Recently I’ve realized just how expensive youth soccer was. Many youth players enter club soccer in hopes of earning a college scholarship.
For me, this dream became a reality. My scholarship covered my tuition and books for all four years as well as two years of room and board.
Do youth soccer clubs need money?
Clubs charge a lot of money. It’s very expensive to play competitive youth soccer in the United States, and most clubs are for-profit. Clubs use the money on operational costs and pass on a lot of the expenses directly to the families.
Why is youth soccer so expensive? Where is all of the money going? Here we explore the pay-for-play structure of youth soccer clubs and the money involved.
How do youth soccer clubs make money?
Youth soccer clubs make money in several different ways. Some of the most common ways that youth clubs in the U.S. make money include:
- Fees: Most clubs require players to pay dues to be on a team.
- Camps: Clubs will offer camps in the offseason to earn additional revenue.
- Raffles: Raffles are held at big club events for merchandise, private lessons, and more.
- Merchandise: Clubs often create and sell merchandise as well.
- Donations: Many clubs also take dontations from fans and players.
How much does it cost to play youth soccer?
Parents pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to enroll their children in youth soccer. The price of youth soccer depends on the age, club, and league the child is in.
The average cost of playing youth soccer is $1,472 per child, but elite clubs may range upwards of $10,000 per year.
Worse yet, those fees do not often cover travel expenses, additional tournaments, or uniforms.
If a child plays on a team in a league that travels around the country they can expect to pay even more in travel expenses (flights, gas, food, hotels, etc).
Why is club soccer so expensive?
Club soccer in the U.S. runs on a pay-to-play model, contrary to most European clubs. Throughout Europe, kids do not have to pay much to play club soccer.
The academies are often run by professional clubs, and they train players from an early age. The goal of academy club soccer is to develop players for the professional pipeline.
Ultimately, clubs in Europe are funded by the overseeing professional club as well as sponsors.
- Clubs outreach to local businesses and potential donors to get sponsors who will donate to the club in exchange for advertisement (on uniforms, at the field, etc).
In the United States, sponsors are not as common for youth clubs. Furthermore, most youth clubs were not part of professional pipelines until more recently (MLS Next and some NWSL clubs).
Instead, families of the players foot the bill for uniforms, league fees, coaching salaries, and more.
How much money do youth soccer clubs need?
How much money a club needs depends on whether it is a non-profit or for-profit club. Non-profit clubs do not need as much money because they are not looking to earn a profit.
Non-profit clubs are likely to play in less expensive leagues, have volunteer coaches, and receive donations for things like uniforms.
On the other hand, for-profit clubs need a lot more money. For one, they tend to play inexpensive leagues and tournaments. Beyond that, they’re more likely to have paid, full-time coaches.
Overall, how much money a youth soccer club “needs” depends on several factors, but it’s a lot more than many people realize.
The primary reason why it costs players so much is that they are the ones footing the bill for club operations (rather than an overarching professional program or sponsors).
How does the money get used in a youth soccer club?
How money gets used by a youth soccer club will vary based on the structure of the club.
For example, some clubs provide uniforms as part of the club dues, while others make players order uniforms separately.
Here are some of the ways money will be used in a youth soccer club:
- Uniforms, depending on club policy.
- Insurance and coach safety training.
- Coaching salaries.
- Equipment like balls, cones, pinnies, hurdles, ladders, goals, etc.
- Field management, caring for the field and painting the lines.
- Building and/or maintaining state-of-the-art facilities.
- League and tournament fees (some may not be included in club fees).
One of the largest expenses a youth soccer club may face is coaching salaries. Many competitive youth soccer clubs have paid coaches, and the top clubs tend to have full-time coaches.
Salaries vary, but coaches who have teams that compete nationally (the National League, ECNL, DA, MLS Next) are likely to be paid the most.
- According to Glassdoor, the average base pay of a youth soccer coach is $44,403 per year, however, salaries may be up to $74,000 or higher.
Another huge expense many clubs face is related to facilities. For one, clubs may have to rent fields or facilities. If they own any, then they must pay to maintain them.
The cost to maintain natural grass varies, but an example is
“A native soil high school soccer field located in Indiana that hosts approximately 120 hours of events annually will spend up to $9880 on materials, $1570 on equipment and 143 hours of labor.”Glass Door
Beyond that, many clubs are looking to add more updated facilities to attract players and offer competitive training year-round.
Clubs will only have the ability to host high-level leagues and tournaments if they have exceptional facilities.
Clubs in cold climates will need to pay to rent or build indoor training space for winter sessions.
How much does it cost to start a soccer team?
Many people set out with dreams of improving the system by starting their own team or club. Beware, starting a soccer team is not a lucrative project.
First, you’ll need somewhere to hold practices and host games. At first, building your own soccer park is probably not realistic.
Most new teams and clubs will rent until they can save up enough to build their own park.
- Renting costs vary by location, but for example, it costs $85 per hour and $170 per game to rent an outdoor athletic field from National Sports Center in Minnesota. Renting a synthetic field costs $125 per hour.
Registration is another critical fee. You must register your team with a governing body, like US Youth Soccer, US Soccer, or USSSA. Fees vary, but they are around $150 per year per team.
Furthermore, most leagues require a program fee as well which will depend on the league your team is in. Most tournaments will also have a team fee.
League fees do not often cover referee fees. That means you can expect to have to pay the center and assistant referees each game. For a U17-U19 ECNL game, referee fees are a total of $175 per game.
Your team will also need equipment and uniforms. While you can pass the cost of uniforms onto players if you want, you will still need cones, balls, pinnies, and other soccer equipment to run effective training.
Coaches will be another cost unless you hire volunteer coaches. The commitment and expertise required for coaching highly competitive teams typically require an experienced coach.
If you choose to coach the team as a volunteer, you will have less time to oversee operations.
Travel is another huge cost teams face, which is often passed on to players as well. Depending on what league and tournaments your team does, you may incur expenses for gas, buses, flights, etc.
When starting a club, you must also consider how you will attract players. Likely, you’ll need to invest in some marketing.
Top clubs have a good social media presence, run targeted ads, and work to get their name out there.
Ultimately, starting or running a youth soccer team in the United States is very expensive. In the current pay-to-play model, the cost of running the club is essentially passed on to players.
Many times, the club fees do not include travel, additional tournaments, or sometimes even league fees.