We need green youth travel soccer leagues

Another scary map below!

On Sunday, November 4, two neighboring U13 girls travel teams in the Washington Area Girls Soccer League (WAGS) traveled far from home to win games. Both teams are based close enough to the Maryland Soccerplex (near Germantown) to play home games there, but on that Sunday one team traveled approximately 50 miles—to Severna Park, Maryland—to win a game 6-0, and the other traveled approximately 70 miles—to Fredericksburg, Virginia—to win 3-1.

Again, both have home games at Maryland Soccerplex:

Sun, October 14, 2012
GAME#   Time Home   Away Location
14423   1:30 pm W9993 MSC Thunder 1-0 W9975 MD RUSH 99G Nike Maryland SoccerPlex #17

14425   1:30 pm W9978 BETH Academy White 0-1 W9939 CRFT A3 Ponies Maryland SoccerPlex #4

And their trips Nov. 4:

Sun, November 4, 2012
GAME#   Time Home   Away Location
14436   10:30 am W9970 SEVP Extreme 0-6 W9993 MSC Thunder Severna Park High School Bermuda 1

14439   3:00 pm W9966 FASA PREMIERE IMPACT ’99 1-3 W9978 BETH Academy White Patriot Park (Fredericksburg) #3

It would have made more sense for the environment, for traffic, and for the sanity of the drivers had these teams just played each other, that day.

Rosters for these teams can go up to 18 players. Let’s say they have 16 who made the trips, and let’s say they went in 12 cars (which is more carpooling than I see with my own daughter’s travel team). Let’s say that those cars get 25 mpg, on average (which is probably very optimistic). That means the families of just those two teams burned 115 gallons of gas for the total round trip distance of 2880 miles. If we assume that all the players of the home teams rode bikes to the two games, that’s still about 2,185 pounds of carbon dioxide released into the air by the drives for this game.

And these two teams are from just one ten-team division of seven divisions of U13 girls in WAGS; where I live, in Northern Virginia, there are several other travel leagues, and of course the leagues have many age divisions. My daughter plays in WAGS; meanwhile, in the Virginia Club Champions League (VCCL), teams from Frederick, Maryland are playing against teams from Prince William County (approximately 70 miles away), and teams from Washington, DC travel to Loudoun County (approximately 40 miles).

Then there is the Old Dominion Soccer League (ODSL), which has teams from Spotsylvania, Virginia playing teams from Arlington, approximately 60 miles away. Boys do not play in the WAGS league, of course, but there is an all-boys travel league in the area as well: the National Capital Soccer League (NCSL), with teams in one sample division hailing from Stafford, Virginia and Laurel, Maryland.

This is insane. We should be smarter than this. The vast, vast majority of these kids can find competitive soccer games without traveling 80, 120, or 200 miles round trip. (See previous post for a team traveling 100 miles one-way for a game.) U13 girls teams from Loudoun County play in all three girls’ divisions of the ODSL, and in at least three divisions of WAGS, and in the VCCL; that’s at least seven neighboring teams that drive all over the metro area to get games. Do you mean to tell me that the skills of 12-year-old soccer players are so well differentiated (and measured) that we would be stunting them by just having them play each other? We really need at least seven different travel divisions for them? (And keep in mind that these are all travel teams, whose skills are already advanced [we hope] beyond recreational leagues.)

So my solution is that like-minded parents start a Green League with limited travel. Now, I understand that the term “Green League” may not appeal to everyone, so we could come up with something better; for example, the three Major League Soccer franchises from the Pacific Northwest—the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps—track their matches each season to determine the winner of the Cascadia Cup. We could name our local league the Falls Church Cup, or perhaps the Fairfax Classic. For those of you soccer fans who are more Eurocentric, you will know that the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers in Scotland is known as the Old Firm; we could call our league the New Firm. How cool would that be? “What league does your daughter’s travel club play in?” “She plays in the New Firm,” would be the answer, with no further information necessary.

By the way, those two U13 girls teams mentioned in the opening paragraph did indeed play each other, last season; they drew, 1-1, on September 15, at their blessedly-nearby Maryland Soccerplex. All the more reason to have had a rematch on November 4.



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