Soccer is the most watched and most played sport in the world. The popularity of soccer is on the rise in the United States and in the Gila Valley. According to Forbes magazine, US Major League Soccer began with 10 teams and has expanded to 30 teams. US Soccer is gaining both in-person and television viewership with more Americans hoping that the US can win the World Cup.
The Gila Valley AYSO Region 216 played Advanced level championship games of the 2022 season Saturday at the Safford High School football field. The U-15 Lavendar coached by John Archuleta II and Darren Evans and U-15 Silver coached by Adam Bingham and Trina Gomm had a slight delay due to a nearby thunderstorm but returned to play and the game ended with the Lavender Team taking home the championship win with a three-one score.
The U-19 Championship Lavender Team coached by Sara Bingham and Dereck Kartchner went up against the Teal Team coached by Christi Brown and Nathan Macario after hard-fought play the game went to the Lavender Team ending in a two-zero score.
High school soccer season will begin soon and according to AYSO 216 Region board member Blanca Bowman "About 100 AYSO high school-aged participants will continue on to play soccer for their high school teams, many will go on to play at the college level."
Younger AYSO division programs will continue to play through the fall to round out the league season in November. Gila Valley soccer leagues host beginner programs for children ages 3 to 5 and levels up to Advanced for kids 10 to19 years of age. This all-volunteer organization manages over 800 kids into 82 teams each year.
AYSO Board member and referee Wes Foote says "As the popularity of soccer increases, and the local population grows, Gila Valley AYSO welcomes support from community members to strengthen this great soccer program for our kids." To find out how to participate and help fill the need for referees, coaches, activity coordinators, field managers, safety coordinators, and board members go to www.ayso216.org for more information.
Eastern Arizona College announced Men's and Women's Soccer will begin play in 2023 competing in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. EAC began recruiting student-athletes and developing scholarships and soccer-related programs in 2021 to gear up for the 2023 soccer season.
Soccer is a fast-paced sport played with 11 players on each team. One team member is a designated goalkeeper and 10 outfielders defend or attack or both depending on the play. A game lasts 90 minutes with two 45 minutes halves. The team with the most goals at the end of the 90 minutes wins the game.
US Major League Soccer was organized in 1996. According to Bundesliga.com the National League was established in 1967 and evolved into the US Major League. Bundesliga estimates over 250 million people play soccer in over 200 countries and over 26 billion viewers watched the World Cup in 2006. In 2026 the World Cup competition will be held in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.