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AYSO Famous Alumni


See Who Grew Up Playing AYSO

FEATURED AYSO ALUMNI

Landon Donovan Carlos Bocanegra
Julie Foudy Eric Wynalda
Shannon Boxx Brian Ching
Alex Morgan

FAMOUS AYSO ALUMNI
Kristin Graczyk Natasha Kai
Amy Rodriguez





Landon Donovan - America's Brightest Goal Scorer

Landon DonovanAmerica's Brightest Goal Scorer

Landon Donovan, an AYSO alum, started playing soccer at age 2 in Ontario, Calif., after his older brother, Josh, introduced him to the sport.

"Josh would take me out to the backyard and kick the ball around with me," said Donovan, who joined an AYSO team at age 5 and kept playing AYSO until age 14. "The beauty of AYSO was that you had kids from all walks of life who just wanted to be active and run around and play soccer," U.S. Men's leading goal scorer Landon Donovan said. "I started playing club soccer at the age of 10 but I wanted to continue playing AYSO because I enjoyed the camaraderie and the ability to just play for the love of the game."

Donovan turned pro at 16 years old, when he signed with German club Bayer Leverkusen. He's come a long way in the past 12 years, becoming the most recognizable American soccer player. The 2010 Player of the Year currently plays for the U.S. National team and Major League Soccer's (MLS) Los Angeles Galaxy.

A three-time World Cup veteran, Donovan is the all-time leader in both scoring and assisting goals for the national team; he also became the fourth-youngest player to reach 100 appearances for his country. He scored three goals in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, including the goal in the 1-0 defeat of Algeria, propelling the U.S. to the second round of the games. He scored two goals in the 2009 Confederations Cup, scoring against soccer power houses Italy in the group round and Brazil in the final. In his first World Cup, Donovan scored in the 2-0 Quarterfinal win over Mexico in 2002. Donovan has also represented the U.S. at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where the U.S. finished fourth.

Donovan has scored 124 goals in his 12-year MLS career. Last season, Donovan led the Galaxy to an MLS Cup title, scoring 12 goals throughout the season. The team also won the Supporters Shield (given to the team with the best record in the regular season). In 2010, Donovan helped the Galaxy win the Supporters Shield and became the all-time leading goal scorer for the team. Before the start of the 2010 MLS season, Donovan went to English Premier League (EPL) team, Everton, for a short loan. During that time, Donovan played in 13 games, scoring two goals and was named the January Player of the Month. In 2009, Donovan won the MLS' MVP and Goal of the Year award. He led the team to the MLS Cup Finals, where the team lost in penalties to Real Salt Lake. Donovan has won three MLS Cup championships - one with the Galaxy (2005) and two with the San Jose Earthquakes (2001, 2003).

Questions & Answers

Age started playing soccer: 2

Favorite AYSO memory: I started playing AYSO when I was 5. Before that, my older brother, Josh, would take me out to the backyard and kick the ball around with me. My favorite AYSO memory is that I got to play on the same team as my best friend when I was 8 years old.

What he loved about AYSO: The beauty of AYSO was that you had kids from all walks of life who just wanted to be active and run around and play soccer. I started playing club soccer at the age of 10 but I wanted to continue playing AYSO because I enjoyed the camaraderie and the ability to just play for the love of playing. The games were still competitive but they never revolved around winning.

Advice for the first-time coach: One of my biggest pet peeves is youth team coaches who take winning too seriously. This has always bothered me, and I always tell coaches to forget about winning with young players. They need to create an environment where the kids enjoy playing and are developing their soccer skills. Winning should never be a priority.





Julie Foudy - Hall of Famer Started Her Career in AYSO

Julie Foudy

Hall of Famer Started Her Career in AYSO

When Julie Foudy won two World Cups and two Olympics medals, she wore the number 11 - the same number that she wore when she started playing AYSO at age 7 while living in Mission Viejo, Calif.

"I begged my mom to sign me up for soccer and joined a team called the Strikers," said Foudy. "When it came to pass out the shirts, I knew what I wanted. I was this feisty little 7-year-old who thought I was the best, so I should have the No. 1. They told me the goalie has to take that number, so I went with the double No. 1. That's how I became No. 11 for the rest of my life. Thanks to the Strikers."

