For 20 years youth soccer participation has grown exponentially in Vermont. Although Vermont is the second-smallest state in the country, the state soccer association has more than 10,000 registered youth players, and that number continues to grow yearly. However, during the same time period, the adult game has grown increasingly isolated despite the large number of high-quality players in the area.
To this end, the Vermont Amateur Soccer League has developed a unique program that conducts a registered USASA league to promote the adult game in this state. Unlike the recreational leagues in Vermont, VASL's goal is to create a soccer-rich environment, drawing fans of its teams and of The Game to weekly matches. For the first time in over 20 years, there is competitive soccer in which Vermont's collegiate and professional-level players can participate.
Furthermore, VASL recognizes the powerful effects that caring adult mentors can have on children, as well as the importance of having a safe, competitive soccer environment to which up-and-coming players can aspire. Thus, in addition to regular league operations, VASL will operate as a volunteer community organization to advance soccer in Vermont as a means to bring people together through this magnificent sport.
In order to create a sustainable pool of future amateur players, and to cultivate a fan base, VASL has prioritized its connection to Youth Soccer. As a requirement for VASL membership, each team agrees to adopt,or mentor, one or more youth teams. Amateur players are required to participate in two or more youth practice sessions and attend youth matches. Teams then invite youth teams to reciprocate by attending amateur matches. This system will achieve several goals, including:
- Connecting youth and adult teams, thereby establishing a feeder program for amateur teams.
- Providing positive soccer role models to youth players - an area in which Vermont has consistently been lacking.
In only its first season, VASL attracted approximately 200 fans to its final match, and received television and newspaper coverage as Burlington FC defeated Mt. Mansfield SC 4-3. The league's players also committed hundreds of hours of volunteer service throughout the season and beyond to strengthen youth soccer clubs and leagues.