The United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA) is the largest youth soccer organization in the US. In Ohio up until now we have had two USYSA offices responsible for governing programming in Ohio. Ohio North covered the far north of the state while Ohio South covered Central Ohio all the way south down to the Ohio River. While boundaries are really no good in this situation there were always some clubs, teams and families on the borders that came in from bordering states or communities to play in Ohio South or
What is a State Organization?
The average soccer parent probably doesn’t know too much about state organizations, their purpose or their benefit but they actually do a lot. Leagues can join a local state organization (or US Club Soccer which is a conversation for another day) and then the state organization provides infrastructure and administrative support. The state organization oversees carding and compliance, they provide insurance and affiliate benefits. There are opportunities for coaching education and referee training as well as pathways for players, teams and coaches to access more competitive opportunities.
The Merger is Official
Ohio South and Ohio North have been hinting for a while that they were in talks to merge the two state organizations. On December 4, 2020 it was announced that the resolution to merger was approved and the merger was official. Of course the merger of any two organizations with 90k+ membership will take some time to sort through the paperwork but as of January 1, 2021 Ohio South and Ohio North will be officially Ohio State Association (hopefully this means GotSoccer and Youth Soccer Rankings will follow suit).
The merger seems to have not been done in haste and clubs have been receiving emails regarding the merger since at least the beginning of COVID. Based on survey data collected by both Ohio South and Ohio North many opportunities were identified to address member concerns by coming together. By reducing redundancy and finding strengths in both organizations; they can take a “big tent” approach to fixing what they describe as the “fractured soccer landscape in Ohio”
For anyone interested, I suggest you read through the information they provided. It seems that the new OSA has been very transparent to their membership and genuinely desire to “revolutionize soccer in Ohio.” Much of the language found in the documents they provided reflect the language found in USYSA literature including the idea of putting “more focus/attention to Grassroots & Recreational soccer growth and connecting communities through soccer”. It is clear that a lot of work has gone into developing an Ohio State Association with potential stakeholders and constituents in mind going as far as to specifically call out the need to identify “who should” and “who could” be members. It is clear that OSA as a USYSA state organization takes their charge to rebuild US Soccer from the ground up.
An Opportunity and a Challenge
My biggest concern regarding this merger is that it becomes just a bigger fancier version of the same. OSA has a big challenge in front of them and it will not be easy to support soccer programs in a state with so many varying cultural and socioeconomic intricacies. Focusing on grassroots and recreational programs is definitely a way to build the future of soccer in this state and country, however I want to challenge the new leadership of OSA to find a pathway for new teams and clubs to enter their system at their appropriate level of play. If the goal is to bring in more members and to provide more competitive teams, clubs should not be shut out of State League and subsequently GLC or National League simply because they lack a history in Ohio South/North.
My challenge to you is to not only grow your membership from the bottom but also branch out and provide the best league opportunities for all players, teams and coaches. Don’t allow your leagues to put unrealistic requirements on clubs. By forcing small, grassroots clubs who may only have a couple of teams to field a side in all age groups, or to be associated with recreational programming, your leagues are immediately passing over teams, coaches and players who could and would make our state association better.