Learn more about the SSL and BAYS Leagues
Beginning in kindergarten and all the way through high school, Sudbury Youth Soccer is focused on developing our young player’s skills and understanding of the game in an environment that promotes a love for soccer.
This development continues in 3rd and 4th grade and for the first time, players have the opportunity to play in one of two different leagues.
These two leagues are called:
I. Sudbury Soccer League - (SSL)
II. Boston Area Youth Soccer League – (BAYS)
What’s most important to know is that Sudbury Soccer develops and coaches our players exactly the same way, regardless of which league they play in. In fact, the majority of SSL and BAYS league attributes are exactly the same:
o Coaches and Curriculum: All Sudbury coaches in SSL and BAYS are led by parent volunteer coaches. Sudbury Soccer’s training curriculum was developed by the New England Revolution Academy and utilized across all age groups in both leagues. All our coaches (volunteers and Revs) work from the same written version of this curriculum.
o Training: SSL and BAYS teams train twice a week. One night is an individual team training night and the other is a group practice led by Professional coaches from the New England Revolution Academy alongside the team coach.
o Season: SSL and BAYS teams have two seasons each year, fall and spring. Teams are formed each fall and players typically are kept together for the spring season.
o Game Format: 3rd and 4th graders plays 6 v 6 in both SSL and BAYS.
What’s the Difference?
The differences between BAYS and SSL are designed specifically to work for players and parents. For example, does your child play multiple sports that create schedule conflicts? Then SSL may be a good choice because all SSL games are played in Sudbury, without the need to travel to play in other towns.
Travel, cost, flexibility, and how teams are assigned are the primary differences between SSL and BAYS. The following provides more information on these differences for each league:
Sudbury Soccer League (SSL)
o Balanced Teams: Sudbury Soccer League teams are built with “balance” to ensure competitive league play. As opposed to ranking players and putting all the highest or lowest skilled players on any one team, balanced teams are built with a mix of skill level. This approach provides highly skilled players the chance to lead their team, building both skills and confidence. Similarly, less skilled players get the chance to play alongside higher skilled players which helps to build their confidence and can accelerate player development.
o Individual Player Placement: Players do not go through an evaluation (“tryout”) for the Sudbury Soccer League. Instead, based on the previous season’s coaching evaluations, players are assigned to teams based on skill level to provide as much balance among the teams as possible. Thus, SSL teams will not have all the highest or all the lowest skilled players on any one team.
o Game Location: All games are played in Sudbury – no travel required. This is the reason that SSL teams are sometime called, “town” teams.
o Training Flexibility: SSL teams train twice a week and play on Saturdays. Most SSL players attend both practices but, players have the flexibility to miss a night during the week in the event they have other activities. This is designed specifically for multi-sport/activity athletes so kids can avoid being overscheduled.
o Cost: Registration fee each season is $135 which includes a team shirt.
o Tournament: SSL players participate in a season end Sudbury Soccer League tournament
o Age Eligibility: The Sudbury Soccer League is available to U9 and U10 players only (3rd and 4th grade) and teams are balanced to include a mix of 3rd and 4th grade players.
Boston Area Youth Soccer League (BAYS)
o Ranked Players: Ranking players by skill allows similarly skilled players to play together on the same team. As opposed to balancing skill level across the teams, ranked teams strive to make sure the “first” ranked team is the strongest, most highly skilled team possible, with lower ranked teams comprised of the lesser skilled players. This is important in the BAYS league because teams are placed in divisions with similarly skilled players from different towns. So for example, Sudbury’s first ranked team might play in a higher BAYS division while Sudbury’s sixth ranked team would play in a lower BAYS division.
o Individual Player Placement: Kids that play in the BAYS league participate in a two-day evaluation in the spring to determine fall team placement. This evaluation, along with their previous season’s coaching evaluation, is used to rank players for distribution to each team according to skill level. So for example, if 77 players are evaluated for U9 girls teams, the 11 best players will be placed on team 1, the next 11 best players on team 2, and so on with the last 11 players placed on team 7. All players who are evaluated are placed on a team which is why it’s not a “tryout” – it is skill level that determines which team the player is placed.
o Game Location: Half of the games are played in Sudbury and half are played in other towns. Game location isn’t known until the beginning of the season but, games may be played as close as Wayland and as far as North Attleboro or Jamaica Plain. Like SSL, BAYS players are all from the town of Sudbury but are sometimes called “travel” teams because they travel to play half of their games.
o Tournament: There are no scheduled tournaments as part of the regular season but, BAYS teams can qualify for two different tournaments each spring, The Massachusetts Tournament of Players and the President’s Cup.
o Cost: Registration fee each season is $150. Parents must also purchase a team uniform which consists of shorts, shirt, and socks.
o Age Eligibility: Players may play in the BAYS league beginning in 3rd grade through high school. Playing in SSL in 3rd or 4th grade has no impact on a player’s ability to play in BAYS in future seasons.
