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Player Hoarding: Club Soccer’s Dirty Secret

Written February 20, 2014 by Mike Slatton

A common deceptive practice used by most competitive American youth soccer programs is to take as many kids as will register for a particular age group, and then divide them into as many teams as they can make.  This is called “player hoarding”  and is revenue driven and intended to hurt smaller soccer clubs in the local market.

Now this doesn’t mean that every single player who shows up to tryouts is taken.  Instead, every ounce of talent is taken, leaving nothing to chance.  This also means that a player who might be good enough for the A team SOMEWHERE may not end up playing with a top tier team ANYWHERE.

The practice of player hoarding hurts the development of ALL players, because top tier teams aren’t competing against the best-of-the-best all the time.

How Player/Talent Hoarding Works

By the 2nd night of competitive team tryouts, EVERY PLAYER is led to believe that they’ve made an A Quality team, so that they won’t tryout anywhere else.    Months later – after all of the fees are paid – when training starts, players will then be told how the club REALLY feels about them.  This is called “ability-grouping”.

If a youth soccer club fields more than 2 competitive teams in any age group, they’re either hoarding talent, or are just focused on revenue. Regardless, know who the coaches are BEFORE paying any fees, to ensure that the focus is on player development, and not trophies for the club.

Another indicator that you’re getting fleeced is if the club has coaches coaching multiple teams. (read “What’s Better…” to understand.

Hoarding talent hurts the development of ALL competitive youth soccer players.

Hoarding talent hurts the development of ALL competitive youth soccer players.

In theory, ability grouping is the grouping of players based on soccer skills.  In reality though, ability grouping is the grouping of players based on politics… and soccer skills.

When clubs hoard players, inevitably, one club in the area will struggle to put together just one team in any given age group, therefore requiring players, who might not even be C level, to play A or B level competition.  This really hurts the top tier players who can only get better by playing against other top tier players.

State to state, region-wide, many soccer club A teams aren’t true A teams because of player hoarding by more established clubs.

Clubs that hoard players are also hurting their B teams for the very same reasons.  Top tier quality players are playing with and against 2nd tier teams and players.

I’d rather my son play AGAINST your 1st team than play FOR your 2nd.
Chief Editor of The Soccer Mom Manual | Mike Slatton
Player hoarding hurts club soccer for the primary reason that you don’t have the best of the best playing competitive youth soccer at the appropriate levels.  Instead, you have the most popular club getting the first pick, and taking every skilled player who can afford their fees.

How to Identify Hoarders

Any club that has more than 2 teams in age groups U10 to U12, and more than one team in age groups U13 and up is hoarding players, trying to choke out smaller clubs, and hurting competition at every level.

Once the smaller clubs are gone, what’s to stop a club from charging higher fees?  NOTHING.  They’ll justify the higher fees as necessary for hiring qualified coaches, but read Where Does All the Money Go to find out the real reasons.

Player hoarding hurts ALL of American soccer.



About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1978). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life - not just soccer."

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