Independent teams and the smaller youth soccer clubs listen up! You do not have big budgets to play in the expensive leagues in the DC, MD, VA area. So what is the alternative? The Maryland Developmental Soccer League.
The expensive youth leagues in the area can cost between $1500-$2500 per season which is equivalent to semi-professional league fees like the United Premier Soccer League and the annual fee for United Soccer League 2. To be part of both of these leagues, you have to either be backed by a big sponsor or a company, and most grassroot soccer teams (independent or a small club) do not have the luxury of either.
We have heard many stories about some of the more expensive leagues in the area collecting money and not caring about the teams. What some of the teams have said is that the leagues do not accept feedback, sometimes they do not have referees despite charging a team on average $2k to play in their league, and the expensive league blames their failures on the shortage of referees in the area. Another observation is that these leagues provide very little to no resources to help the clubs to develop. The mindset of the league is to play and leave. They use their brand name to make a ton of money off of the small club despite having many flaws in their system. Yet teams know this but continue to go back and they do not seek alternatives.
Well, there is an alternative and teams must rid themselves of the status quo. The MDSL is the alternative and it isn’t run by clubs with the same approach to “player development” as they have had since the early 1970s, nor is it run by non-soccer people who only care about the bottom line. The league is run by a collection of forward thinkers who don’t talk about putting players first, but they actually do put players first. The MDSL respects the sport of soccer and requires all teams to respect the game by showing great sportsmanship to one another, otherwise they will be docked Fair Play Points. We are a League who celebrates the player, provides player of the season awards, and acknowledges teams whether they are in a division where scores aren’t kept or in a division where champions are crowned. The MDSL is a league where to join is a fraction of what the expensive leagues charge. So think about this, instead of a club with 10 teams paying $20k per season to play, here at the MDSL they would pay $5k per season, so within a year that club saves $30k that they can use to put back into their club. To a club that may generate $150k or less per year, like most small clubs generate, the savings are huge and it is money that the smaller club can use to hire coaches or pay for a part-time Technical Director or Director of Coaching.
Independent teams and the smaller clubs really need to stop believing that playing at a complex with below average turf fields or playing in a league just because they have had a name” since the 1970s is the end all be all. The game is constantly changing on the field with new methodologies and styles of play, so clubs need to adapt and make changes off the field to ensure that their clubs are sustainable on the business end. Teams look for three things when choosing a league: great competition, great facilities, and great referees, and we have all three and more.
Too many clubs in the DC, MD, VA area have folded over the years due to the high costs of operating clubs that has to be passed onto the families. Coaching fees are the highest expense in addition to the cost of leagues and tournaments. Well what if you are a family who can’t pay to play soccer but the player is really good? Then someone else must pay for your league fees and the high fees of tournaments.
It is time that independent teams and the smaller clubs start taking control of their programs off the field. Stop paying $2500 for a league that offers you nothing more than 8 games (of which some may or may not have a referee). It costs $100 to operate a game (referee and true field costs), but the expensive leagues are making $700 per game. Thus marking up the cost of a league game by 7x the amount. They are the ones getting rich and making the money, not you the independent team/small club. While you have to continue to scrounge around to field teams as you begin to lose players pass the age of 12 to bigger clubs and while you have to play on poor county fields, they are the ones getting richer. So as independent teams and small clubs, let’s stop complaining about the high costs to operate our clubs and make a change to a more cost effective League like the MDSL. It is time for the clubs to take back control of their expenses and cut costs all while improving the quality in their leagues.