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Are there tryout rules?

Updated: Feb 7

About two weeks ago I noticed questions coming up in the Cincinnati Soccer Moms and Dads group regarding a change in "tryout rules". I didn't think anything of it until I was contacted by the Ohio Soccer Association where they volunteered to chat with me to discuss what has changed, the process and what hasn't changed at all (spoiler alert, not much has changed).

I then received an anonymous question from someone in the Columbus Soccer Moms and Dads group asking a similar question and I thought this was the perfect time to just share the information and resources I have.

You can find the questions in the graphic to the right --->

First I am going to start by acknowledging we don't have just one person or group making up rules for Ohio Soccer. There are multiple carding associations; the two main ones are Ohio Soccer Association (USYS) and USClub Soccer. There is also Girls DA, MLS NeXt and USL (I'm sure someone will want to point out others I've missed). For the purposes of this post we are going to focus on OSA and USClub Soccer.

OSA is the state soccer association for USYS the country's largest soccer association and they run leagues all throughout the state. A recent merger between Ohio North And Ohio South can be explained in this post. OSA creates policies and "rules" for the entire state when it comes to OSA leagues and carding only.

USClub Soccer does not have a statewide association over all of their leagues rather, the leagues operate independently. League leadership discusses policies however rules regarding player eligibility are left up to the individual league. For example NPL requires players to only play for one club within NPL for the season, meaning if a player switches clubs after the NPL season starts they would not be able to play in that specific league for their new club.

I promise I'm going to answer the questions, we just have a little bit more background information to put out there. But if you want to just skip ahead to the answers click here.

When your soccer club is making plans for the coming year they have so many factors to consider and tryout season does not make it easy on them. The clubs have to be able to anticipate how many players, then how many teams they will have for the coming year. They need to identify at what level each individual team will be able to play and then consider what kind of competitive platform will be best for them. Your technical directors and directors of coaching are doing this for each individual team. Most of these decisions have to at least start to be made before tryouts even begin.

Competitive platforms are basically leagues, showcases and tournaments. You choose leagues, showcases and tournaments based on your level of play, your geographic region and your club's affiliation. Some clubs have teams in both OSA and USClub Leagues. You will then card your players according to their competitive platform. This means the rules you will follow will be determined by the carding association and/or the league your club chooses. If your club chooses to be in multiple leagues across multiple governing bodies they will have to follow each of the rules as they apply in each league and situation.

Now for the answers. Who comes up with the tryout rules each year?

Well, thats complicated.

USClub Soccer does not mandate any rules regarding tryouts. Each league could come up with rules if they chose to. Players can have their player passes (cards) released at anytime, however leagues have roster deadlines and restrictions that are unique to each league and even competition in some instances. So while there may not be tryout rules there are rules in place to restrict players from being enticed away mid season or at least once the season has started.

Ohio South has for years had basic tryout rules including days for when tryouts could be held, rules for engagement before tryouts, and rules for making tryout offers. With the merger of Ohio South and Ohio North, OSA was in a situation where the rules needed to be reviewed. OSA created a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) composed of coaches, directors, admins, and parents from across the state. These folks represented OSA affiliated clubs. This was a volunteer group who reviewed the current rules and advised the association on changes. Keep in mind, rules are only as good as their ability to be enforced, OSA (and USClub Soccer for that matter) does not have the ability to enforce complicated series of rules.

Here is a summary of the current OSA Rules:

The traditional tryout dates are the Tuesday after Memorial Day for the younger kids and the following week for the older kids. This did not change.

Clubs have for many years been able to make offers to their current players before tryouts. This has not changed.

Clubs can host open fields, bring a friend days, meet a coach days etc... at anytime throughout the year. This has not changed.

The only item that changed is where it said "tryouts" can be held starting May 31has been changed to "offers" can be made starting May 31. Giving clubs the opportunity to make offers to players outside of their club (new players) as early as the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

For clubs who do not participate in OSA Leagues, nothing has changed.

The next question is regarding the process of accepting or declining an offer.

There are no rules regarding the acceptance or declining of an offer.

However a club decides to handle the business of renewing or accepting new membership is entirely up to the club. Your club could make you an offer on April 1 and require a deposit on April 2 and that is perfectly within the letter of the law, so to speak. However it has been a long standing unspoken "gentleman's agreement" (for lack of better words) to allow your players through the end of "tryout week" to accept or decline your offer.

My advice to parents who feel as if they are being pressured or unfairly coerced into agreeing to something then I would suggest you have an honest conversation with your director of coaching. Sometimes the team coach is more focused on building the team and can miss the nuances of communicating with individual families. A simple conversation with your DOC letting them know you need more time or explaining your concerns will clear things right up. Or, if it doesn't then you know that club isn't for you.

If you fear retaliation for advocating for your player or just simply asking a question then you are not in the right place. I work with directors in clubs across the entire state and there are very very good leaders in our clubs with player development at the forefront of their programming and decision making. If you are not experiencing that, go some where else.

If you are looking to just get into club soccer or looking for a new soccer club you can check out our tryout guide here. The guide is updated each week.

If you have any other questions you want us to research and answer for you please feel free to DM, PM or email us at

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