Growing Adult Soccer Across America
Soccer News: The United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) is a national soccer organization dedicated to participation in, enjoyment and growth of adult soccer across America. With the goal of making the game more popular in the USA, the USASA mantra is “Soccer — your game for life.” USASA’s slogan reflect’s the lifelong passion for the game of soccer, a sport that can be played nearly every day of one’s life.
While many kids dream of being a soccer professional, only the very top 1% even come close to reaching their soccer dreams — but the chance to play soccer always exists. While you may not be playing at Wembley in London, England or Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, the joy of soccer can be experienced on community fields all across the planet.
In America, more than 13 million people play soccer — that is more people playing soccer than football — the numbers keep rising. With the success of the MLS, it may be hard to recall a time when there were no professional leagues in the USA but history reminds us that we only have to turn the clock back to 1986.
Even Will Ferrell has been quoted as saying, “When I was ten, I wrote an essay on what I would be when I grew up and said I would be a professional soccer player and a comedian in the offseason.”
Is soccer destined to become the most popular sport in America?
Maybe, time will tell, but along the road to its ever-increasing popularity, the USASA is prepared and determined to provide the valuable adult soccer programs needed.
GoalNation spoke with English-born Duncan Riddle, Executive Director of the USASA who left the world of professional soccer at Aston Villa after nearly ten years to help pioneer adult soccer in the USA.
The USASA is the official governing body of adult soccer in the United States and is challenged with the responsibility to help grow the beautiful game – a challenge Riddle welcomes and says inspires him.
Riddle has been known — on both sides of the Atlantic — for his ground-breaking accomplishments and pioneering partnerships is the leader American adult soccer needs, and the future of adult soccer is in safe hands.
Here is the exclusive interview:
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your soccer background?
Duncan Riddle: My soccer experience encompasses high level play, coaching, coach education and administration. My philospy was formed in the 1980’s as a youth team player at Luton Town FC a small professional club. The club was very progressive and made some bold moves allowing it to compete in the 1st Division — the highest division in England at that time, which was the Pre Premier League. These moves included playing on Astro Turf, banning away fans and focusing on youth development.
Unfortunately, I understood the game but my legs weren’t quick enough to make a career as a pro player so I started a career in banking.
I took my UEFA ‘A’ Licence in the mid 1990’s and quickly found a position coaching in the academy at Birmingham City FC and tutoring UEFA ‘B’ License courses for the FA.
In 2002 I was approached by then Aston Villa owner Doug Ellis to manage their community coaching department. In 2006, under new American owner Randy Lerner, I was encouraged to learn more about the business operations of the club. I continued to coach and deliver coach education licenses and this unique experience proved useful as I was a member of the small Premier League working group that helped develop the EPPP.
By 2011, I wanted a new challenge and was fortunate to be offered the position of Executive Director with USASA in the USA.
Diane Scavuzzo: How has adult soccer changed and grown?
Duncan Riddle: Adult soccer has changed in line with how the game has matured in this country. Twenty years ago, adult soccer was primarily based around ethnic clubs playing in leagues and competing in national cup competitions. Those players continue to play as the number of O30 to O70 leagues around the county prove.
However, we also have a generation of young Americans who have grown up playing youth soccer and still want to play. The highly competitive college-age players are playing in the ever increasing national amateur leagues – PDL, NPSL, W League and WPSL. We also have large numbers of grown up youth soccer players who are playing in small sided or co-ed leagues based in the urban and surrounding areas.
Diane Scavuzzo: How does the USASA promote participation in adult soccer?
Duncan Riddle: We try and offer programs that match our tag line – Soccer your game for life. We organize the Men’s National Amateur Cup and the Adult Soccer Fest. The Soccer Fest has divisions from open to O70, walking football, 3 v 3 and Paralympic.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the upcoming Adult Soccer events?
Duncan Riddle: The really big event is the Adult Soccer Fest 2016. This Soccer Fest will be held from July 13-17, 2016 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver, Colorado.
Diane Scavuzzo: What needs to change in adult soccer? What is the greatest challenge?
Duncan Riddle: The biggest challenge for USASA is attracting the next generation of soccer players.
Generation Z soccer players will be technology dependent.
We have to define what the new soccer customer looks like, what they want from a national soccer organization, what & how to deliver to them and the best way to communicate.
Diane Scavuzzo: Soccer across the Atlantic – What is the difference, if any, between adult soccer in the USA vs England?
Duncan Riddle: Lifestyle and technology have had a big impact on adult amateur soccer in the UK.
Time is now a commodity so the weekend warrior has become the mid-week crazy.
People are playing small sided soccer at purpose built facilities with a bar attached. They play for an hour then grab a beer and are back home within 2 hours. The armchair soccer fan used to go and support their local semi-pro team on a Tuesday evening. Now they can watch Barcelona v Man Utd in the Champions League on the portable device. These changes are becoming apparent here too as the small sided leagues continue to grow.
Diane Scavuzzo: Where is adult soccer the most popular? Do more New Yorkers play than Californians?
Duncan Riddle: Adult soccer is played all across this vast country. It’s an even spread with large playing populations in the North East, North West and the South.
Diane Scavuzzo: I know you love soccer, but tell me why should most adults play soccer?
Duncan Riddle: It’s the greatest game in the World. It’s a great workout, relatively inexpensive and everyone can find a level to play. We’re introducing walking soccer this year. Players who have suffered injuries that prevent them playing can now get back in the game. Grandparents can even play against Grandchildren.
Diane Scavuzzo: So soccer is really a game for your entire life …
Duncan Riddle: Yes, absolutely.
Back in 1992, the NCAA Tournament was the ultimate measure of success for amateur players. Today, success is measured on an international scale with nineteen national teams and millions of soccer players and soccer fans in the USA. The future of the game is bright – and even brighter in the USA where there is so much opportunity for growth.