ORGANIZATIONS AFFECTING SOCCER IN THE U.S.
There are numerous organizations affecting the structure and direction of soccer in the United States, all the way from large, international entities to local recreation departments. The following is a summary list of the major organizations.
International Football Association Board (IFAB)
The International Football Association Board, composed of representatives of FIFA, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is the organization that oversees and makes changes to the rules of soccer, the seventeen “Laws of the Game.” www.TheIFAB.com
Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (in French) or the International Federation of Association Football (in English) is recognized as the world governing authority of soccer. Headquartered in Switzerland, it is known worldwide by its acronym, FIFA, pronounced “fee-fuh.” FIFA is recognized by the IFAB as the organization responsible for the implementation of the Laws of the Game. (See “Competitions” below.) www.FIFA.com
Confederations (FIFA Confederations)
Confederations are regional groupings of national soccer associations, from member countries recognized by FIFA, which belong to the same continent or relative geographic area. The six Confederations in FIFA are: CONMEBOL, AFC, UEFA, CAF, CONCACAF, and OFC. CONMEBOL is the Confederation of South American Football. AFC is the Asian Football Confederation. UEFA is the Union of European Football Associations. CAF is the Confederation of African Football. CONCACAF is the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. OFC is the Oceania Football Confederation (nations in the Pacific and South Pacific). www.fifa.com/associations
Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)
The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF (kon-kay-kaf), is the division of FIFA national associations which includes the United States. (See “Competitions” below.) www.CONCACAF.com
National Association (National Football Association)
A country’s national association is the governing body recognized as the one and only organization to represent and administer soccer before FIFA. The national association for the United States is the United States Soccer Federation or USSF, also known as U. S. Soccer. www.fifa.com/associations
United States Soccer Federation (USSF)
The United States Soccer Federation is the FIFA-recognized national organization and sanctioning body for soccer in the United States. Also known as the USSF or U.S. Soccer, it is responsible for the national soccer teams and presents a set of coaching courses and programs culminating with national coaching licenses. The USSF includes a number of “affiliated organizations” which includes the United States Adult Soccer Association and the United States Youth Soccer Association. (See “Competitions” below.) www.ussoccer.com
United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA)
The United States Adult Soccer Association, or USASA, organizes, directs and controls men’s and women’s national amateur leagues and teams throughout the United States. It consists of 54 state organizations as well as national, regional and state leagues. The association also conducts national cup competitions. (See “Competitions” below.) www.usadultsoccer.com
Men’s National Team (USMNT)
The United States Men’s National soccer team represents the United States at the highest level of international competition, including “friendlies,” the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the FIFA World Cup. www.ussoccer.com/teams/usmnt
Women’s National Team (USWNT)
The United States Women’s National soccer team represents the United States at the highest level of international competition, including “friendlies,” the SheBelieves Cup, and the FIFA World Cup. www.ussoccer.com/teams/uswnt
Men’s Olympic Team (U-23 USMNT)
The United States Men’s Olympic Team is an age-restricted team, with exceptions, representing the United States in Olympic competition. Olympic soccer games, conducted under the auspices of FIFA, restrict participation to U-23 (with up to three players over this age limit allowed), in order to not overshadow the FIFA World Cup. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_men%27s_national_under-23_soccer_team
Women’s Olympic Team (USWNT)
The United States Women’s Olympic team represents the United States in female Olympic competition. Unlike the men, there are no age restrictions, in order to promote the women’s game. Accordingly, the Women’s National Team and the Women’s Olympic Team are essentially one and the same. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_women%27s_national_soccer_team
Paralympic National Team, Paralympic Soccer (USPNT)
Paralympic soccer is the U.S. Soccer program for players with certain disabilities who may compete in friendly matches, invitational tournaments, and international events, such as the Intercontinental Cup, Copa America, World Championships, Parapan American Games, and the Paralympic Games. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_men%27s_Paralympic_soccer_team
United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA, USYS)
The United States Youth Soccer Association, Inc. is the official arm of the USSF responsible for youth soccer. “Each summer US Youth Soccer crowns a boys and girls national champion in each of its seven age divisions (13U, 14U, 15U, 16U, 17U, 18U and 19U). The US Youth Soccer National League represents the national tier of the Leagues Program. It features the nation’s top 14U through 19U boys’ and girls’ teams, offering additional exposure to collegiate, professional and U.S. National Team coaches. The US Youth Soccer Conferences make up the multi-state tier of the Leagues Program. The network of 13 competitive Conferences operate at a multi-state level — providing high-level competition on a consistent basis at a targeted local level. The US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) was formed in 1977 to identify a pool of players in each age group from which a National Team will be selected for international competition. The US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup provides a progressive, competitive experience to US Youth Soccer teams from the state to regional to national level. Soccer Across America is designed to introduce the sport of soccer to youngsters living in communities not yet served by existing clubs and leagues. Soccer Shots is an engaging children’s soccer program with a focus on character development. The USYS United Cup aims to provide recreational youth soccer players an opportunity to experience a consistent and high-quality statewide tournament. US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by youth soccer association volunteers. In September, the National Youth Soccer Month campaign revolves around educating the public about the joys, rewards and benefits of playing youth soccer.” https://www.usyouthsoccer.org/about/us-youth-soccer-programs/
State organizations, grouped into Regions, are recognized by the United States Soccer Federation for both youth and adults. https://www.usyouthsoccer.org/state-associations/ https://www.ussoccer.com/organization-members/state-associations
US Club Soccer
A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer is a non-profit organization committed to the development and support of soccer clubs in the United States. “US Club Soccer administers and sanctions leagues throughout the country for various age groups, competitive levels and geographic sizes and areas. These league platforms are all created with similar principles and guidelines, and collectively provide a full competition spectrum for modern club.” www.usclubsoccer.org
“Select Soccer” or “Select Teams” are higher-level, competitive youth soccer where players are chosen for the team and registered through US Youth Soccer, but generally play in a local league.
