Sonoma's two youth soccer leagues join forces as Sonoma Valley United
Parents of Sonoma Valley’s youngest soccer players won’t have to choose between two leagues this coming spring, as they have since 2014. The long-standing Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association (SVYSA) and the more-recently formed Sonoma Soccer Club (SSC) have buried their differences and will reunite in 2019 as one league, aptly named Sonoma Valley United (SVU).
A growing camaraderie among club leaders is what has made the merger possible, said marketing director of the new SVU league, Taryn Lohr. “For over the past year, board members from both clubs have been meeting regularly to come up with the plan where all players and parents will benefit.”
But it wasn’t always so. The split occurred in 2014 when some coaches wanted to participate in more competitive league soccer, while the SVYSA had long emphasized recreational participation – though they did have a competitive league involvement for a few years. When they dropped those programs to refocus on recreational programs for younger, less-committed soccer players, the Sonoma Soccer Club sprang up to fill the void.
Then the SVYSA announced it was bringing back competitive soccer early in 2015, and tensions rose between the two organizations. The change-of-heart by the SVYSA was precipitated by a wholesale replacement of its standing board with a new one more receptive to competitive soccer.
The two leagues struggled on separate paths for several years, competing for players from the same pool of local soccer youth under 18 years of age.
It was an unfair rivalry that the recreation-centric SVYSC always won, with some 800 players last year, compared to 150 for the competitive-only Sonoma Soccer Club. But with the combined leagues, Lore speculates that up to 1,000 Valley kids from 3 to 18, boys and girls, could be participating in soccer this year.
“The larger, merged club will be better able to fill team rosters at all competitive levels and attract and retain superior, qualified coaches,” said Lohr in the press release announcing the merger.
The merger became official Feb. 22, and a new combined website has already been launched at sonomavalleyunited.org. Though most of the teams in the new Sonoma Valley United will be recreational in nature, a competitive program will be retained.
Both former SCC president Dan Sondheim and Joe Diggins, until recently president of the SVYSA, are on the new 11-member board for the new league, Sondheim as chair and Diggins as president.
“Joe and I have been meeting since 2017,” says Sondheim. “The more we met and discussed the benefits of the two clubs merging, the more we began to realize it made sense and now we are able to provide a better soccer program for the children of Sonoma Valley.”