American youth soccer options in Europe
When you move overseas with a child that is involved in sports, it can be challenging to find a program that is comparable to the one that you left behind. My son is a decent soccer player — not necessarily the best, but he’s a team player and has a love of the game. When we told him of our impending assignment to Germany, his first question was, “What about soccer?”
Europe is known as a soccer mecca. While gaining traction back in the States, the rivalries and frenzied fandom in Europe have existed since the invention of the game. As American transplants, we realized that living here would afford our son a unique and incredible opportunity to train and play.
While researching the different options, we found a program that belonged to the United States Youth Soccer-Europe (USYS-E) organization. USYS-E is an offshoot of the USYS program back in the States. The primary goal of USYS-E is to ensure that all Americans have access and opportunity to play soccer. The focus is on fun and development, with kids guaranteed to play. There are seven districts that belong to USYS — two in Italy, one in the U.K., and four in Germany (Bavaria, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden and KMC). Thanks to a partnership with ProSoc Academy, players learn from professional coaches and are given opportunities to participate in international tournaments and camps throughout the year.
One unique feature of USYS-E is the Olympic Development Program (ODP). According to third president, Scott McDonald, “The Olympic Development Program’s goal is to identify and develop the top American players in Europe. The best of the ODP players are selected to return to America to try out for the Region 1 ODP team, which comprises the best players from Virginia to Maine. This is the process that feeds the U.S. national teams. The U.S. has four regions and USYS is a part of Region 1.”
One of the larger districts in USYS-E, the KMC District is comprised of more than 200 players, ranging from younger kids up to high school. In recent years, KMC has transformed into a complete American team that competes within the local German leagues. There are multiple levels to accommodate players — recreational, select and ODP. The recreational program focuses on skill building, teamwork and having fun, while the select teams are more competitive and sharpen players’ existing skill sets.
Why choose USYS-E?
Many families choose to have their children play for their local villages, with cost and convenience playing a major factor. However, USYS-E is very upfront about where the fees go — pitch maintenance, equipment and clubhouse upkeep, uniforms, and professional coaches. For those that choose USYS-E, it can be comforting for players to play with other Americans that find themselves in a similar situation. Practices and coaching are done in English, thus breaking the possible language barrier. The USYS-E teams will usually meet twice a year for tournaments: one indoor and the other outdoor in the spring. The season lasts from August through June, with games moving to indoor facilities in the winter months.
If you don’t live near a USYS-E district, and are interested in ODP tryouts, please contact USYS-E or ProSoc Academy directly. The ODP tryout camp for the upcoming season will take place in Bitburg, Sept. 3-5. There are also on-base or on-post recreational options to explore as well. For more information, you can visit the USYS-E website and find your district, or contact your local CYS or Youth Sports program.