THE GOVERNING SOCCER BODIES(WHO CONTROLS WHO)
Soccer in the United States is a maze of overlapping jurisdictions and governing bodies. Some bodies that people assume are most important are actually insignificant, while seemingly inconsequential or unrelated organizations have great power. To understand who is in charge we need to start at the top with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known as FIFA.
FIFA bodies set the Laws of the Game, administer the various World Championships, including the grand daddy of them all, the WORLD CUP, and police the game worldwide.
The next level is the body governing soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, CONCACAF. This Regional body supervises the qualifying competitions for the various World Championships, interregional tournaments and competitions such as the Gold Cup. CONCACAF also must approve of any changes in the Bylaws and Constitutions of it national members, such as the National Member that governs soccer in the United States, the United States Soccer Federation, USSF.
When we reach the USSF, we reach the principal governing body for soccer in the United States. The USSF has the right to approve all of the regulations and rules of its affiliates, charters the professional leagues, selects and operates and Senior and Junior National Teams, approves all competitions featuring international travel involving United States teams or United States tournaments and events involving foreign teams. The USSF supervising and is responsible for administration of referees and for all appeals from its various members. The higher levels of coaching certification and education are in USSF sanctioned courses.
The USSF has been designated by the US Olympic Committee as the Governing Body for soccer in the United States, which means that with only the exception on High School and College play, the USSF policies, rules and competitions trump all others.
The USSF operates through it various Member Organizations, many of which compete with one another and have overlapping lines of authority. Four "councils" vote on the policy decisions within the USSF: The Youth Council, Adult Council, Professional Council and Player's Council. All members, including those not members of one of the four main Councils, gathered together and known as the "National Council" vote on matters that influence more than one area. Each council has between 20 and 25% of the voting power. To approve or amend Bylaws requires a 2/3rds vote, which means any two councils working together can block reform. For example, the USSF has a very weak self-dealing and conflict of interest prohibition. Attempts to strengthen the policy on conflict of interest have been blocked for six years by the Professional Council and Player's Council working together.
In terms of raw membership, the largest Councils are the Youth and Adult Councils. These are made up of the 55 State Associations, with the addition of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) as a member of the Youth Council. The many other Member Organizations such as SAY, US Club Soccer, USSSA, the USISL and others do not have sufficient members nationwide to earn inclusion in the Councils, and can only vote as members of the National Council. Many State Associations control both Adult and Youth matters in their States; this is true of Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma. In other States there are distinctly separate corporations for Adult and Youth matters; this is the case in Missouri and Kansas.
Each State Association is an independent body charged with administering all aspects of soccer, except referees. The State Associations create and administer leagues, sanction tournaments, provide coaching education, operate USSF mandated programs such as TOP SOCCER (for disabled players), Soccer Start (soccer for economically deprived areas), market the game, provide common services for their members such as insurance, and so on.
The Kansas Soccer Association is the Adult governing body in Kansas. It administers adult leagues and tournaments including qualifying for US Open Cup by amateur teams and Kansas Cup. Youth players can play in Adult leagues, but only with the joint permission of the Adult and Youth State Associations.
The Kansas State Youth Soccer Association is the Youth governing body in Kansas. The rules governing play such as small-sided games, club passes, roster sizes and more are set by KSYSA. KSYSA also administers a State sanctioned recreational tournament known as the Kohl's Cup, and Kansas State Cup, which is the State Championship and the first step in the US Youth National Championship Series.
Our Club is a Member of KSYSA. This membership provides our players with the ability to travel to other states to play competitively; provides insurance for players and liability insurance for clubs and property owners; is our access to the Olympic Development Program in the United States; provides classes for referee and coaching licenses; and club support.
The four Regions have no jurisdiction over their State Associations. They cannot mandate rules or over ride any action taken by a State Association - the only body that can override a State Association is the USSF. Indeed, a Council composed of the State Presidents of the member State Associations governs each Region. Such a Council is unlikely to even try to regulate the State Associations. With three major exceptions, the Regional Organizations are merely bodies that act like a Regional trade association, coordinating the various activities and serving as a conduit to share information. Those three exceptions are ODP, the Midwest Region II Championships, and the operation of the Regional League. In both cases, the Regions are the controlling body.
The Midwest Regional League, MRL, describes the role of this creation of Region II as follows: "The MRL features competition in five Age Groups (U14, U15, U16, U17, and U18) for both Boys and Girls. Two seasons are offered - Fall and Spring. Based on the number of teams in an Age Group, Premier and First Divisions are offered. Teams earn spots in the Premier Division by qualifying through their play in MRL competition. Within the Premier and First Division, sub-divisions may also be formed. A promotion and relegation system has been adopted ensuring that success on the field results in teams participating at the highest levels of the MRL. Teams in the Premier Divisions compete for the two Wild Card slots that are available in each age group. Each year, more than 100 MRL teams participate in the Region II Championships as either state cup champs or MRL wild card entries." MRL games are also scouted by the Region II ODP staff, and players may be directly invited to Regional ODP camp on the recommendation of these scouts.
Region II governs the rules its 14 State Associations may adopt for their State Cups. The 14 State Champions and two winners form the MRL meet each year to compete for the Regional Championship. The Regional Winners in turn vie for the National Championship. Beginning in 2008, the four Regional Winners will be joined by the 1st and 2nd Place finishers in the US Youth National League.
