By Michael YEGHIAYAN
As summer begins to come to an end, the American Youth Soccer Organization is set to start off a new season. Region 88, which covers La Crescenta, Glendale and the surrounding areas, opens with practices on Aug. 1 and the first games are scheduled to begin on Sept. 11. The organization’s opening day ceremonies will be held on Sept. 12.
Nearing its fiftieth year of existence, AYSO holds a nationwide commitment to promoting organized youth soccer with over 55,000 teams and 600,000 players across the country. Locally, Region 88 consists of 338 teams and 3,600 players between the ages of 4 and 18.
Additionally, AYSO promotes the Very Important Players program that creates a quality environment to play soccer for those with physical or mental disabilities. The goal of the program is the creation of a healthy social atmosphere while upholding the organization’s dedication to the belief that “everybody plays.”
AYSO and a general soccer culture in the United States has seen steady growth over the last few decades, a trend that local commissioner Aldo Mascheroni has witnessed firsthand. Since the start of Mascheroni’s involvement in the organization in 1995, AYSO has developed into a staple of Crescenta Valley youth sports.
“I played as a kid a bit in high school but soccer wasn’t really popular back then,” said Mascheroni. “It’s been really great seeing kids really take to soccer and enjoy playing the sport.”
While AYSO has shown significant growth from year to year, the arrival of the World Cup brings with it a spike in registrations.
“The World Cup is great for us,” commented Mascheroni. “It brings soccer to a lot of people who wouldn’t be paying attention otherwise.”
As an all-volunteer organization, AYSO draws on community support in order to carry out its mission “to develop and deliver quality youth soccer programs which promote a fun, family environment.” In Region 88, over 700 coaches and 55 board members donate their time to the association.
“I found that it was an equally worthwhile experience to donate some of my time to help and get involved in the program,” said Mascheroni. “AYSO originally gave me an opportunity to bond with my children. It’s always been a positive experience for my girls.”
The current AYSO season will play out to approximately the end of 2010. Under-8 teams are scheduled to play until Thanksgiving while Under-18 teams play until Christmas unless there is a conflict with high school soccer schedules.