Recreational youth soccer in Arlington, VA began in 1968. It was started by the Arlington County Department of Recreation with four boys teams for ages 15 and under. Games were played at Tuckahoe field on Sycamore Street. Games were scheduled, referees assigned and fields lined by County personnel (as they did for other sports).
In January 1970, a group of soccer parents wanting to enlarge the youth soccer program met and formed the Arlington Soccer Association (Arlington Soccer). When Arlington Soccer asked to be able to play soccer during the spring months, the County made fields available but due to budgetary restraints said that they could only provide personnel for a fall soccer program. In many ways that decision of the County was the most vital decision in the life of the Arlington Soccer. Volunteers began registering players, scheduling games, arranging for the assignment of referees, lining fields and otherwise taking over the management of the youth soccer program.
By the fall of 1970 the soccer program had expanded to 20 boys teams with U15 and U12 divisions of 10 teams each. Registration increased to 300 players. Today, over four decades later, the Rec program of Arlington Soccer Association with teams from Arlington and Falls Church has over 5,900 players on more than 540 teams.
These are some additional milestones in Arlington Soccer Association history:
Spring and Fall Seasons: In addition to running our own program in the spring of 1970, Arlington Soccer changed the standard of youth sports being played only in one season. Ever since the first informal games played in the spring of 1970, Arlington Soccer has played both spring and fall seasons.
All Kids Play: From day one, Arlington Soccer has required that every player must play in every game. When the youth soccer program started, the other sports programs – baseball, football and basketball – were made upon of teams of limited size. Because of the size limitations, there would be try outs and if a youngster wasn’t skilled enough he failed to make the team. The “No Cut” program of Arlington Soccer proved to be a great inducement to Arlington youngsters to participate in the Recreational youth soccer program.
Girls and Boys: Another major factor in the growth of Arlington Soccer has been the inclusion of girls in the Recreational soccer program. While girls did participate on some teams during those early years, the Association started forming all-girl teams in the fall of 1973.
Travel Teams: Another milestone was the development of travel or select teams. Initially, All Star teams were created early in Arlington Soccer’s history to play in tournaments over holidays. From these early All Stars teams developed the Travel Soccer Program, with 66 teams playing in regional leagues – NCSL (National Capital Soccer League), WAGS (Washington Area Girls Soccer), ODSL (Old Dominion Soccer League), CCL (Club Champions League) and Region 1.
Tournaments: Tournaments, such as the Arlington Recreational Tournament and the Arlington Spring Invitational Soccer Tournament, are another unique aspect of youth soccer programs in the United States. Arlington Soccer serves as the host and organizer of these events that draw teams from around the region and beyond. These events benefit Arlington County as well in terms of dollars brought into the County.
International Visits: Not only would Arlington Soccer travel teams travel to neighboring cities and towns to play in their tournaments but teams would save up money and travel to tournaments throughout the United States and, indeed, throughout the world. An Arlington Soccer team from Arlington was the first American youth club team to play in the Peoples Republic of China. That team in 1982 played in Beijing in the National Stadium.
Playing Fields: Growth has not been without problems chief of which has been the lack of adequate playing fields. These shortages, as well as having to utilize fields worn bare with excessive play,mean that improving game fields in Arlington has always been a primary objective of Arlington Soccer. Many in our leadership have appeared before the County Board and other advisory or civic groups pleading for better facilities.
In the late ‘70s the soccer community took the lead in what was called “Project Lamplighter”. Arlington Soccer members literally followed the County Board at every turn and lobbied successfully for the erection of lights at Quincy Field, Thomas Jefferson, Gunston, and Kenmore which extended playing and practice time.
Over the years, fortunately, the County has seen fit to create new grass game fields as well as instituting programs of field rehabilitation. Most importantly the County Board took the lead in Northern Virginia in installing rectangular artificial surface fields at all three County high schools (Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown), as well as artificial surface fields at Gunston Middle School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and the Virginia Highlands and Barcroft recreational fields. Three additional artificial fields opened in November 2011 in the new Long Bridge Park development, and a fourth field at that park is a distinct possibility.