Famous AYSO Soccer Players from Southern California
What do Alex Morgan, Landon Donovan, Carlos Bocanegra, Julie Foudy, Eric Wynalda, Shannon Boxx, Amy Rodriguez, Steve Cherundolo, Maurice Edu, Kristin Graczyk, Natasha Kai, Brian Ching, Jimmy Conrad, Benny Feilhaber, Brad Guzan and Jonathan Bornstein all have in common? This list of top performers in the world of professional soccer all started playing soccer at AYSO – the American Youth Soccer Organization.
While many people only think of US Youth Soccer competitive youth soccer programs, AYSO offers a soccer option for a healthy, soccer-loving lifestyle with great training and player development. The young player who loves soccer often finds their start and years of soccer enjoyment at AYSO.
AYSO has provided a great foundation and an incredible lifelong passion for soccer for many famous professional soccer players. With a strong coaching education program and a every player enjoying 50% playing time, AYSO is the country’s largest youth soccer club and the oldest national youth soccer organization in the U.S. More than half a million players are playing AYSO soccer this season on over 50,000 teams.
A non-profit organization, AYSO started with only 9 youth soccer teams in 1964 out of a garage in the Los Angeles area. The founders wanted to make a difference in the lives of kids all across America and introduce them to the beautiful game of soccer. With over six million alumni, AYSO celebrated its 50th Anniversary last year and is thriving with nearly 900 communities all over the country.
Landon Donovan is probably one of the most well known professional soccer players who began his soccer career at AYSO. Donovan said, “The beauty of AYSO is that you have kids from all walks of life who just wanted to be active and run around and play soccer. I started playing club soccer at the age of 10 but I wanted to continue playing AYSO because I enjoyed the camaraderie and the ability to just play for the love of playing. The games were still competitive but they never revolved around winning.”
Donovan retired recently from professional soccer and has been praised as the greatest scorer in American men’s soccer history. He played in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups on the U.S. Men’s National team and was a high scoring forward for the LA Galaxy. Donovan also played for San Jose Earthquakes, Bayern Munich, and Everton. ESPN tapped Donovan as a broadcaster for the 2014 World Cup Coverage and now he has become a regular TV soccer commentator and recently covered Steven Gerrard‘s transition to the LA Galaxy.
Another great soccer player who got his start at AYSO is Eric Wynalda. Now a familiar face on FOX Sports 1, Wynalda is the second-leading goal scorer for the U.S. National Team with 34 goals in 106 appearances and he played in the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups.
What makes AYSO so successful? AYSO’s philosophies are different – there are six core facts that separate this program from other youth soccer organizations. They are Everyone Plays®, Balanced Teams, Open Registration, Positive Coaching, Good Sportsmanship and Player Development. And the long list of famous players who started at AYSO proves they are on to something that works.
“Soccer is a player’s game and AYSO is where a lot of great soccer players got their start,” said Lynn Berling-Manuel, AYSO Chief Marketing Officer who believes kids should enjoy coming to practice and playing soccer. “Our coaches are well trained and to share the passion of the game as well as help their players develop. You don’t yell at kid to learn algebra. And, you don’t yell at a kid to become a great athlete.”
On the Women’s National Team, Alex Morgan is probably the most famous face who first laced up her cleats at AYSO and is a devoted fan today. Morgan just finished a PSA (Public Service Announcement) for AYSO which will air on FOX Sports:
Foudy is another great example of a world-class player who has many fond memories of her AYSO days. She believes that being allowed to enjoy the game of soccer and explore it on her own terms was the key to her success. “AYSO emphasizes all the positives of soccer: the enjoyment that kids get from the sport, understanding how to play on a team and be a good teammate, and developing skills in a fun environment,” said Foudy. “I watched my nieces and nephews go through AYSO and I look forward to watching my own kids enjoy soccer through AYSO!”
AYSO’s philosophy inspires a passion for the beautiful game and if you go on to think of players who competed at the FIFA World Cups, some of the U.S. biggest names came from AYSO.
Rick Davis is the former captain of the U.S. National Team during the 1980s and has been acclaimed as one of the top American-born players ever, and yes – he also got his start at AYSO.
Jonathan Bornstein plays for Querétaro of Liga MX and also began at AYSO. Bornstein said, “I remember playing in a Turkey tournament one year and after a hard played final game, we won the championships. And I still think about that moment all the time!” Bornstein was also on the U.S. Men’s National team and played for Chivas USA.
AYSO is – obviously – a great place to start and continue playing soccer. Just listen to Alex Morgan’s advice for youth soccer players:
What to other former AYSO players say about their youth soccer days? “The friends I made. I still have friends who were on my first AYSO team back in Hawaii. The pure excitement and joy of running around and playing soccer with my fiends is something I’ll never forget. I was always that competitive kid and I remember crying after every loss. When my mom was coaching me, I remember her having to console me after every game we lost,” said Brian Ching who plays for the MLS Houston Dynamo and on U.S. National Team. A forward, Ching is a member of 2006 World Cup squad and a three-time MLS champion.
Jimmy Conrad said, “One of my favorite AYSO memories is from my very first team, the Kickeroos. We had red uniforms. AT the end of the season, we each got a trophy. The coach put a piece of tape on the back and wrote ‘Best Dribbler.’ I still have that trophy. Over the years, I’ve received many more trophies and awards, but that first one is still my favorite.” Conrad is now retired and played for Chivas USA, Kansas City Wizards, San Jose Earthquakes and on the U.S. National Team.
“I have a lot of good memories for playing AYSO. For on, it allowed me to make friends quickly after I had moved all the way from Brazil. So it was really important for my adaptation to American life,” said Benny Feilhaber who plays for Sporting Kansas City and on U.S. National Team.
American born Brad Guzan who plays as a goalkeeper for English Premier League (EPL) club Aston Villa and on the U.S. National Team said, “I always remember having such a great time running around and learning the sport. Some of the great memories were the team names that we would come up with (Blue Dolphins, Sharks) and also always getting a snack after the games. Sometimes I think us kids were more worried about what kind of snack was for after the game instead of the game. But, like I said, the main thing for me was having a great time and falling in love with the sport that I still play today.”
For more information on the famous players who got their start at AYSO, click here