Northwest Arkansas Youth Soccer Guide

by Monica Whitaker

Everything you need to know about youth soccer in NWA, from recreational leagues to travel clubs, expectations, time investment, financial commitment, and more.

As a parent with three children who have all played soccer since they were 4 years old, I often get asked the same questions over and over. Too often, parents simply don't know what ALL their options are for soccer in the area, from recreational to travel club, what the financial and time investment is like, tryout dates, etc. Competitive travel clubs in particular don't often provide enough information upfront, and parents often end up either missing tryouts, or not understanding the time, travel, or financial commitment they are signing up for.

Timing is also a critical element, as clubs have licensed coaches who generally have played soccer at higher levels and are pushing each of their players to get "touches" constantly. As a result the players begin to develop quickly at a young age. Each year that passes, the chances of a child making the transition from recreational soccer to club becomes more difficult, on average.

For a complete list of recreational leagues, clubs, training, camps and tournaments please see our soccer directory HERE.

(Note: We are in the process of producing guides similar to this for ALL the major sports in our area)

Below is an overview of what to expect between Recreational and Club:

Recreational Soccer in NWA:

  • Organized through the local municipalities / Parks & Rec (e.g. Bentonville, Fayetteville, etc)
  • Recreational generally requires a one-time registration fee that covers all the playing fees and jersey (usually $100 or less)
  • Two sessions: Fall and Spring lasting 10-12 weeks
  • Teams are parent coached and practice 1-2 times each week
  • Practices and games are usually 1 hour and more about having fun while also learning the sport
  • Missing practices and games will generally not impact your child's playing time as most recreational soccer is pay-to-play with each child receiving equal playing time
  • Recreational soccer begins with children as young as 4, and continues through high school ages. (note: The older ages may not have enough people for a league or will have fewer teams.)
  • Usually no more than 1 game per week (except for the end of session tournament which could see more).

Club (Travel) Soccer in NWA:

  • Four clubs in the Northwest Arkansas area:
    • Sporting Arkansas (Bentonville)
    • Arkansas Comet (Springdale)
    • Legends (Rogers)
    • Siloam Springs Futbol Club (Siloam Springs)
  • Teams are formed by birthyear, not grade
  • Requires a significant time and financial commitment compared to recreational soccer and those commitments often increase as children age
  • A roster spot nor playing time is guaranteed
  • Missing practices and games frequently is generally not tolerated
  • Annual tryouts are in late April or early May (just after the Arkansas State Cup)
    • Club teams register each player with the state and receive a player card. These cards must be submitted at each event during the season along with the required paperwork (e.g. birth certificates, medical insurance, etc.). April/May is generally the only time tryouts are held for club soccer. If you miss tryouts and your child does not have a player card, it is unlikely they will get on a team as rosters generally get locked until the next season.
  • Older children (14+) may have a later tryout in mid-July after US Youth Soccer Regionals are held
  • Financial:
    • $250-500 per child in club fees annually. Need based scholarships are available in limited quantities in most clubs
    • $140-$200 fee for two uniforms that are usually good for 2 years (home and away)
    • $110-$450 per session team fees (payable twice - Fall and Spring) depending on which tournaments they play in. Teams often participate in fund raising efforts to subsidize some or all of their team fees
    • Travel cost are variable and can range dramatically from $750 per year up to $4,000+ when the children are older and traveling more.
  • Time Commitment:
    • Practices generally run 90-120 minutes or more
    • Most teams practice 3 times each week leading into the season, and then twice a week when the season begins as the team will likely be traveling and playing in 2 day tournaments on weekends
    • Overnight tournaments are frequent for teams 11 and older
    • Tournaments in Tulsa, Kansas City, and Ft. Smith are very frequent
    • Children 11 and older will also travel to Dallas, St. Louis, Memphis, Little Rock, and beyond
    • Almost every major tournaments will require a two night stay in a hotel booked through their travel agent (see below for more on "stay to play").
  • Academy club teams are for children ages 10 and under. Every child who tries out for academy club will generally make the team, with rare exception, if the numbers allow (10-12 kids per team).
  • Academy teams generally attend 1-2 overnight trips each Fall and Spring. This age group is a nice bridge between Classic Club and recreation. The teams play local games when they are not traveling.
  • When children turn 11 years old, they begin playing in Classic soccer and tryouts become more competitive as children can be cut. Time commitments increase dramatically, as one team can travel for weekend tournaments (8-9 weekends for Fall and another 8-9 weekends for Spring). Some of the best tournaments are 3-4 day events over major holidays (e.g. Spring Break)
  • Winter: Many children in club will continue to play Futsal in the winter (indoor soccer played with heavier ball that does not bounce) or at other indoor artificial turf venues in the area such as Next Level in Springdale
  • Summer: Many children also play in 3v3 tournaments which are usually day trips. This involves a team of 5-7 girls and games are much faster paced with slightly different rules
  • Club philosophy is all about "touches" which is why the coaches try to keep their players touching the ball in some form or fashion all year long.

Monica Whitaker.  Writer for Firefly Marketing, LLC including and

Monica Whitaker, writer with FamilyLifeNWA

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