Want to get a feel for the quality of life a city has to offer? Then check out its soccer scene – often the best soccer cities indicate a great quality of life.
Even if you don't play what has become the most popular youth sport in the country, a quick look at a city's soccer scene can offer clues about what the community is like. The size of soccer clubs, the quantity and quality of playing fields, and the number of tournaments a city hosts can give potential residents an indication of what it would be like to live there.
We set out to look for small to mid-size cities with the best soccer programs and facilities and crossed paths with the leading youth soccer organization in the country, US Youth Soccer. More than 3 million players between the ages of 5 and 19 are registered with US Youth Soccer, which oversees tournaments and provides guidelines and rules that most soccer leagues follow. The group has a team of tournament organizers who select which cities will play host to regional qualifying tournaments and national championships across several age groups and skill levels. When it came to identifying the top soccer cities, we followed US Youth Soccer's lead.
"When we are looking to host events, the quality of the complex is our top priority," says Todd Roby, director of communications at US Youth Soccer. "This generally indicates what a community has invested in the sport and their interest in growing the game."
We found that cities with impressive, well-maintained soccer complexes and large soccer clubs also have great parks, well-maintained streets and a host of other amenities that provide residents a high quality of life. Soccer, a sport played by more than 18 million people across the country, becomes engrained in a city's culture. In places like Appleton, WI, and Rock Hill, SC, soccer communities are tightly knit. Players, parents and coaches look out for one another and remain loyal to their clubs, colleges, and major league teams.
"There is a sense of community and camaraderie developed in soccer that is hard to match," Roby says. "When paired with the disciplined teamwork of soccer and the healthy lifestyle promoted by activity in youth sports, the quality of life in any community that embraces the sport is enhanced."
So take a look at the cities we've selected as the best emerging soccer communities in the country. These places have invested in their future by investing in soccer.