Foudy has many fond memories of her AYSO experience that led to one of the most illustrious careers in women's sports history. She believes that being allowed to enjoy the game and explore it on her own terms was the key to her success."AYSO emphasizes all the positives of soccer: the enjoyment that kids get from the sport, understanding how to play on a team and be a good teammate, and developing skills in a fun environment. I watched my nieces and nephews go through AYSO and I look forward to watching my own kids enjoy soccer through AYSO!"

Foudy retired in 2004 after captaining the U.S. Women's National Team 13 of the 18 years she played on it. She played in three Olympics and four World Cups. And, only two players in the world, former teammates Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly top Foudy's 271 U.S. National Team appearances.

Foudy's U.S. National Team soccer career is a storied one. She's won two World Cups (in 1991 and 1999), two Gold Medals (in 1996 and 2004) and a Silver Medal (in 2000). In her 271 appearances for the U.S. National Team, Foudy scored 45 goals. Foudy played pro soccer with the San Diego Spirit of the now defunct WUSA, where she captained all three years. Foudy was inducted to the AYSO Hall of Fame in 2006 and the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007.

Foudy's had a profound impact off the field as well. She was the President of the Women's Sports Foundation from 2000-2002, served on the Women's Sports Foundation Board of Directors for seven years and was a WSF advocacy consultant for two years, with a focus on Title IX, childhood obesity, and athletes' rights issues. Foudy currently sits on the board of Athletes for Hope (AFH), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization created by successful athletes who have a deep commitment to charitable and community causes. Foudy is the global spokeswoman for Global Girl Media, a new non-profit helping young women around the world find their voice through journalism. She is also an ambassador for Beyond Sport, a global organization that promotes, develops and funds the use of sport to create positive social change across the world. Foudy has been instrumental in a number of women's rights and child labor issues around the world. FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, awarded her the FIFA Fair Play Award for her work against child labor in the stitching of soccer balls. She was the first woman and first American to receive the award.

She is currently an analyst for ABC/ESPN and the NBC Olympics, director of her Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academies, a motivational speaker, and proud mother of two children, Isabel and Declan.

Questions & Answers

Age started playing soccer: 7

Why she loves AYSO: AYSO emphasizes all the positives of soccer: the enjoyment that kids get from the sport, understanding how to play on a team and be a good teammate, and developing skills in a fun environment. I watched my nieces and nephews go through AYSO and I look forward to watching my own kids enjoy soccer through AYSO!

Favorite AYSO memory: My AYSO coach gave us fun prizes for juggling, so I spent hours juggling and trying to reach those goals. We got something for 25 juggles, something else for 50, and on up. What that really taught me was the importance of time on the ball. When you love the ball, the skills and confidence follow.

What advice would you give a first-time AYSO coach? First of all, I'd tell them they're not going to be an expert right away! They can read all the books in the world about the technical skills, but the most important thing is to create an environment where the kids feel comfortable and it's fun to learn. You don't have to turn them into an Abby Wambach or Landon Donovan...just let them have fun and love playing soccer!





Shannon Boxx - Midfielder to Lead U.S. in Women's World Cup

Shannon Boxx

From AYSO to Gold

Shannon Boxx, who has won both an Olympic Gold Medal and NCAA Division 1 College Cup for Notre Dame, started playing AYSO when she was four-years-old in Torrance, Calif.

"I remember the oranges and halftime, parents lining up on the sideline to make a tunnel after the game and Prince's 'Purple Rain' blasting on the boom box," Boxx remembers of her AYSO days. "I learned that real ball skills were more important than tricks to win the ball in AYSO. I also learned that it was ok to get knocked around and fall down while playing soccer. You just got to get back up again!"