Parents Corner – The “Real” Questions
Q: Which league is more competitive, SSL or BAYS?
A: Both leagues are competitive. Skill levels of players however, will differ depending on a combination of factors including league and team ranking. But generally:
The top third of BAYS teams will have a higher skill level than all other BAYS teams and SSL teams.
The middle third of BAYS teams will likely be equally skilled/competitive to SSL teams
The bottom third of BAYS teams will likely be less skilled/competitive than SSL teams
A misconception that many parents have is that BAYS (travel) is “better” than SSL (town). The reality is that the top third of BAYS teams are indeed the strongest, most highly skilled teams. However, unless your child makes one of these teams, the remaining BAYS teams are likely to be equally competitive to (or less competitive than) any of the SSL teams because players on each BAYS team are at the same ability level.
Q: Which league has better coaching and training?
A: Coaches for both leagues are parent volunteers and the training curriculum is the same. Both leagues utilize professional coaches from the New England Revolution Academy for group practice nights. Thus, both leagues have the same potential for coaching and training.
Q: My child was one of the better players on our team in 2nd grade. Which league is best for her in 3rd grade?
A: Not as easy to answer as you might think. Some of Sudbury’s highly skilled players may play in BAYS starting in 3rd grade and thrive on teams playing against other highly skilled players. Some kids need exactly that! If your child is a top player, confident, and is ready for tough competition with equally or better skilled players right now, and you are willing to travel to play in other towns, BAYS is a good choice.
However, many skilled 3rd and 4th graders will play in the SSL and thrive by playing on balanced teams while building their confidence on the ball while growing as a leader. Many parents have found that playing SSL in 3rd grade and 4th grade was the perfect bridge for their child to build confidence, mature, and become more prepared to play on teams with similar skill level in 4th or 5th grade.
The answer lies in which program is best for YOUR child in 3rd or 4th grade. Where will your child’s confidence grow the most? That answer might change again in 4th grade. You can be confident in know that the training is the same no matter which league you choose.
Q: My child was not one of the top players on our U8 team this year. Which league is best for her/him in 3rd grade?
A: The right answer depends on the child and family. Sometimes, parents may think that putting a less skilled player on a travel team will make him a better player, only to become disillusioned when their child plays on a team with all lower skilled players. Consider that since training is identical in both SSL and BAYS, a car trip to play in another town is unlikely to make better soccer players.
So the real question is where do you think your child will thrive the most - on a team of balanced players in SSL or on a team of similarly skilled players in BAYS?
Q: I’d like to follow my child’s 2nd grade coach to BAYS.
A: Players in BAYS are placed on teams according to their skill level and coaches are assigned after the children are placed. This is important because unless your child and the coach’s child are at the exact same skill level, they will not play on the same team.
Q: I’d like to make sure that my child plays with a friend in BAYS.
A: Because BAYS players are placed on teams according to their skill level, it’s unlikely that they would be placed on the same team with a specific friend. Encourage your child to see soccer as an opportunity to make new friends, which is particularly important at this age as children prepare to move to Curtis Middle School.
Q: If my child plays BAYS or SSL in the fall, can he switch to the other league in the spring or at the beginning of the next fall season?
A: Yes. In fact, this is a great option for multi-sport athletes who want to keep playing soccer in the spring and commit to another sport. SSL provides the flexibility in training to allow focus on another spring sport – and because all games are played in Sudbury, there is no travel time that can often conflict with another sport. SYSA supports parents that do not want to overschedule their children. SSL is a great option for parents who do not want the same burden of travel soccer during the spring, while their child is also playing/traveling for lacrosse, baseball, or other spring sport.
Additionally, SSL players are also welcome to move to BAYS in the spring or the following fall. Many parents choose SSL in 3rd grade and evaluate their child again the following year to see what may be the best option in 4th grade. Many continue to play SSL and some move to BAYS.
Q: My child plays another sport. Is SSL or BAYS a better soccer option?
A: SYSA encourages children to play other sports and we support families who do not want to overschedule their children. While some families are able to balance the commitment of a BAYS travel schedule with another sport, others find that playing in the SSL reduces scheduling conflicts since all SSL games are played in Sudbury and the second practice each week is optional if a child has a conflict with another sport.
Q: I still don’t know which league would be best for my child. Can I speak with someone?
A: Absolutely! Any member of the Sudbury Youth Soccer Board would be happy to speak with you about your child so you can make the best decision possible. Please find all of our email addresses on the last page of this note.