Travel Soccer 101

A Parents Guide to Travel/Club Soccer:  Updated for 2023/2024 Registration Season (To Begin Fall 2023) 


This guide was developed to assist you in answering some of the more common questions concerning travel soccer. Travel soccer team play not only requires that your son or daughter be capable of playing at a high level relative to the rest of their age group, but also involves a substantial commitment in time, energy, and money from both the player and their families. While we attempt to respond to many of the different situations, you may find that some extraordinary circumstances, based on your family’s personal demands are not included in this guide.

What is travel soccer?

Travel soccer is a national sanctioned program of US Club Soccer/US Youth Soccer. HCFC is a member Club to both of those governing bodies.  The travel soccer program is organized by age and gender. It provides a highly competitive training and playing environment for those players (and their families) who have the required athletic ability, soccer skills, commitment, and can meet the other demands placed upon them.  

When is the Travel Soccer Season?

The Travel Soccer Season begins August 1st and concludes July 31st the following calendar year.  This is the length of time that a player is contracted to a roster and their pass card is valid with a specific team/Club.  This period is broken up into a 12 week Fall Season and a 12 week Spring Season.  The player/family commitment is for BOTH seasons.  

How does travel soccer differ from the regular house or recreation soccer league?

HCFC travel teams are competitive. Therefore, making the roster, and staying on the roster, must be earned based on the team member’s play. In the house or recreation soccer league, all players are placed on a team roster regardless of playing ability. Recreation soccer also has unique requirements to encourage participation by all players such as all players must play 1/2 of each game. Travel soccer playing time is based on the team’s needs and is at the coach’s discretion.

How does HCFC’s travel soccer program work?

HCFC sponsors up to 4 travel teams in each age and gender bracket. The first team formed in each age and gender bracket are frequently the more highly advanced teams that may eventually compete for state and regional championships and other honors. Each HCFC soccer travel team, is somewhat independent and, therefore, has different goals and team characteristics based on their team players and families.

HCFC is in Partnership with the Red Bulls Youth Soccer Progam. The Red Bulls coordinate all team training, game day coaching and the annual team formation process.   Professional Coaches select the players and create the team rosters each season.  

HCFC employs an "A-B system" when forming new U-9 (2nd/3rd grade) teams. While all travel teams have the same fundamental mission for the players - to create a meaningful, positive experience; to develop soccer skills, and to teach the lessons associated with team play. HCFC does, however, stagger the establishment of its travel teams at the younger ages so as to encourage the clustering of players of similar skill and athletic level on the same team by forming multiple boys and girls teams to begin play at U-9 level annually.

How does competition affect the travel soccer program?

HCFC Soccer travel teams currently play in one of two travel leagues: the Northern Counties Soccer League (NCSA), for boys/girls ages U-9 through U-19; the Eastern Development Program (EDP) boys/girls U-11 through U-19. Each season teams are placed in a higher or lower division (Flight) based upon their win/loss record. Generally the top two teams in a division are moved up a division and the bottom two are moved down a division. For this reason and others, travel soccer play inevitably becomes quite competitive.

While age alone is not a limitation in making a team, you may find that the competitive nature of travel soccer and the necessity of a team’s rigorous ongoing training may make it increasingly difficult as players get older to make a team if the player has no previous travel experience. This is particularly important to understand when trying out for teams in either NCSA and EDP upper division/flight level teams.

How old must my child be to play travel soccer?

Each summer, HCFC forms 2-4 new boys travel teams and 2-3 new girls travel teams These teams begin play the following fall as U-9 teams (generally 3rd grade). The U-9 teams play in the Northern Counties League (NCSA).

[Note: HCFC determines if your child is U-9 if they turn nine years old at any time from January 1, 2015 - December 31, 2015. For example, if your child turns 9 between Jan 1 2015 - Dec 31 2015 they qualify to play U-9 soccer for the 2023/2024 Season. If they turn 10 at any time between Jan 1 2014 - Dec 31 2014, your child qualifies to play U-10 soccer. A birth certificate or other documentation are required to establish your child’s age.]  Players cannot play in an age group younger ("play down") than their Birth Year. School Grade is NOT a factor. 

How does my child get on a travel team?