This past summer, Boxx was part of the Olympic gold medal team in London. Boxx played in the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany, where the U.S. finished second. As of September 2012, Boxx has played for the U.S. Women's National Team 172 times, scoring 24 goals. Boxx played every minute of all five U.S. games during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, and helped the women reach the semifinals in the 2007 World Cup. Missing most of the 2006 season due to injury, Boxx was named a finalist for the 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year, coming in third. Boxx won a Gold Medal in the 2004 Olympics. Boxx made her first appearance with the U.S. Women's National team after being named to the 2003 World Cup squad. Boxx became the first American woman to score three goals in her first three games with the national team. She started all five World Cup games, and was voted player of the game against Canada by the FIFA Technical Study Group.

The midfielder was allocated to the Los Angeles Sol in the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) season in 2009, where she also captained the team, scoring three goals and three assists. After the Sol dispersed, Boxx was selected by St. Louis Athletica. Prior to joining the WPS, Boxx played in the now defunct WUSA for San Diego Spirit and New York Power. During her time in the league, Boxx scored six goals and 15 assists. Boxx also helped the University of Notre Dame win their first NCAA Women's Soccer Championship her freshman year in 1995.

Questions & Answers

Age started playing soccer: 4

Favorite AYSO memory: Oranges at halftime, parents lined up on the sidelines to make a tunnel after the game, and Prince's "Purple Rain" blasting on the boombox.

Favorite AYSO coach and why: I don't remember his name, but I do remember he taught us that real ball skills were more important than tricks to win the ball. I also learned that it was ok to get knocked around and fall down while playing soccer. You just get back up again!

What advice would you give a first-time AYSO coach? Make soccer fun for the kids and get them to enjoy it first, then teach them skills. The most important thing is to have fun on the soccer field; winning is not so important. If you teach the value of teamwork and you instill that early, that's what's important.




Carlos Bocanegra - U.S. Captain Had Mom As First Coach

Carlos Bocanegra

U.S. Captain Had Mom As First Coach

U.S. Men's National Team captain, Carlos Bocanegra, played AYSO while growing up in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. His first team was coached by his mom and named the California Kickers.

The two-time World Cup veteran has been the captain of the U.S. National team since 2007, and most recently lead the team to its first ever group win in World Cup history in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He's had 107 appearances for the team, scoring 13 goals and plays can play both at center back and left back. In 2009, Bocanegra captained the team that defeated No. 1 ranked Spain in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. Bocanegra has won the CONCACAF Gold Cup twice with the National team (2002, 2007). He played his first game with the senior National team on Dec. 9, 2001, against South Korea.

Currently playing in Spain, Bocanegra plays for Racing Santander. Prior to the 2012 season, Bocanegra captained Scottish side, the Rangers. In the 2010-2011 season, Bocanegra was playing for French first division team Saint-Etienne, scoring his first goal on Dec. 15, 2010. Prior to the 2010 season, Bocanegra played fellow French team, Stade Rennais. In his first season with the team, he played in all 38 league matches, scoring his first goal on March 8, 2009. He also scored at the Coupe de France final. Bocanegra started his European career in the English Premier League (EPL), playing for Fulham FC. During the 2006-07 season, Bocanegra was the team's second leading scorer, with five goals. Before making the leap overseas, Bocanegra played for the Chicago Fire from 2000-03. During his time with the Fire, Bocanegra won an U.S. Open Cup (2000), MLS Rookie of the Year (2000), MLS Defender of the Year (2002, 2003) and MLS Cup runner-up (2000, 2003).





Eric Wynalda - A Soccer Career Of Firsts

Eric Wynalda

A Soccer Career Of Firsts

Eric Wynalda's AYSO team was called the Westlake Wolves. Coached by his dad, Wynalda won a AYSO state championship. The future U.S. National team goal scorer started showing what he was capable of doing when he scored more goals (56) than the entire division his team played in.

Wynalda's soccer career is filled with a number of firsts - the first American-born player to play for a top level German club (Saarbrucken), first American-born player to receive the prestigious award in an overseas league (Bundesliga's Best New Comer of the Year Award), first American-born player to receive an MVP league award (1994-94) and the first player to score in Major League Soccer.

The impact that Wynalda has made on U.S. soccer is undeniable.

Wynalda is the second-leading goal scorer for the U.S. National Team with 34 goals in 106 appearances. He played in three World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998), scoring in the 1994 World Cup off a corner kick in the U.S. tie to Switzerland. Wynalda was named the Honda Player of the Decade for 90s, CONCACAF All-Decade Team of the 90s, U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year (1996) and elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004.