Above it was mentioned that the USSF was designated the Governing Body for soccer by the US Olympic Committee. As such the USSF is obligated to operate Olympic Development Programs and has to abide by the rules and procedures of the US Olympic Committee in governing soccer. This means that USSF actions can be appealed to the US Olympic Committee. In the early 1980's the USSF in turn delegated to US Youth the responsibility to operate ODP programs. US Youth in turn delegated most of the administrative work for ODP to the four Regions. Because the USSF delegated ODP to US Youth only appeals form State Association action relating to participation in ODP can be directed to US Youth. All other appeals go from the State Associations directly to the USSF.
Over the years the USSF also delegated the right to operate ODP programs to other organizations independent of the State Associations. Principal among these are the Y League and the Premier Development League, both operated by the United Soccer Leagues. The United Soccer Leagues is a for profit corporation that oversees five national soccer leagues, including two professional leagues and highest level amateur leagues for men and women in the country. As such, it is an independent Member Organization of the USSF and as such is not a member of any Council other than the National Council of the USSF (though some of its teams are represented on the Professional Council).
There are other governing bodies recognized by the USSF that are independent of the State Associations. Under USSF Bylaws and Policies these organizations, like US Club, USSSA, and SAY, may register players, have access to USSF certified referees and may enter their teams in events, like leagues and tournaments, sanctioned by State Associations. Unlike State Associations, however, these Organizations do not have to: provide coaching education; participate in supporting disabled soccer players; subsidize referee training; establish and subsidize start up leagues in inner city and economically depressed areas. Without having the expense of operating such USSF mandated programs, these organizations often offer less expensive player registration costs. There insurance programs and kid safe background checks are also usually far inferior to the programs run by the State Associations.
Outside of the National Championship Series and ODP, US Youth has no authority over the State Associations. If the Regions are little more than Regional youth soccer trade organizations, US Youth is a little more than a National youth soccer trade organization. The President of US Youth Soccer does have a position of authority. By stint of tradition the President of US Youth services as the Chairperson of the USSF Youth Council and also is one of the members of the Board of Directors of the USSF.
On the Adult side there is also a Region II Organization. As with the Youth side it is run by the State Presidents of the Adult State Associations. It is primarily concerned with operating Regional soccer Championships that lead in turn to the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) National Championships. The Adult organizations are much smaller than the Youth side, though they are now growing at a faster rate.
Most areas involving the governance of soccer are delegated by USSF to its Organizational Members, such as the State Associations. One is not - referees. All referee training, supervision, discipline and registration is handled by an entirely separate chain of command. The level that directly impacts our Club is run by the Kansas State Referee Committee. Each State has a similar Committee charged with the task of recruiting, training and overseeing referees. There is no Regional body for Referees (though there are Region II Referee representatives to USSF). Supervision of decisions by the Kansas State Referee Committee lies directly with the USSF. Missouri, like Kansas, has a State Referee Committee. At these State Referee Committee web sites you can learn information about becoming certified to be a referee, who the Administrators of the State Referee Programs are, and more.
In Missouri and Kansas, leagues are independent bodies chartered by the State Associations. The leagues craft and enforce their own rules. The State Associations have some authority in this area for they must approve of any rules made by the leagues and the State Association is the entity tasked with hearing appeals from actions taken by leagues; however, the State Associations authority is limited to being only a veto. This is not true in all States. Minnesota State Youth Soccer operates all competitive league play in the State.
The Leagues in Kansas and Missouri elect the State Officers and Board of Directors; Adult Leagues electing the Adult Officers and Board, Youth Leagues the Youth Officers and Board.
In Kansas City, the Leagues in Johnson County in 1977 pooled their resources and formed the Johnson County Soccer Association, which later became Heartland. Originally the Shawnee Soccer Club was a member of the Johnson County Soccer Association, but it dropped out leaving Blue Valley, Northeast United, Olathe (Kansas Rush), Southwest United (originally Shawnee Mission), Overland Park and the Kansas Premier Soccer League. These members of Heartland are voting members of KSYSA. Heartland is not a member League as such.
A number of the leagues in Missouri have joined forces to create an entity similar to Heartland known as the KC Metro League. For years, the Raytown Soccer League had operated a competitive pooled League in conjunction with other neighboring leagues. The addition of the Western Missouri Soccer League largely led to the creation of the KC Metro League. The KC Metro League and its member leagues are all members of MYSA.
About half of the soccer players in the metropolitan area are registered and play through USSF affiliated organizations; however, many of these players also play with unaffiliated organizations that do not follow the FIFA Laws of the Game. The largest of these non-FIFA bodies are High Schools and Colleges.
In Kansas High School soccer the Kansas State High School Activities Association - KSHSAA - regulates play. In recent years State High School soccer, rules have grown closer to the FIFA version, but they still differ in many crucial aspects. Referee standards are lower (you need only pass a 20 question open book test for High School, as opposed to a mandatory two day course followed by written and practical exams to be the lowest level Federation Referee certified for competitive games.) And, there are many rules that actually hinder player development.
In Missouri, it is the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
College soccer is also independent of USSF control, but at least their referee standards are higher, including requiring a physical fitness test.
Other independent bodies include all of the local indoor soccer houses, many Park and Recreation Organizations such as Leawood, YMCA programs and some church and CYO programs.