Your child must tryout and be invited to join a travel team. HCFC requires all travel teams to have a tryout each year generally in mid-April. Some teams however, may have tryouts at other times during the year.  Teams are formed by late May/Early June for the upcoming Registration Season beginning August 1st.  

When and where are *tryouts?

HCFC holds open tryouts generally in mid Spring Season. Tryouts (for prospective new players) typically consist of 1-2 or more practice sessions to evaluate your child’s athletic ability, skills, and interest. After the tryouts, an offer may or may not be extended to your child. Alternatively, after the first tryout, the coach may ask your child to return for additional tryouts or suggest that the team is not a good fit for your child. *Pre-Travel Players and existing HCFC players are under evaluation all season for placement/team movement.  

Some teams invite players to guest play in a tournament as part of the evaluation process. Occasionally, teams may pick up a player or two between the fall and spring seasons. However, NCSA and EDP limit the number of players who can be picked up between seasons (generally three players may be picked up). However, once seasonal league play begins, rosters are fixed and no additional players may be added.

How do I find out about a tryout?

HCFC uses various methods to publicize their tryouts. Social Media advertisements, bulletin board notices, word of mouth and asking players to tryout are common methods. At HCFC, especially at the younger levels, travel team coaches will watch their respective recreation teams as they play in the season ending tournaments. Several players from those teams may be asked to tryout for a team. However, even if you are not asked you may still tryout for a team.

If your child is interested in trying out for a travel team please contact the club administrator. 

What type of training is provided?

All U9-U14 HCFC travel soccer teams have a professional Red Bulls coach and use a parent volunteer as an assistant coach. If a parent volunteer helps to coach they generally have taken coaching courses, played soccer themselves or been licensed.  

Trainers, like coaches, have areas of strength and experience. Some are better with younger teams; some trainers have more experience and a better record with a particular gender; and some trainers are strong teachers of particular skill sets, such as fast footwork. The fact that our club employs professional Coaches impacts impact the overall cost of being part of out travel soccer club.

If a team has a Red Bulls trainer, understand what the trainer's role and responsibilities are. The Red Bulls trainer is the head coach while the parent coach is the assistant.  The head coach continues to make decisions as to what skills are worked on in practice; how the practice is run; how the games are run; and, perhaps most importantly, what are the team's priorities and its tone and tenor.  The parent coach helps with game day warm ups, implement the coaching plan (line ups/check in), manages the bench and watches the clock so the Red Bulls coach can Coach the game.  

When do travel soccer teams play their games?

Most HCFC Soccer travel games are held on Sundays but there are some Saturday games (Boys in the Fall). It is not uncommon to play games on both a Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend. Occasionally, there may be a game on a weeknight based on weather cancellations at the end of the season. The fall season runs from September to the beginning of November. The spring season runs from the end of March until the first part of June.

Some teams also participate in tournaments. Tournaments consist of 3-5 games during a weekend. Generally tournaments are held several weeks before the season begins (i.e. in August and March), after the season (November and June), and during breaks in the season such as the Columbus Day and Memorial Day weekends. Tournaments may be local (i.e. the New Jersey/NY/PA metro area) or elsewhere in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, etc. 

Many HCFC travel teams play one to three tournaments possibly including at least one out of town tournament per season.

Some HCFC Soccer travel teams at the U-12 and older ages compete in State Cup events. 

How many players are on a team?

Experienced travel coaches try to keep their rosters small, especially when coaching younger aged teams. The players are training hard and want to play. Their parents certainly want them to play. If a team is carrying 17 or 18 players on its roster (or 12 to 14 on a small-sided roster), there is simply no way that the team will be able to provide adequate playing time for every player. Smaller rosters assume that all players will be at the practices, matches and especially tournaments.

What volunteer positions are needed to support a team?

Teams organize in a number of different ways. Generally there is a team manager who is the go between the parents and the coach. The team manager generally handles many of the administrative details of the team such as league matters, applying to tournaments, communication, etc. The team manager position is the most time consuming job on the team beside the coach.  It takes a great deal of time and energy to operate a travel team and requires significant help at times by all player families. 

What is the player’s time commitment?

Most HCFC travel teams operate a 9-11 month per year program, including outdoor league play in the fall and spring, indoor play in the winter and camp and tournament play at various times throughout the summer. (High school age travel teams do not play in the fall when their high school squads are competing.)

