The US Youth Soccer Far West Regional League (FWRL)
, the top league for competitive teams in Region IV, implemented significant changes for the 2013-14 season when it moved from a region-wide schedule to three geographical divisions. US Youth Soccer’s Region IV, the largest of the country’s four regions, includes all western states from Colorado to Hawaii, and the divisions – Northern, Desert and California – were created to cut down on team travel costs while still providing the most competitive platform. Washington Youth Soccer teams kicked off Northern Division play this month, and coaches believe the new league structure will help deliver the most effective model of play for top teams.
Teams must qualify to compete in the Far West Regional League, guaranteeing the best competition available in the region. Washington teams qualify for the Far West Regional League through their performance in the Washington Youth Soccer Regional Club League (RCL)
, the top state league in Washington. Washington Premier FC, a member of the RCL, hadn’t previously competed in the Far West Regional League due to the travel demands, but the club qualified eight teams into this year’s competition and is excited about the future of the league.
"We’re happy to be a part of the Far West Regional League and I think the Northern Division is a good step. It’s a good step towards that ultimate goal of identifying the best teams and having them compete together," said Wade Webber, Washington Premier FC Boys Director of Coaching. "The European Champions League on the professional level is really what we’re trying to do. Take the best teams from a region and don’t limit yourself just because they’re in a different state. The FWRL gives my kids a chance to play in meaningful games against competition that we don’t frequently see. You get opponents with different styles and philosophies, and in different settings."
The Far West Regional League not only provides the most competitive regional league platform, but the winners from each division earn a spot in the Far West Region IV Championships, part of the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series
, the oldest and most prestigious youth soccer national championship in the country, and a potential spot in the highly competitive US Youth Soccer National League
. With a berth to Regionals on the line, the added incentive is ideal for coaches to put their players into meaningful games with pressure situations they must learn to cope with.
"The Far West Regional League is one of the only leagues where there’s a reward when you win it. So, it kind of puts a little emphasis on that and changes the dynamic a little bit from just regular league play. It’s just something that we’re excited about and should have some good long term effects for Washington Youth Soccer," commented Scott Newman, Northwest Nationals SC Coaching Director. "Now if we add on the FWRL, it adds more competitive games with that carrot at the end to continue to challenge (the players), to make them grow and realize there is something to be competing for."
While the popular mantra in youth soccer has been emphasizing development over winning, most coaches agree that a balance of both is needed to truly develop players.
"The way I see it, this is just another opportunity to put them in a more pressure filled environment where their performance matters. It does matter and there is something at the end that we can win that has implications, and I think that every kid needs to have that," said Webber. "I have games where I can rotate my squad, I can bring kids up from another team, I can flesh it out over the course of the regular league season because there’s no incentive to win that league. I do care if we win these Far West Regional League games. There’s a different preparation, mentality, stress and competitiveness. It has a different feel to it than just a regular league game."
The Far West Regional League is for boys and girls teams in the Under-12 through Under-18 age groups. The Northern Division includes teams from Idaho, Oregon and Washington this year, and is also available to teams from Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Northern Nevada. Competition will continue through June, and additional developments are expected next season as the league continues to evolve. Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Southern Nevada and Utah will compete in the Desert Division, while California North and California South make up the California Division.
The Far West Regional League now joins US Youth Soccer’s other three regional leagues with a divisional format – Region I Premier League, Region II Midwest Regional League and the Region III Southern Regional Premier League – and all provide alternate entry points to their respective US Youth Soccer Regional Championships along with traditional State Cup winners.