Jun 20

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Can my child be placed on a team with friends?


  • LNYSA places younger players (U8 and younger) on teams with their friends
  • For U9 and older, LNYSA strives to provide fair and fun competition by balancing teams; players are placed on teams with friends as long as team balance is not impacted
  • Players with higher skills and desire to play in a more competitive environment are given the opportunity to play in the Signature program or even introduced to our Laguna United club teams; Signature is not a a good fit for most recreational players
  • Taking groups of friends with recreational experience to create a ‘Signature team’ often results in a poor experience for the children, frequently resulting in players quitting soccer at a young age

Every year as LNYSA forms it teams for the seasons, hundreds of parents ask that their child be placed on teams with friends.  LNYSA’s recreational programs are designed to provide each player the opportunity to play soccer in a supportive, developmentally appropriate environment that emphasizes fun, enjoyment and skill learning, through equal participation, regardless of ability.  A big part of the fun is playing with friends.

LNYSA follows US Youth Soccer Developmental guidelines for activities, skill training and team formation.  Children’s needs based on their physical, social and emotional development are key in forming teams.  LNYSA has a program for every age group, for every skill level and for every competitive level.  LNYSA strives to make sure there is a place for every child that promotes the best result for that individual.

In Mini-kickers, teams are not formed – groups form each weekend for the activities.  LNYSA doesn’t form teams at this age group because these young children are in the social developmental stage where the only thing that matters is ‘me and my ball’.  Children at this age do not identify with a team.

In U6 to U8 recreational soccer, children become less ego-centric and start to identify with one or two friends.   When playing in a team sport, the experience is more defined by playing with one or two friends rather than the actual team.  Because this is the age group that most kids begin playing soccer, LNYSA believes it is important that friends be placed together, or on teams with school mates with whom they have something in common.

As children progress to the U9 and older stage, their soccer experience becomes more defined by the team experience. Physically, children begin to demonstrate a wide range of skill levels.  Children identify more with their team experience.  Feedback from experts, parents and coaches confirms LNYSA’s belief that the best way to provide the team experience in a safe, fair and fun environment is to balance teams as much as possible, distributing recreational players of all skill levels among all teams.  This means that some times friends are not playing on the same team – but friends are playing in the same age group when their teams meet.

Also, starting at the U9 age group LNYSA begins to form teams for the Calsouth Signature Program.  Signature is a Calsouth program for more highly skilled players.  It requires more commitment (financial and LNYSA has a rigorous selection process for these teams and limits participation to those players who in the opinion of the program coordinators and coaches are ready for that level of play; most recreational players are not ready for this level of play.  You can learn more about our Signature program and the selection process on the Signature program pages of LNYSA.org.

Some times, recreational teams that are successful think they are ready ‘to move to the next level.’  While it is true there may be players on such teams whose are ready to play at a competitive level, whether Signature or Club, it is rare that an entire team is ready to play at a higher level.  Some local soccer ‘leagues’ advertise that they are recreational and allow teams to stay together and entice coaches (who receive free registration for their children when the bring a team over) to move teams from recreational leagues.  These organizations typically do not have recreational programs at U9 and older age groups, so they use a loophole to place all of their teams in those age groups into the Signature league.  This results in teams that are not competitive.  In the past, some LNYSA teams have been lured to these organizations with the promise of ‘allowing friends to play together.’  LNYSA has tracked those teams and players – their experience has not been good.  Often, the teams have dismals season, suffering lopsided losses week after week.  LNYSA believes that after one year, about half the players come back to LNYSA. Significantly, about one-third of the players stop playing soccer after such a negative experience. The remaining few find places with other teams or club programs.

LNYSA measures its success not by how teams place in competition, but by how many children return to play soccer the following season.   While our system is not perfect and sometimes we have poor balance in  some divisions, every board member strives to make the best possible experience for every child, no matter the skill level or experience.  For every program, every season, every activity, LNYSA volunteers always ask themselves, “Is it Safe?  Is it Fair?  Is it FUN?”


Permanent link to this article: https://www.lnysa.org/teambalance/