In his tenure in MLS, Wynalda played for four separate MLS teams, the San Jose Clash, the Miami Fusion, the England Revolution and the Chicago Fire. On April 6, 1996, Wynalda scored the first goal in league history when the Clash beat D.C. United. The Clash traded Wynalda to the Fusion in 1999, and a year latter Wynalda ended up in New England. Wynalda ended his MLS career in Chicago. Wynalda had 34 MLS goals, plus two playoff goals. Prior to joining MLS, Wynalda played in Europe for German Bundesliga club, Saarbrucken, where he scored eight goals in the first half of his first season with the team. That year was named, Bundesliga New Comer of the Year. The following year, the forward scored 14 goals and 25 assists and was named league MVP.

Wynalda is currently the head coach of Cal FC, an amateur team in Southern California. Cal FC's victory over the Portland Timbers made them the first amateur side to beat an MLS team in the run of play. After retiring, Wynalda turned to a broadcasting career working for ESPN. He was the in-studio analyst for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, as well as MLS and U.S. National team games. In 2009, Wynalda joined Fox Soccer Channel as the co-host of the weekly discussion show, Fox Football Fone-in. While at Fox, Wynalda has worked as a commentator for some of the channel's MLS broadcasts. 





Brian Ching


Houston Dynamo, U.S. National Team

Forward
Member of 2006 World Cup squad, three-time MLS champion

Age started playing soccer: 7

Number of years in AYSO: 5 years

Favorite coach and why: My mom. She told my brothers and I that we had to play a sport and suggested soccer. I told her I would play if she coached me. So she did! I remember her reading the AYSO manuals on the way to work as well as practices. She fell in love with the game and started to play soccer herself in a women's league.

Memories of AYSO: The friendships I made. I still have friends who were on my first AYSO team back in Hawaii. The pure excitement and joy of running around and playing soccer with my friends is something I'll never forget. I was always a competitive kid and I remember crying after every loss. When my mom was coaching me, I remember her having to console me after every game we lost.

On playing for the U.S. National Team: Every kid dreams about becoming a professional soccer player and playing for your country. It's the ultimate goal and the World Cup is the ultimate tournament.





Alex Morgan


U.S. Women's National Team

Forward
Member of 2012 Olympic Team





Kristin Graczyk


Midfielder/Forward



Age started playing soccer: 9

Favorite AYSO memory: My younger brother started playing AYSO and I thought it looked like fun, so I begged my parents to let me play too. It was great...to just play with friends and have fun.

Favorite coach and why:Scott Stapp. He was my first AYSO coach. He played everybody on the team and made soccer really fun. He made me love the game.

What makes a great coach? Coaches today are too into winning. I go to youth games and all I hear are coaches yelling, "You're not dribbling right!" and "I told you to dribble around the cones and you're not doing that!" That kind of negativity isn't going to help and just makes little kids want to cry. A good coach shouldn't make her players feel like they're wrong. Kids need positive reinforcement to enjoy the game and grow into themselves as players.



Natasha Kai
Forward

Age started playing soccer: 7

Favorite coach and why: My dad. My parents had no idea about soccer but they let me play. My dad took the time to teach himself and then put his time into passing it on to me.

What did you love about AYSO? I could just play. I wasn't someone who played soccer year-round; I only played during soccer season. I knew if I kept playing all the time, I'd get sick of it. After high school I stopped playing and didn't go to college right away because I was sick of playing from being drilled and drilled.

Advice for the first-time coaches? Call my dad...just kidding. Seriously, I would tell them to just learn the game. If you truly love it and want to learn, do everything in your power to know the ropes in and out. My dad did it and I'm pretty sure anyone else can do it. He was determined to learn it because he knew I loved it. He did what he did to teach me the ins and outs of soccer and it paid off. I went to the Olympics, won a gold medal, achieved my dreams and I owe it all to my parents and the other coaches I've had along the way.

Amy Rodriguez
U.S. Women's National Team

Forward
Member of 2012 Olympic Team

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