These last eighteen months have seen considerable changes in our Bay Area youth soccer landscape. Clubs have merged, affiliated, and franchised. This post is an attempt to summarize at least some of that activity. There are more changes to come no doubt.
San Jose Earthquakes Youth Expansion
Expanded their teams all the way down to U5. The Earthquakes Player Development system now consist of five levels:
- Earthquakes professional team (Major League Soccer)
- Earthquakes Under-23 team (Premier Development League)
- Earthquakes Academy teams (U14, U16, U18 – USSDA)
- Earthquakes Pre-Academy teams (U9-U16)
- Earthquakes Elite Player Development teams – recreational teams for ages 4-11.
In addition, the Quakes expanded their affiliates program to the following clubs: East Valley FC Turlock, West Coast FC Livermore, Ethos FC Sacramento, San Mateo County Star, San Francisco Elite, San Jose FC (aka Central Valley YSL), Diablo FC East Bay.
This affiliate program appears to be primarily a player identification system. Locations of clubs are chosen to achieve a good geographic coverage across the region, which includes Sacramento.
My understanding is that there are still some growing pains for the younger age groups, but it is likely that the Earthquakes will clean this up over time.
De Anza Force merges with Barcelona Bay Area
Barcelona Bay Area created strong boys and girls teams these last four years or so by focusing on the South San Jose to Gilroy area. This club’s growth was rapid and came with considerable success.
With the changes in our Bay Area soccer club landscape, including the expansion of the Earthquakes academy to the youngest age groups, it makes sense for these two strong clubs to merge to provide more opportunities for youngsters in a stronger combined entity.
This combined entity should have stronger teams than each can field alone because the catchment area is now larger and more financial resources to invest in the continued growth of the combined club. Access to scarce quality practice and game fields should also now be better for the combined entity.
In addition to the combined teams there will also be a new Force South to continue to offer quality programs in the southern parts of San Jose to Gilroy.
The top youngsters at Barcelona Bay Area also now have seamless access to both the elite Development Academy (for boys) and EGSL/ECNL (for girls). Force is the only club that has both accreditations. And having a consistent player development curriculum for all players in this combined entity will help young players be better prepared to compete for those elite slots when they get to U12.
Note that in late 2014 Gryphons Soccer Club in San Mateo County merged with De Anza Force to become ‘Force North’.
PSA Royals is now Liverpool FC Bay Area
PSA Royals is now the official Northern California partner club of Liverpool Football Club in England, with full rebranding, including official use of the Liverpool jerseys and the transfer of Liverpool’s player development curriculum.
LFC Bay Area also have a relationship with the Earthquakes, but not all the way to affiliate status. I suspect that this won’t work too well – you probably can’t have Liverpool and Earthquakes branding at the same time.
Almaden FC is now a FC Bayern Munich affiliate
AFC is now an extension of the German FC Bayern Munich academy in North America. However, my understanding is that AFC is not allowed to re-brand. Liverpool allowed PSA Royals to re-brand, but it appears that Bayern Munich doesn’t allow that for their affiliates.
AFC will now have access to the FC Bayern player development curriculum and will benefit from interactions with the Youth Academy Staff of FC Bayern.
El Cerrito FC is now Tottenham Hotspur East Bay
English Premier League team Tottenham took over El Cerrito Futbol Club at the beginning of this year. They fully re-branded, including wearing the official Tottenham jerseys.
There’s a rumor that ACC Mavericks might merge with Tottenham Hotspur East Bay at some point, but there appear to be tensions/disagreements how this would be implemented.
Sporting Santa Clara is now a West Ham International Academy club
English Premier League team West Ham has been very active with their entry into the U.S. youth scene. My understanding is that West Ham’s affiliate program does not include rebranding of Sporting though.
The benefits of affiliating with these top international clubs for our local youth clubs is access to player development curricula, behind the scenes coaching education, and, probably most of all, a boost in credibility to help attract talent.
My understanding is that a typical annual license fee a local youth club has to pay the international club is around $15K. But that is based on one data point only – I don’t know how many clubs have to pay a license fee and how much.
The international clubs benefit from better talent scouting (nothing beats having an actual on-the-ground presence) and increased brand awareness.
And the earlier they can develop talent here ‘the right way’ (in their view) through their own coaching approach and their player development curriculum the more likely it is that top talent can be useful once they move to the international club’s home academy in Europe.
It’s going to be interesting to see which other European (and Mexican?) clubs enter the Bay Area in the near future. Lots of big clubs from England, Germany, Italy, and Spain are still not active here.
And probably the biggest local target is now the merged De Anza Force/Barcelona Bay Area entity.
6 thoughts on “Big changes for Bay Area youth soccer clubs”
Just saw the latest soccer.com catalog.
Liverpool took out a full one page ad about looking for new affiliate clubs.
I’ve also heard these affiliate seeking clubs are now regulars at coach conventions.
Very interesting, Mark. Thank you for sharing that. I’ll take a look when I next receive that catalog.
Regarding the actual benefits of each of these affiliations…
It seems the ID part is not a benefit to the club really, since almost all the ID camps are open to anyone.
It’s a benefit to players in the area in general to have these type of camps…but not really a benefit to the players of the affiliated club.
Perhaps it gives some credibility to the clubs hosting the ID camp.
Branding/recruiting: For clubs wearing the team uniforms, this is a benefit to the club, but for the players?
Maybe it makes them feel better about the club.
Quakes are benefitting from that.
Having a well thought out curriculum could be great…but if the coaches can’t/don’t teach well, then it’s not a benefit.
Coach training: could be useful if done in the right way, but it sounds like for most of these it involves sending 1 or 2 club coaches to be trained and rely on them to train the rest.
Benefits for the pro club:
more merchandise sales and grow fan base in an affluent and growing market, those team identifications last a long time.
It does seem Force probably has the critical mass to attract a high profile affiliation that might challenge the Quakes.
Man U, Barca or Real could make a dent if it was legitimate and substantial.
I share your skepticism about what an affiliation brings a club regarding access to ID camps. And let’s see what happens to Force. They are definitely the big fish here outside Earthquakes. I suspect that FCB will be very cautious about doing anything as much as LFC and others, so let’s park for them for now. That leaves maybe ManU or Arsenal or Chelsea or Real Madrid. I doubt any other German club will do anything and there aren’t any other big names. That said, Force hosted an AC Milan camp a month ago or so, but I’d be surprised if Italian clubs are ready to commit. Maybe Man City also?