It’s not so often that I post a one link article. However, one of the major barriers to full youth participation in soccer in the US is the current “pay-to-play” model. I’m blessedly middle-class and can afford travel team fees for my 7 year old son Junito. I am also an educated professional and have the weekends off, so we can drive him to Sugar Land and Missouri City and even farther for tournaments. His mom is a student and can drive him to training on weeknights. Not everybody else is so fortunate. Even at Junito’s club, we see other parents that sometimes struggle to get kids to practice and games (We do our best to carpool but you can’t make a person ask for help). Junito’s club also will waive fees if you can show financial hardship.
Still, the monthly club fees aren’t that high; the time commitment is more of a barrier. SB Nation has an excellent, detailed article on Alianza de Futbol: a group trying to create a non-”pay to play” pipeline for largely Hispanic talent. They are not exactly a club, but do incredibly competitive tryouts and then the top kids get trials with clubs. Read about it here. Like, right now.