Photography by Sarah Hill and Shawnia Preston
choosing a club for your player
The soccer competitive environment in the United States is currently one where leagues and tournaments can be created by entities and a team and/or club have total freedom to participate from it or not. Due to this open system, it is not always easy to identify a linear structure of which league or tournament is "above" or "below" others. This is due to the competitive business environment where all (leagues and tournaments) have the opportunity to compete and not be dominated by just one single league or tournament.
The best recommendation we at KSC can give our community is to ask questions of the club about what is important for your family. A club should not be judged by where they compete since all clubs are trying to do what's best for their members based on their objectives and philosophy.
The most important thing to remember is that it is very likely all families can find a club to call their home. As long as your personal objectives align with the philosophy of the club you are looking to participate, it is very possible to have a very rich experience.
Kalamazoo Soccer Club participates in West Michigan Youth Soccer Association (WMYSA) at three different team levels: Select, Elite, and Premier.
WMYSA is the responsible for running the Select division. Depending on the amount of teams any give season, there could be more than one Select division.
Competition in Select begins at U9 and goes all the way to U19 for both, boys and girls. Games within Select level will play four home and four away games each season. All games will be played within our geographical boundaries. That means, travel time for away games can range from five minutes to one hour and a half. As with any league, the demand (teams joining) will ultimately dictate the travel for away games.
To some, competing at Select level has become too familiar, and in search of different competition they join other leagues where they usually have to travel farther. This has unofficially circulated the feeling that Select level is usually "below" the other leagues. However, the fact is that WMYSA and their Select division caters to a more local competition for us in our area, where as other leagues cater to their local community.
Elite is a level of playing within WMYSA which begins at age 12. They started this division to create an interleague program with teams from Grand Valley Soccer Association (GVSA), and Capital Area Soccer League (CASL). What this created is that typically, top teams from each association (WMYSA + GVSA + CASL) join to play in this division in order to play each other and compete beyond their geographical area. As you can see, this is just another opportunity for a team to play, and it doesn't necessarily mean is better or worse than any other league.
As with the other leagues, a team will usually play the same quantity of home games as away games. At this time, teams play four home games and four away games. The difference when playing at this "Elite" division is that depending on the demand (teams joining) of the league any given season, teams could do considerable travel. The games in this division can range in travel time from five minutes to three hours. The geographical boundaries of the other associations in this division can go as far north as Cadillac, and as east as Lansing.
The Michigan States Premier Soccer Program (MSPSP) is another competition opportunity in our state. They are colloquially known as "Premier", yet, they actually provide competitions for all levels and is divided in the following categories:
- Premier 1
- Premier 2
- Classic 1
- Classic 2
- Classic 3
This league is predominantly on the east side of the state. Hence, requiring more travel from teams not in the area. On the other hand, since teams from across the state have been joining this league, travel time could be far north from our area as well. This league is usually bigger than other regional leagues, which creates a bigger competitive pool and ultimately earns them a reputation of being a harder league where teams must be "better" in order to compete there. Interestingly, because this league is bigger in size, the competitive levels are arranged in a way to offer opportunities to teams based on their skill level. The entrance point is Classic 3, making Premier 1 the highest division within the league. Teams can join this league at the U13 age group and beyond, and they earn promotion or relegation based on results.