I've been thinking back again to the Development Academy conflicting with high school soccer instead of the entrenched youth club system. The sad part about that is - school soccer is where the sport is truly egalitarian. Unlike club soccer, there are no expensive fees that mean a player's parents are either shelling out the dough, or a player is a scholarship ringer on the team.
School soccer also binds kids to a cause - they're representing not only their soccer team, but the place where they study and learn, their part of the city where they live, and even an entire town at times. Sure, some players will get that same feeling playing on a college team one day, but more and more quality players leave the college ranks early these days.
High school rivalries can be intense. I'll never forget Long Beach reporter Matt Zimmerman's lead for a Millikan/Wilson game back in late 2006.
Just 11 minutes in, the home team had a two-goal lead. Midway through the second half, the visitors had tied it on two goals from the same player, who then ran over to the home team's bench pointing and taunting. And was of course promptly ejected, leaving his team a man down. Welcome to another edition of the best, most intense boys soccer rivalry in the area, the Moore League tilt between Wilson and Millikan.
Actually, perhaps the best look at what high school soccer can mean to participating players can't be summed up in mere words. Here's a glimpse at Wilson's recent season.