The youth league / traveling team / AAU movement and model is just terrible. I know so many parents who are spending thousands a year on youth sports, but who aren’t putting any money away for their kids for college. I ask them why they’re spending so much on youth sports, and they say that they think their kid might get a college scholarship. I ask them what happens if their kid gets a partial scholarship to a small D3 school halfway across the country, versus nothing to a good state school they’re admitted to, or the opportunity to go some place really good like an Ivy, Stanford, etc.. They don’t have an answer. It baffles the mind. We have some really messed up priorities in this country.
I don’t think that model started with soccer. I think it probably started with baseball and soccer just latched on to it. The Little League World Series has been around since 1947. “Traveling” youth soccer models popped up in the mid-80s. My parents declined that fleecing, and I have no regrets that they did. Rec soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. was fine. I was never going to make a career out of a sport.