The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) was established in the Los Angeles area in 1964 with nine teams. It was the dream of a group of devoted soccer enthusiasts who started the organization in a garage. Today, AYSO operates nationwide and internationally with more than 50,000 teams and more than 650,000 players. It also employs 65 people at its National Support and Training Center in Hawthorne, California.
Over the years, AYSO has created many valuable programs and concepts. Most notably, AYSO revolutionized youth sports with its "Everyone Plays" and "Balanced Teams" philosophies. In AYSO, each child who registers is guaranteed to play at least half of every game. To help create evenly matched games, all AYSO players are placed on new or "balanced" teams each year. These decisions are made based on each player's skill level and the overall ability of the team.
Since its establishment, AYSO has continued to grow and offer its membership relevant programs.
- In 1971, two San Fernando Valley residents developed AYSO's first girls program. Today, a corporate sponsor has joined with AYSO as the organization's first official sponsor of its national girl's initiative. Currently, 40% of AYSO's players are girls.
- In the mid-1970's, an AYSO coach chartered new territory as he welcomed the organization's first player with Down Syndrome. As a result of this landmark union, soccer was introduced into the Special Olympics. Today, AYSO offers its membership the Very Important Player (VIP) program for kids with special needs. VIP boasts 75 programs and 1,500 players.
- In 1995, two AYSO parents established the first AYSO program in Moscow. Today, the Moscow program has almost 500 registered players. In addition, an AYSO program was started in Puerto Rico in Spring 1998 and another program began in American Samoa in 1999.
AYSO is supported by more than 250,000 volunteers. Parents donate their time as coaches, referees, team parents, administrators, and sponsors. In 1998, AYSO unveiled its new Coach Certification and Safe Haven programs. Each was designed to strengthen the organization's role in child protection. Although AYSO is primarily a youth sports organization, it realizes the importance of providing a safe and healthy atmosphere for children. AYSO is continually working to improve the education of its volunteers in the fields of child development, human behavior and sports psychology. A strong emphasis is placed on ethics and sportsmanship and the development of the whole child.
AYSO is a national association of the United States Soccer Federation. Through the years, the organization has also maintained relations with organizations such as the National Council of Youth Sports, Girls Scouts USA, the National Association for Sports and Physical Education, People To People, Optimists International, Police Athletic Leagues, the National Alliance for Youth Sports, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, the United States Soccer Federation, and the Character Counts Program. In addition, AYSO works closely with 20 corporations that are part of the organization's national team of sponsors.
AYSO is governed by an eleven member National Board of Directors elected by Executive Members at the National Annual General Meeting for three-year terms. The President is elected for a one-year term by a majority vote of the Executive Members at the National Annual General Meeting. The National Executive Director is appointed by and reports to the National Board of Directors.