Travel teams are select teams, registered through US Youth Soccer, that play in regional or national competitions or tournaments.
Major League Soccer (MLS)
Major League Soccer is the first tier of men’s professional soccer in the United States. https://www.mlssoccer.com/
United Soccer League (USL)
The United Soccer League provides second- and third-division men’s professional soccer in the United States, divided into US Championship, US League One, US League Two, and USL Academy. https://www.uslsoccer.com/
National Professional Soccer League (NPSL)
Affiliated with the United States Adult Soccer Association, the NPSL is generally recognized as a fourth-division men’s semi-professional soccer league in the United States. https://www.npsl.com/
National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL)
The National Women’s Soccer League is a professional women’s soccer league owned by the teams, and under a management contract with the United States Soccer Federation. At the top of the United States league system, it represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. https://www.nwslsoccer.com/
Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPSL)
The Women’s Professional Soccer League is a national women’s soccer league in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and is on the second level of women’s soccer in the United States soccer pyramid, generally below the National Women’s Soccer League and roughly equivalent to United Women’s Soccer. https://www.wpslsoccer.com/
United Women’s Soccer (UWS)
United Women’s Soccer is a second-division pro-am women’s soccer league in the United States. The league was founded in 2015 due to problems and dissolution of other leagues. The league began play in May 2016 with eleven teams in two conferences. https://uwssoccer.com/
(Operate independently of FIFA and the USSF.)
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
The National Collegiate Athletic Association provides intercollegiate soccer competition for men and women in Divisions I, II, and III. http://www.ncaa.org/
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics provides intercollegiate soccer competition for men and women. https://www.naia.org/
National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
The National Junior College Athletic Association intercollegiate soccer competition for men and women. https://www.njcaa.org/
National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA)
The National Christian College Athletic Association intercollegiate soccer competition for men and women. https://thenccaa.org/
(Operates independently of FIFA and the USSF.)
National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS; NF)
The NFHS is an organization that prepares a separate soccer rule book and competition requirements for high schools in the United States. https://www.nfhs.org/
Other National Youth
American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO)
American Youth Soccer Organization. https://ayso.org/
National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS)
National Alliance for Youth Sports. https://nays.org/
Soccer for American Youth (SAY)
Soccer for American Youth. https://www.saysoccer.org/
Local Clubs, Youth Organizations, and Recreation Departments
Usually a local organization providing access to youth recreational and competitive games, but may include adult programs as well.
House, House Leagues
The recreational division of local youth soccer.
Recreational, Recreational Soccer
A level of soccer designed to be more for fun and exercise than for competition or based on the ability of players.
United Soccer Coaches
Based in the United States, the United Soccer Coaches organizations self-identifies as “…the world’s largest soccer coaches’ organization that serves members at every level of the game.” [Formerly the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).] United Soccer Coaches publishes “The Soccer Journal.” https://unitedsoccercoaches.org/
FIFA World Cup (Men and Women)
FIFA conducts the largest international soccer competitions in the world for men’s and women’s teams. Held every four years, with play-ins conducted in the two years leading up to the events, every country on earth with a FIFA-recognized soccer governing body is eligible to apply for entry to these competitions in order to determine the best men’s and women’s national team.
Club World Cup
FIFA-sponsored international competition for the best club teams.
Youth World Cups
FIFA World competitions for youth national teams, by age groups.
CONCACAF Champions League
The CONCACAF Champions League is the main soccer competition of the men’s club soccer teams governed by CONCACAF, determining the continental club champion of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
CONCACAF Gold Cup
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is the main soccer cup competition of the men’s national soccer teams governed by CONCACAF, determining the champion of the North America, Central America, and the Caribbean region. The Gold Cup is held every two years.
CONCACAF Nations League
Launched in 2019-2020, the CONCACAF Nations League is an international soccer competition involving the men’s national soccer teams of the 41 member countries of the North American, Central American, and Caribbean region. The countries are divided into three groupings, League A (12), League B (16), and League C (13) that will include advancement and relegation and will provide qualification for the Gold Cup.
U. S. Open Cup
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, commonly known as the U.S. Open Cup, is the oldest knock-out cup competition in American soccer. It is open to all USSF-registered professional and amateur teams in the United States.
The SheBelieves Cup is a women’s soccer tournament with three of the top national teams in the world invited to join the USWNT. The SheBelieves Cup is usually held annually in the United States in late February or early March.