with US Club Soccer.  A

All decisions for the entire country in US Club Soccer come from the US Club Board of Directors while all decisions for USYSA come from all 55 state associations.

USYSA stresses the team first in all of their competitions.  USYSA events are about "Earning your place" for your team.  US Club is more Club and Player Development oriented.  US Club has developed Players First, a branded, holistic club soccer experience for parents and players, which emphasizes the development of each individual to his or her full potential, and helps parents make better choices about where their children should play.
For Ohio Elite, we participate in both USYSA and US Club. For some teams in our Club, USYS is the best route, for some US Club.  And for some, playing in both gives us and them the best opportunity to reach our values of Player-Club-Team.

2003-99/00 ECNL Girls - only play in US Club/ECNL because enough competitive games

2004-99/00 ECNL Boys - play league and some events in US Club/ECNL, but also play in a few cross over events that accept both USYSA and US Club teams.

2003-99/00 Academy Girls - play in both as they attend ECNL events and play in USYS State Cup/Ohio-South State League

2006 Academy Girls - play in USYS only - Play in Ohio-South State League and State Cup.  No US Club league available to play in.

2005 Academy Boys - play in both USYSA (BPYSL) and US Club (pre-ECNL matches).  There is not a mandatory US Club (ECNL) league for 2005, but there are some clubs that want to participate and matches are set up.