The state Premier league was established to provide the most skilled and committed soccer player with a truly intensive experience of practice and play. Most Premier teams have two or three practices weekly. They play in a state-wide league administered by the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association ("CJSA"), which places Premier teams in one of three divisions based on wins in the previous year. In addition, a Premier team may play in MAPS, a northeastern regional league centered in New Jersey, and attend many tournaments, some far from Connecticut
Premier teams compete in a statewide single elimination tournament called the State Cup (separate and different from CT Cup). State Cup is held in the spring only and winners in each age group go on to the Region I tournament held around July 4. The winners of the regionals go on to the Snickers national championship tournament.
The commitment level required for Premier makes it incompatible with most other after-school activities and the cost is significantly higher than Travel soccer. The average annual cost per player to participate in a Premier program is roughly $1,500 - $2,000, plus uniform and travel to distant tournaments. Many Premier coaches have advanced licenses, including the National Youth license and/or United States Soccer Federation B and A licenses, and many have played professional soccer overseas.
Beginning in fall 2006, Premier teams start at U-11 and continue though U-19. The age divisions are the same as in Travel, though it is expected that U11 and U12 Premier will play 8v8 (8 players per team on the field at a time). (See the age-break chart by clicking on “Age Guidelines” in the left pane.)
Teams are sponsored either by "Premier clubs," which are commercial businesses entirely focused on this level of play, such as CFC Arsenal, Beachside, Eastern FC and Yankee United (find links to their websites at swdcjsa.org), or by "town clubs," such as Fairfield, New Canaan or Easton, which are primarily Travel- and Town League-oriented. To speak with Weston parents about the Premier soccer experience, call Gil and Amy Sanborn (Arsenal) at 454-2668, Philip and Diane Shaner (Beachside) at 227-7055, Jay and Liz Rocio (Weston United) at 454-4597, Rob and Margarita Barberi (Yankee United) at 454-1496.
Try-outs for U-11 through U-19 Premier league teams are held in late June and early July each year. The tryouts are open; any player (including a player from out-of-state) may try out for as many teams as he/she wishes. Try-out dates for each team may be posted at www.swdcjsa.org or www.cjsa.net, and should be listed on the Premier club's website. Usually the tryout is accompanied by a presentation to attending parents on the program, philosophy and cost of the particular Premier team.
After the tryout, each Premier team decides to whom to extend an invitation and players have until August 1 to accept (often from among competing invitations). Once teams are formed for the September 1 to August 31 soccer year, Premier coaches are prohibited from actively recruiting players from other Premier teams until the June-July tryout window opens again. Unlike Travel, town residency is not a factor in the formation of Premier teams.
Teams usually do not guarantee minimum playing time for each player. Premier League and State Cup matches are held throughout the state. Just like Travel, Premier has a fall and spring season, but most Premier teams also require a commitment to indoor winter practices and tournaments. At U-15 and above, Premier play, like Travel, succumbs in the fall to the high school athletics prohibition against club play during the high school soccer season.
A recent change in CJSA rules leaves it up to each town club to determine whether to permit a child to play on its Travel or Town league team as well as on a Premier team. (This practice is often called "double-rostering.") The Weston Soccer Club only permits this when it is needed to have a viable team. We do not want to take away an opportunity from a player that is willing to give a 100% commitment, since we know a Premier player must give first priority to his/her Premier team.
The Weston Soccer Club's policy is to support each Weston child playing at the highest level to which he or she wishes to aspire. Although "losing" a good player to Premier may "hurt" a Travel team, Premier permits some Weston players to achieve a level of skill and experience that the Club cannot otherwise provide. When Premier players enter high school, they normally form the core of a successful program and can motivate their teammates to reach higher levels of play. Premier can also prepare a player for induction into the CJSA's Olympic Development Program, an even more elite activity that is a steppingstone to Division I college athletic scholarships and the U.S. national youth teams. (Go to www.cjsa.net for more information on open tryouts for ODP.)
In keeping with its policy regarding Premier programs, the Soccer Club will refund the fall registration fee of any Travel or Town league player who by September 1 has become rostered on a Premier team, unless he or she is double-rostered. The Soccer Club’s current rules permit double-rostering when it is deemed to be in the best interests of that particular team.
The Soccer Club's heritage includes sponsorship of the Weston Wild Thing premier team, who in 1996 were the U-16 girls national champions!