For years, the Select level of play has bridged the gap between recreational and premier, with a more developmental and results-oriented approach than rec, but a lower time and financial commitment than premier. With consistent rosters comprised largely of players from the local community, it gives players who want to stay with their friends and classmates, and pursue a higher challenge than rec, the opportunity to do so, without the year-round schedules, cost and travel demands of the premier/RCL level.
For the large majority of teams in the Select level, this system has worked well. The very best Select teams, however, have often found themselves torn — on one hand, they'd love to give their players the opportunity to challenge themselves even further, against premier the best select teams and even Regional Club League squads. But to do so would require their players to leave the Select level and join premier clubs, thus essentially breaking up the team as it exists.. For many players the demands of playing on premier/RCL teams don’t fit their personal or family situation.
That's why, over the last several months, the Select and Regional Club subcommittees have met numerous times to create a new pathway to the upper tiers of play for the most accomplished Select clubs, while bringing the Select and RCL levels into alignment with regards to tryouts, bylaws and other administrative processes.
Their meetings resulted in the creation of five initiatives designed to strengthen the Select level of play in Washington state:
- 1. Develop Select league standards to improve quality and consistency.
- 2. Rebuild a Washington Youth Soccer-sanctioned Select league for the south Puget Sound area by extending North Puget Sound League (NPSL) operations and governance structure.
- 3. Establish one state-wide division for top select competition from U13-U18.
- 4. Better define Select and Regional Club definitions/relationships.
- 5. Establish a promotion opportunity from the top Select Division to the RCL.
Brian Curl, the Select Subcommittee chairman, says that the new initiatives will improve the quality of league offerings statewide, without damaging existing leagues.
“Our goal from the start was to find people with a strong Select focus from around the state, and bring in people who were willing to work together with the other leagues, and come at the issues from a constructive perspective,” he says. “This group, which included both members of the Select subcommittee and the Regional Club subcommittee, are truly committed to the success of the Select level of play throughout Washington state.”
Essentially, the first four initiatives lay the groundwork for the fifth — an opportunity for promotion for the top Select clubs. Before that can happen, the two leagues must be brought intoInitiative 1 is focused on alignment between leagues with regard to player pass, disciplinary processes, field sizes, roster sizes, tryout calendars and more, all factors that Initiative 1 serves to address. The 4th initiative aligns Select Clubs and Regional Clubs around areas like communication of programs,and tryouts. The second and third initiatives increase competitive opportunities for Select teams across the state — with the creation of a south Puget Sound league, plus a statewide division for the truly elite Select teams seeking the highest level of Select play.
And that's where things truly get interesting — each year, the first-place team in that top division of Select play will receive an automatic berth the following season in the lowest division of the RCL. In addition, the second-place Select team in the U13-U18 divisions will have the opportunity to “play-in” off against the last-placean RCL squad in the lowest division, for the chance to win their way into the RCL as well. Once in, those teams are considered full members of the RCL and are treated the same as any other RCL team with regard to scheduling and other benefits. In addition, those two teams earn entry into the Far West Regional League qualifying tournament, giving them a further chance to compete at higher and higher levels of play.
The new enhanced levels of Select level of play and promotion will be open not only to current teams and clubs, but also to those not currently aligned with Washington Youth Soccer, who seek to take advantage of these new opportunities.
“For the first time, Select teams will have the chance to play their way into the RCL,” Curl says. “Of course, should they choose to remain at the Select level, they will have that option as well. It's a win-win for everybody.”
Each of these processes were hammered out through the fourth initiative — formally defining the Select and Regional Club relationship. In April, a new Regional Club charter was approved that creates an agreement with the Select of play and defines a clear structure for the new changes, with increased communication between the two levels of play. Curl says the passage of the charter is a big step towards implementing these changes in time for the 2014-15 season.
“Washington Youth Soccer has always had a very player-centric focus,” he says. “Our goal in making this change is to give every youth player the opportunity to develop to the highest level they are capable of, and want to compete at.”
To learn more about the Select level of play, visit WashingtonYouthSoccer.org