Background: Soccer is an increasingly popular sport for children and adolescents in the United States. Little is known about participation patterns related to sport specialization. Purpose: To investigate soccer participation levels and sport specialization characteristics among youth soccer athletes. Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Methods: Adolescent athletes aged between 12 and 18 years completed an online survey addressing participant demographics, sports and soccer participation history, and level of specialization. Descriptive analyses characterized participation, while chi-square and Kruskal-Wallis tests assessed the influence of specialization, sex, and grade on survey variables. Results: Overall, 83.7% of 746 respondents participated in an organized soccer league outside of school, and 37% played in multiple leagues concurrently. Nearly three-quarters of respondents trained in soccer more than 8 months of the year, with those who participated in club soccer being more likely to train more than 8 months of the year. More respondents were classified as high specialization (37.5%), followed by moderate (35.6%) and low (28.6%) specialization. No differences between sexes were noted for level of specialization or quitting other sports to specialize in soccer, but male athletes were more likely to train more than 8 months per year compared with female athletes. Respondents in older grades (9th-10th and 11th-12th grades) were more likely to be highly specialized and quit other sports to focus on soccer. No differences between grade levels were found among respondents training more than 8 months per year. Conclusion: The study findings suggest that many youth soccer athletes participated in multiple teams or leagues at the same time and trained more than 8 months of the year. Characteristics including participation on a club team, level of specialization, and male sex were associated with a greater likelihood of exceeding the 8-month training recommendation.
- American development model
- long-term athlete development model
- sport sampling
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine