Georgia youth soccer guide

See the main guide page for a more expansive club directory in progress

One tricky part here is defining “Atlanta.” Georgia counties are tiny, so the city limits of Atlanta spill from Fulton County into DeKalb County. The Atlanta Regional Commission includes 10 counties — Fulton, DeKalb, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties. The Chamber of Commerce extends the metro area out to the Alabama line to the west and nearly to Athens to the east, but does not include Hall County (Gainesville, see Lanier Soccer Association below), which is included in other accountings. I’m going with the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Into the abyss:

CLUBS COMPETING NATIONALLY (league assignments of 2020-21)

Atlanta United FC (Atlanta, Ga.): Yes, this is the MLS team that draws massive crowds in the stadium it shares with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Boys: MLS

Atlanta Fire United (Duluth, Ga.): Not to be confused with Concorde Fire. Boys and Girls: ECNL

Concorde Fire (Atlanta, Ga.): Big club with five branches in and around Atlanta had full operations in both DA and ECNL. Boys and Girls: ECNL (two teams each)

Gwinnett Soccer Academy (GSA) (Lilburn, Ga.): Reps an Atlanta suburban county that has grown from 72,349 people in 1970 to 907,135 in 2016, and the club got a good bit bigger when it merged with Dacula Soccer Club. Boys and Girls: ECNL

Lanier Soccer Association (Gainesville, Ga.): Just outside Atlanta’s exurbs. Boys: MLS

North Atlanta Soccer Association (NASA)/NTH Tophat (Atlanta, Ga.): A merged megaclub that does indeed cover a lot of North Atlanta and up into northern suburbs Marietta, Kennesaw and Woodstock. The Tophat name comes from a Navy fighter squadron. The girls’ second teams play in the Development Players League. Boys: ECNL; Girls: GA

Southern Soccer Academy (Austell, Ga.): Fifteen locations throughout Georgia, from Rome to Brunswick. Boys: MLS

United Futbol Academy (Atlanta, Ga.): Should be docked points for using “United” and “Academy” and then nothing unique with the third word in its name. Fourteen locations — four in North Atlanta, five in the mountains, five in South Georgia. Boys and Girls: ECNL

You may have noticed that some of the big Atlanta metro clubs tend to spread themselves all over Atlanta, if not Georgia as a whole. Lanier and GSA keep to geographic areas, though they may draw players from beyond those boundaries. NASA/NTH Tophat has a broad definition of “North Atlanta.” Atlanta Fire United (which still has the atlantaunitedsoccer.com URL despite the existence of Atlanta United) is really based a few miles up I-85 in Duluth and Suwanee. Atlanta United (which had to settle for the abbreviated atlutd.com address) only deals with the elite of the elite, so it draws from all over but has a smaller physical presence. The other clubs are all over the place.

“ELITE” LEAGUES

Disclaimer: Not all teams in “elite” leagues are actually “elite.” 

U.S. Youth Soccer‘s Piedmont Conference, stretching up to North Carolina, has annual qualification. Some of the clubs who have at least one team confirmed for 2020-21: Pro-Profile Academy, Inter Atlanta FC, Dalton Red Wolves, Columbus FC Red Star, Georgia Rush, Alliance Archies, Correcaminos FC Dalton, Dekalb-Decatur YMCA SC, Alianza Gold, AFC Lightning, Smyrna SC, Athens United (my hometown!), Chiefs Premier, Lanier SA, Georgia Impact, Savannah United.

Southeastern Clubs Champions League: Has a club-vs.-club division and a Premier Division. It’s not often the club’s top teams. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Ambush SC: SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • Atlanta Fire United: ECNL, SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • Atlanta United: MLS (boys), SCCL Club
  • CFC Red Star: SCCL Premier
  • Concorde Fire: ECNL, ECNL, SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • Georgia Express FC: SCCL Premier
  • GSA: ECNL, SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • Lanier SA: MLS (boys), SCCL Premier
  • NASA/NTH Tophat: ECNL/GA, DPL (girls), SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • Rockdale YSA: SCCL Premier
  • Roswell SC: SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • Rush Union: SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • Steamers FC: SCCL Premier
  • SSA: MLS, SAPL, SCCL Club, SCCL Premier
  • UFA: ECNL, SAPL, SCCL Club, SCCL Premier

SSCL clubs outside Georgia: Birmingham United SA, FC Alliance (Knoxville), CASA Pride (Clemson-Anderson)

Club Champions League (CCL): New in 2020-21, and it’s not the SCCL. It’s the Virginia-based CCL, pioneers of club-vs.-club scheduling, in expansion mode. The four founding clubs are Georgia Alliance FC, Inter Atlanta FC, Georgia Storm and Georgia Impact.

South Atlantic Premier League (NPL): Part of the U.S. Club Soccer NPL system, which gives pathways to national competition against ECNL teams. Three Georgia clubs here (UFA, SSA, AFC Lightning) are entered, though their top teams may be in other leagues (see above). The rest of the league: A cluster in North Carolina’s Triangle area, a cluster around Charlotte, then other clubs stretching from Tennessee to Charleston. (South Carolina. Please don’t get in a car in Atlanta and drive to West Virginia expecting an SAPL game.)

Gulf States Premier League (NPL): Used to include one Georgia club, the school-based Darlington Soccer Academy in Rome.

TRADITIONAL LEAGUES 

Want a map of the Athena and Classic leagues in Georgia? Here you go:

ga

Nice and simple, isn’t it? Here’s the rundown:

Academy is for U9 and U12. The clubs do their own scheduling, so there’s not really a “league” per se. In my experience in Northern Virginia, “league” scheduling results in a lot of lopsided, non-competitive games because the league has no idea how strong these teams are, so this approach looks promising on paper but surely varies depending on how attentive the technical directors really are.

Athena (girls) and Classic (boys) are for U13 and up. They’re traditional promotion/relegation leagues — the Classic divisions are named 1 through 5, while Athena goes with the letters A through D. The lower divisions are often split into North/South or East/West.

Fun fact: The Georgia Soccer site has “overall club standings,” which surely don’t tell you who’s best but gives a sense of who fields the most teams in Athena and Classic (and RIAS — see below).

DEVELOPMENTAL AND RECREATIONAL LEAGUES

Recreation Inter-Affiliate Scheduled (RIAS) is an interesting “tweener” program, with Georgia Soccer organizing inter-club competitions for rec teams starting at U12.

SAY has no programs in Georgia or Alabama.

AYSO Area 5G is mostly Tennessee but includes Region 1612 in Atlanta. That’s the only region I could find in Georgia. Section 14 covers Florida and is supposed to reach into south Georgia but didn’t have any regions listed.

Something missing? Let me know.