All over the East Bay, kids are learning about teamwork and competition-and having fun on the soccer field
If the U.S. is going to win the world soccer championship, the road to victory will probably run straight through Diablo Country. While soccer is not yet America’s pastime, it’s certainly the most popular youth sport for East Bay boys and girls. A good example of the game’s explosive popularity is the Mustang Soccer League, a community of some 5,000 kids between 5 and 18, mostly from Alamo, Danville, Diablo, and Walnut Creek. From beginner pony-league players to seasonal leaguers who play for fun to ultracompetitive kickers who play almost year-round, there’s a team for any kid with a pair of cleats.
Mustang Soccer’s director, John Doyle, is a former Olympian, World Cup team member, and pro player and coach with the San Jose Earthquakes. Doyle’s presence gives world-class prestige to Mustang Soccer’s 34-year history, and has produced relationships with such big-name sports brands as Nike and Gatorade. Championship teams—such as the under-15 girls of Mustang Spirit, which has won the State Cup three years in a row—add to the league’s legacy. Overall, Mustang Soccer teams have won 16 State Cup titles since 2001, and the league is the top-ranked in Northern California by soccer website www.gotsoccer.com. Several East Bay soccer stars have already made it to college and a few to pro teams—so don’t be surprised if our next generation of kickers will soon be giving Brazil, France, and Italy a run for their money.
Kids as young as five kick around in pony-league games, in which no one keeps score. Older players join recreational division four teams or more competitive division three and division one squads, which play clubs from Dublin, Fremont, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon.
Mustang Soccer has a staff of 35 paid coaches. More than 700 coaches, including Justin Lola (pictured above), volunteer time with the 380 Mustang teams. Some coaches have more than 20 years of experience in the league.
Registration and uniforms cost about $250 per season. Players on the elite division one teams spend more than $1,000 per season in fees, and several thousand dollars on travel expenses during the 10-month schedule of practices and tournaments.
WHERE THEY PLAY
Mustang Soccer teams practice and compete on 31 athletic fields around Danville and Alamo; the league’s gem will be the Tassajara Soccer Complex, a $4.5 million two-field athletic complex and community center set to open in the winter of 2006–2007.
Mustang Soccer was founded in 1972 as a boys’ club at Monte Vista High School (the name Mustang refers to Monte Vista’s mascot). Girls’ teams were added in 1974.
Mustang Soccer teams have won 16 State Cup titles since 2001. The under-15 Mustang Blast girls team won a national title in 2004. That team, now under-17, was competing for another national title at press time.