The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) was established in Torrance, California in 1964 with nine teams. It was the dream of a group of devoted soccer enthusiasts who started the organization in a garage. Today, AYSO has more than 60,000 teams and more than 630,000 players. It also employs 60 people at its National Support and Training Center in Hawthorne, California.
Over the years, AYSO has created many valuable programs and concepts. Most notably, AYSO revolutionized youth sports with its “Everyone Plays” and “Balanced Teams” philosophies. In AYSO, each child who registers is guaranteed to play at least half of every game. To help create evenly matched games, all AYSO players are placed on new or “balanced” teams each season.
Since its establishment, AYSO has continued to grow and offer its membership relevant programs.
In 1971, two San Fernando Valley residents developed AYSO’s first girls program. Currently, over 44% of AYSO’s players are girls.
In the mid 70s, an AYSO coach chartered new territory as he welcomed the organization’s first player with Down Syndrome. As a result of this landmark union, soccer was introduced into the Special Olympics. Today, AYSO offers its membership the Very Important Player (VIP) program for kids and adults with special needs. VIP boasts 140 programs and 5,000 players.
In 1995, two AYSO parents established the first AYSO program in Moscow. In addition, an AYSO program was started in Puerto Rico in the spring of 1998, joined by the U.S. Virgin Islands and Asuncion, Paraguay, in 2001. In 2002, AYSO saw the start of a program in Trinidad and Tobago, and as this book went to print efforts were underway to establish an AYSO program in Guyana.
AYSO is supported by more than 250,000 volunteers. Parents donate their time as coaches, referees, team parents, administrators or sponsors. In 1998, AYSO unveiled its new system for Volunteer Certification under its Safe Haven Program. The Safe Haven Program was designed to strengthen the organization’s role in child protection. Because AYSO is primarily a youth sports organization, it realizes the importance of providing a safe and healthy atmosphere for children. AYSO is continually working to improve the education of its volunteers in the fields of child development, human behavior, and sports psychology. A strong emphasis is placed on ethics, sportsmanship and the development of the whole child.
AYSO is a National Association of the United States Soccer Federation. Through the years, the organization has also maintained relations with organizations such as the National Council of Youth Sports, Girls Scouts USA, the National Association for Sports and Physical Education, People to People, Optimists International, Police Athletic Leagues, the National Alliance for Youth Sports, the Positive Coaching Alliance, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, and the Josephson Institute of Ethics. In addition, AYSO works closely with numerous corporations that are part of the organization’s National Team of Sponsors.
AYSO has been the leader in establishing groundbreaking youth soccer programs in the United States. The organization is proud to have paved the road for youth soccer and looks forward to meeting the challenges of the 21st century.