We thought it was very important for us to try to answer this question as it gets asked to us over and over by parents involved with “club” soccer here in Central and Northern California. We know it is a question which will cause debate for some but all we can say is that our opinion is based solely on our club philosophy and the expectations brought upon us by our players families. And yes our opinion is going to be bias but looking at statistics and numbers you will quickly realize why one league is more competitive than the other. Also keep in mind that geographically we are talking about the Region 7 which is Fresno to Porterville here in the Central Valley of California.
Region 7 / Statewide
Both NorCal Premier and Calfornia Youth Soccer Association (CYSA) are youth soccer leagues in northern California. However in recent years just about all of the most competitive soccer clubs in northern California have switched over to play in the NorCal Premier.
Region 7 (Fresno to Porterville) is no exception, along with South Valley Chivas Academy all Division/Class 1 competitive youth soccer club from Region 7 who used to play in CYSA like Central Ca Alliance, Cal Odyssey, Odyssey South, Bullard, Crossfire, Pumas UNAM Fresno have all made the switch to play in the NorCal Premier because of the lack of competition in the current Region 7 CYSA league.
In the case of our club, after listening to our families and to their expectations like: “We are looking for a youth soccer program which can help our son/daughter develop into a great individual soccer player as well as a respectful citizens of our society. Ultimately we are hoping he/she can compete for a college scholarship when it comes time to.” Our decision was simple, we had to play in a league with the most competitive soccer teams and it didn’t matter if our teams had to travel to the Bay Area or Sacramento area for one game. If we were to prepare our players for a higher level of soccer and to compete against those type of players in the future, we had to be playing against them weekend in and weekend out. It would not help the development of our players if we had decided to stay here local in our CYSA league and play against Division/Class 3 recreational teams, when in fact there would always be more competitive teams out there that eventually our players would be competing against in the future. Our players would be literally a BIG FISH in a small pond when in fact there is a HUGE OCEAN out there.
Both league offer State Cup competitions and winners of those competitions move on to National competitions. But if the number of participating teams is an indicator of where all youth soccer clubs are heading then by far NorCal Premier has a lot more teams participating in their State Cup competition.
Back in the 1990’s the CYSA State Cup participation was huge, so much so that it had to be played on multiple weekends to accommodate the amount of teams. If you follow this link to the latest 2014-2015 CYSA State Cup competition, you will see that the competition is only offering limited divisions and those divisions have minimal teams participating in them. A far cry from what it used to be back in the 1990’s.
On the contrary you look at the NorCal Premier State Cup and you will notice that it offers multiple divisions (State, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Cooper) within each age groups and most of the division have up to 32 teams per division per age group. This competitions is so huge it has to be played over months. If you are a team participating in the State Cup and at the same time participating in the NorCal Premier Fall season, you will most likely be assured of playing multiple soccer games on each weekend during the Fall. The competition starts in August and ends into late April and early May of the following you.
As a coach coaching a team playing in the NorCal Premier, you are constantly coaching against former collegiate and professional soccer players and at times against current college coaches which adds an added scouting opportunity for some of our players.
When it comes to coaching education, NorCal Premier is constantly evaluating its member clubs to ensure that there is a constant growth in coaching education for individual coaches. The more educated coaches you have participating in the league, the better the competition will be.
In order to have continuing growth in coaching education, NorCal Premier is constantly offering free of charge clinics which are usually taught by “world class coaches”. Take for example Frans Hoek who year to year is brought in to do a coaches clinic; He was the Dutch national team goalie coach during Brazil 2014 World Cup and was pulled to Manchester United goalkeeper by Louis Van Gaal. In the past couple of years NorCal Premier has brought coaches from top professional soccer club like ACF Fiorentina, AJAX and Tottenham. Not to mentioned that NorCal Premier is affiliated to ACF Fiorentina and all coaches can take course to learn the Fiorentina methodology free of charge.
CYSA has always offered the same USSF courses which are available to all coaches no matter if you are NorCal Premier coach. They are great courses but the added bonus of learning from a world class coach is unbeatable as they bring different methodologies from different countries.
As of recent NorCal Premier has also started to introduce and working more closely with the National Soccer Coaching Association Of America to bring in more coaching courses.
Elite Player Programs
While CYSA still administers the Olympic Development Program (ODP) and it is a stepping stone into being scouted for the US National Youth Teams, in recent years it has become open to all players regardless if you play in CYSA or in the NorCal Premier.
On the NorCal Premier side the equivalent programs is the Players Development Program (PDP) which is a feeder into the US Club Soccer ID2 Program which is also heavy scouted for US National teams. So on both side there are opportunities if you are an elite player. Not matter which program you decide to participate in, they both have great scouting opportunities.
So as a new parent coming into “club” soccer here in Region 7, you will eventually hear about the two predominant youth soccer league in northern California. Whether your son/daughter is trying out or is already a part of a club, it is very important for you to know the difference between the two leagues and why a club participates in one over the other. Obviously it should be trivial if your son/daughter soccer development is important to you: the more competitive teams/players my son/daughter plays against, the more he/she will have to adapted to that higher level of soccer and in turn it will help him/her become better soccer players.
In ending you can clearly see with the expectations of our families why our club competes in the NorCal Premier and not CYSA. Obviously this is a decision all clubs need to make on their own and should be based on your club philosophy and your families expectations. Do they want to play competitive or recreational soccer? Are they willing to travel outside the area, if needed, in search of that higher competition?