Most HCFC travel teams train twice a week for 1 1/2 hours per session. Our more comoetitive teams train 3x's per week.  Including tournaments, most HCFC travel teams play approximately 10-12 games each spring and fall season (respectively) and possibly 8-10 games if participating in indoor league play.

While most HCFC travel teams, particularly younger teams, encourage their players to participate in other sports, travel teams also expect that team members will give preference to travel team games over conflicts with other sports.

My child wants to play high school soccer. Will playing travel soccer help?

Possibly, though there is no guarantee that your child will make his/her high school team. The fact that your child is participating in a higher level of play with more practices and games against better skilled competition will improve their game and increase their chances of making their high school team. Some High School programs are more competitive than others.  NYC HS Teams are generally less competitive/easier to make the team than New Jersey High School Programs.  

Where do travel soccer teams travel to for league play?

Locations for league games are generally within the area Hudson, Bergen and Rockland Counties (NCSA) and all over the state of NJ (EDP). At times, you may find that a game will be played in a close-by community or one that requires a 2+ hour car drive.

How much does it cost?

HCFC soccer travel team participation is expensive. League and club fees; shoes, uniforms, and other gear; and travel and lodging costs for out of town tournaments can range from $700.00 to well over $1600.00 per family, per season. Club Tuition is Non-Refundable or Pro-Rated. 

Is there any financial assistance available?

HCFC’s Travel Soccer Program makes every effort to ensure that all children who are accepted onto a travel squad are able to participate without regard to financial considerations. If your son or daughter's participation is jeopardized because of financial considerations, please reach out to the Club Administrator for a form to apply for a full or partial scholarship. You will be required to explain reason for financial hardship.  If a scholarship is granted, it must be reapplied for each year.  

What are the advantages of playing for a HCFC travel team rather than for another club?

The objectives of HCFC Travel Soccer are to:

1) Maintain a positive, but challenging environment that allow players to develop their physical, physiological, technical and tactical soccer potential;

2) Field teams that play quality soccer at a level of competition to *commensurate with their talent. *The HCFC will avoid forming a team of "rec" level players.  

3) Provide the opportunity for the most talented and dedicated players in the area from the different schools to play together and to allow teams to play at the highest level of competition possible;

4) Promote fairness, equity and good sportsmanship in pursuing the above objectives.

5) Supervise and support each team to attain the above objectives.

What to Expect From Travel Coaches?

HCFC soccer travel team coaches must meet high standards for technical competence; knowledge of soccer rules and tactics; ability to work effectively and positively with travel team players; and the ability to interact effectively and positively with travel team parents, other coaches and club league administrators. Travel team coaches are responsible for the selection of travel team members; for team training; for all on-field decisions; and for the overall conduct of the team on and off the soccer field. The travel team coach is the official representative of HCFC Soccer in dealing with players, parents, league officials and the public.

Most volunteer coaches, but not all, may have a son or daughter playing on the team. The volunteer coach has offered up significant amounts of time and effort to ensure the team receives all the necessary attention it requires and deserves. All coaches should be regarded in the same manner that you wish to be respected. In the case of paid coaches, some of the off-the-field responsibilities are vested in the team manager, as discussed above.

Coaching a travel soccer team is a wonderful and gratifying experience but also a challenging and, at times, terribly frustrating experience. HCFC Soccer is very proud of its line up of both Red Bulls coaches and Volunteer Parent Coaches and we appreciate them very much.

Can my child be cut from the team?

Yes, Red Bulls coaches may decide to drop a player. As a practical matter, this is almost always confined to May/June as the team’s roster is prepared for the upcoming fall and spring seasons and offers to join a team are for a full year (fall and spring seasons).

There are number of reasons why it becomes necessary to cut a player and the discretion belongs entirely to the Coaches. Experienced travel coaches know, however, that cutting a young person can be one of the most difficult things a young person has to deal with. Not surprisingly, parents can become very emotionally involved. The coach should try to give the child (and if a younger child, the parents) lots of notice that the child is at risk of not making next year's squad. At the same time, the coach should identify those aspects of the player’s game, which need to be improved in order for the child to stay on the squad (Mid Season evaluations). When faced with a cut, the coach will often try to talk the parents into moving the child to another team/club. Experience shows that if the parents and child opt to move the player from the team, the emotional hurt and impact is minimized.