TORRANCE, CA (January 10, 2024) – The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) is proud to introduce the AYSO PLAY! program, crafted to meaningfully increase access to soccer for youth nationwide, by overcoming common barriers to participation. This innovative, recreation-based initiative is adaptable and flexible, allowing communities to shape programs that best align with their needs while establishing a foundation for enduring success.
The culmination of years of planning and recent road testing of growth initiatives, AYSO PLAY! is singularly focused on captivating new youth players, instilling a love for the game in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup 2026 to be hosted in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
“It’s no secret that 2026 presents an unprecedented opportunity for soccer’s growth in North America, and AYSO, with its legacy of community-based soccer and its reputation of being the best first soccer experience, is uniquely positioned to enhance access and deliver local programs” remarked Michael Karon, AYSO National President. “We are eager to significantly amplify youth participation and inspire a new generation of soccer journeys to begin.”
Reflecting on AYSO’s roots, AYSO National Executive Director Matt Winegar stated, “AYSO originated from a small group of parents looking to provide their children with something they didn’t have access to – a quality, fun youth soccer experience. AYSO PLAY! is a natural evolution of that same inspiration. Today, with AYSO PLAY!, we’ve streamlined operational hurdles for community-based soccer, and established new kinds of accessible entry points for players.”
Rather than a teams-and-leagues model, AYSO PLAY! offers session-based programs of varying durations – single day events, weekly academy-style sessions, or week-long camps. All program options are built on three core principles that guide the creation of locally tailored programs:
- Bring the Game TO the Players: Going where the players are means conducting soccer activities in diverse locations, including unconventional venues. This requires creativity in program delivery but enables broader participation and the acquisition of foundational skills.
- Keeping it Affordable: Minimizing cost barriers is pivotal for program sustainability. AYSO PLAY! is developing a range of partnership, sponsorship, and funding strategies to keep costs minimal and, where necessary, subsidize playership.
- Quality Training and Whole-Child Development: Aligned with AYSO’s vision, mission, and values, AYSO PLAY! prioritizes Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) principles, offering age-appropriate training and technical skills development with a child enrichment focus.
All new programs are created with an eye towards sustainability – keeping interest and excitement around soccer building in communities and offering participation options month after month, year after year.
Dan Howald, AYSO Senior Director of Program Implementation, expressed enthusiasm for local collaborations to date, stating, “We’ve been energized by the community leaders we’ve linked up with to deliver soccer programs where options are limited or out of reach. There is great work being done by youth=serving organizations of all kinds, and recreational soccer fits seamlessly into what many of them are already doing” He added, “We’re also really excited about creating synergies and complementary programming models, for our own AYSO Regions and with the broader youth soccer ecosystem.
Howald added, “AYSO PLAY! is an ideal plug-in or add-on for clubs or rec program providers who want to introduce the game to more players in their own communities. The model is totally complementary to a traditional teams-and-leagues format, focused as it is on creating more soccer access and foundational training for new players. Everyone wins with more new players being brought into the game.”
To showcase its launch, AYSO PLAY! will be featured at the United Soccer Coaches Convention (Booth 821) from January 10-13 in Anaheim, CA. AYSO PLAY! staff will be available to discuss into program specifics in greater detail, and additional information is available at AYSOPLAY.org.
Celebrating its 60th year since inception in 1964, AYSO is a national nonprofit organization committed to delivering quality youth soccer programs in a fun, family-friendly environment. Rooted in AYSO’s Six Philosophies: Everyone Plays®, Balanced Teams, Open Registration, Positive Coaching, Good Sportsmanship, and Player Development, AYSO programs span over 640 communities across the U.S.
As a member organization of the U.S. Soccer Federation, all AYSO programs including AYSO PLAY! conform to U.S. Soccer standards for safety, training, education, and player development curricula. For more details, visit www.AYSO.org.
The American Youth Soccer Organization