Soccer News

Economy Taking Toll on Youth Soccer and Pro Soccer

Is it ironic that the first world cup was played in 1930, the same year that the great depression was hitting the US hard? Most people don’t know that the first world cup was played in Uruguay in 1930, but they are aware that 1930 was the year that the great depression started to take hold of the US.

Now with the US facing its greatest financial crisis since that time, youth soccer and soccer in general in the US are starting to feel some pain.

The Pro Leagues

Professional soccer in the US has faced a struggle from the beginning. Now with cash strapped fans and sponsors watching every dollar, the future is quite uncertain. One example is the Atlanta Silverbacks. We just received an email from them letting me know that they would be “sitting out” the 2009 season. They stated, “Due to the state of the economy and the potential of an MLS team coming to town, the men’s pro team has decided to sit the year out while the Silverbacks assess the landscape.”

“This was an extremely difficult decision that was prompted by the dynamic events in our economy and the soccer community. We would like to thank all of our fans and partners who have supported the team over the years and hope they continue to come out to the Women’s games,” said Atlanta Silverbacks General Manager, Michael Oki.

All professional sports will feel some pain but it is real concern when you are fighting an uphill battle from the beginning.

Youth Soccer Leagues

For the first time in many years this past season was not a good one for many youth soccer programs. Many programs saw numbers decline and most are blaming the higher gas prices and tightening economy.

Most clubs we spoke with said they felt is was a temporary issue but it didn’t help programs that often operate in the “red” or close to it.

Phillip Whitehead, a youth program coordinator for a county recreation program said, “This is the first year we have seen an actual drop in our numbers. Our program has grown strongly each year but this season numbers dropped for the first time in over 10 years. I think it is simply a temporary thing and will correct itself as the economy gets back on its feet.”

Dealing with Budget Shortfalls

Some youth soccer clubs are taking action to help battle the tightening budgets. Many have turned to web based solutions such as soccer club fundraisers or affiliate programs. Using these programs is simply a matter of placing ads on their websites and they receive a percentage of the sales.

We found several using the affiliate program and talked to two clubs that were getting ready to use the new program. They all agreed that programs like these not only help their soccer players learn the game, but also help raise much need income for clubs. They offer training DVDs and in return the clubs earn a percentage of the sales.

Several clubs found that approaching local retailers and businesses to be sponsors was just not working due to tightening budgets everywhere. Tim Myers, a board member for a youth program in Florida, added, “It’s hard for many of these businesses to justify spending money on sponsorships when they are facing laying off employees. We simply got tired of approaching them hearing the same story even though we understand. We have turned to online fundraising vs. raising our fees for the upcoming season.”

Some of the great saviors in this “time of need” are the volunteers that often go unnoticed. Volunteer parents that coach and help with team management donate huge numbers of hours of their time. Without them the system would surely collapse.

While soccer in the US has had a tough time, it has come a long way. The MLS seems to becoming a real dominant force and youth programs, while struggling this year seem to growing strong for the long run.

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