PLAYERS…125, ages 9-12                                                                     TEAMS  9







In 1964, Bill Hughes requested Duncan Duff, president of the Greater Los Angles Soccer League (GLASL) to invite members and join him in a meeting to formulate an Americanized youth soccer organization. Four men “raised their hand” and AYSO history had its beginning. Bill Hughes brought with him his newly prepared “rules and regulations” (two pages) and in the initial meeting at a local restaurant on August 15, 1964, a tremendously big goal was scored; the first meeting and formation of the American Youth Soccer Organization, AYSO. 

After the reading of the document prepared by Bill Hughes, Steve Erdos nominated Bill Hughes to be the first president of AYSO. Bill remembered his inability to curb the “old country traditionalists' ” desires of 1956 to implement “old country” youth soccer and he insisted that it must be an American-born president of AYSO to lead the Americanization of youth soccer. Bill dutifully declined the presidency. The only American-born member present was Hans Stierle who was elected to the position of the first president of AYSO and Bill Hughes stated that this decision was proven vital to the beginning growth and earliest years of AYSO. The positions on the Board of Directors were nominated and elected: Hans Stierle President, Ralph Acosta Vice-President, Bill Hughes Executive Secretary,  Steve Erdos Treasurer, and Ted McLean Recording Secretary.               

From August 15, 1964 to February 13, 1965, the difficult tasks of locating players, coaches, referees, fields, equipment, finances, etc. rested upon the backs of a limited number of parents. The first soccer Moms of potential players were led by Christel Stierle (First AYSO Soccer Mom), Sophie Adamson, Inga Bonchonsky, Jean Klasilla, etc., and the months between August 15, 1964 to February 13, 1965 resulted in 125 players to form the first nine AYSO youth soccer teams. Los angeles was divided into four sections, nolrth, south, east, and west. Four teams (54 players) were formed in Torrance, (Bulldogs, Firefighters, Horners, and Panthers). Five teams, (71 players) were formed in Culver City (Destroyers, Hamsters, Hounds, Huskies, and Wildcats). The first ever AYSO soccer game was between the Bulldogs and Hornets played on Jefferson elementaty school field on February 13, 1965. One week later, theFirefighters played the Panthers and two weeks later the Culver City teams played.   
There are many great stories of our humble AYSO beginning and the energy of our five founders. For example, our son Michael enjoys telling the story of Mr. Hans Stierle, while bouncing a polka dot soccer ball, interrupted their softball game at Jefferson elementary school in West Torrance to join him in kicking the ball around. Soon, the two softball teams were under the spell of playing soccer and Hans Stierle had enough players to form two teams of soccer players of whom most would play in that first AYSO game on February 13, 1965.
AYSO was underway and the future was to be determined by overcoming the initial obstacles of which there were many. The success of Hans Stierle in the West Torrance region was a result of his own experience of learning from previous challenges. Hans Stierle had a wealth of soccer experience from Chicago, Germany, and Los Angeles (Garvey Park) to be aware of the potential pitfalls. Steve Erdos, commissioner of the Culver City region, succeeeded in gathering players to form five AYSO teams and  developed the Western section of Los Angeles (Culver City) that would eventually include three new regions to expand further. Hans Stierle captured the strength of the Southen section of Los Angeles County (Torrance) and with the first game of AYSO played at Jefferson Elementary School in West Torrance, AYSO grew from 9 to 19 only to decline to 16 in the third year as a result of Steve Erdos' job relocation.

Prior to 1964 and throughout the USA, youth soccer organizations were initiated but limiting procedures created limited success. The year 1964-65, when but a few adults in the City of Torrance, Culver City, and their surroundings, resulted in capturing the “youth first” attitude of EVERYONE PLAYS, and the sport of soccer with its advantages as an unregimented sport and enhanced participation, the success of AYSO was being formulated.       

One must pause to recognize that this beginning number of so few, adults and youth, through their love of family and soccer would eventually capture the joy that is measured by 6 million+ players who would graduate from AYSO by August 15, 2014. Most of the adult initial Pioneers of AYSO were “old country” soccer traditionalists, who by playing the game in their youth, found the energy to overcome what was started with minimum success many times throughout the USA. There are other great stories of many other attempts, some succeeding, that also carried the ball to fully implement the sport of youth soccer in the Americas. AYSO (unaffiliated) was unconstrained to innovate within its EVERYONE PLAYS philosophy and the City of Torrance and Culver City provided the best of support and environment. The City of Torrance and Culver City with their bedroom communities and their family-oriented city goverrnments provided the ideal status for AYSO to succeed.  

The AYSO Story is a unique story primarily because Bill Hughes, Hans Stierle and Steve Erdos and others realized that American Youth Soccer required men and women of vision and the flexibility to innovate the changes that were vital to growth in America as the years transpired. While the AYSO Philosophy of EVERYONE PLAYS became the key AYSO Philosophy, the first ten years of flexibility as an unaffiliated organization allowed the Pioneers of AYSO to introduce a number of philosophies that catapulted AYSO forward.
It is most important to remember that the 1960s presented a unique time-period in America. Veterans from World War II combined with the newly arrived veterans from the Korean War to form bedroom communities and young families settled in the West as the Aerospace industry flourished. America had decided to go to the moon and engineers and technicians from many countries moved into the South Bay of Los Angeles. The well experienced soccer players from the "old country" in raising their new families had a great desire to provide their youth with the "old country" sport that they loved. The time was ripe and the conditions perfect for "five gentlemen" to Americanize the youth sport of soccer. Most of the Pioneer  men and women had their nationalistic desires but these five founders had experienced the years prior to 1964 in attempts to develop "old country" youth soccer and not succeeding to meet the "new country" requirements. A change was necessary and Americanizing the organization was the solution. Bill Hughes had prepared the first draft of rules and regulations that was designed for "old country traditionalists" and "new country enthusiasts." 
With only nine teams one would believe that the challenges would be easily overcome. For those of us who were involved in the first game at Jefferson elementary school in West Torrance on Februarty 13, 1965, even wooden goal posts were heavy. Culver City had to delay their opening until a few weeks later. Two of the four teams in West Torrance, Panthers and Firefighters, had to delay their first game one week to properly staff and train their teams. The West Torrance Hornets and Bullldogs opened the season and the games began. Soon all nine teams playing in that first AYSO season were in full stride. Their games presented a new joy to youth soccer in America.  Everyone Plays brought a new foundation to youth soccer in America. Three of the first four coaches in Torrance were foreign born,  AYSO management was mostly foreign born. The Soccer Moms led by Christel Stierle made sure that every player had soccer shoes and proper uniforms. The coaches, well experienced former soccer players, had their youth players properly trained in but a few weeks and the games were lively and fully aware of the inherent skills being developed.
At that first game, the five founders led by Hans Stierle gathered on the sideline accompanied by Duncan Duff of the affiliated GLASL who supported Bill Hughes in this new endeavor. Parents were the main attendees. John Cooper, the first AYSO referee truly enjoyed his first game of officiating that would eventually number over 1,000 games of reffing in AYSO. There was a calm in the air perforated with screams of joy as the first goal was scored, followed by a total of four more to result in the Hornerts outscoring the Bulldogs 4-1. No one lost in the first year games of AYSO because many of the players would eventually gain prominent status in the world of American soccer. Notably Sigi Schmid of the Firefighters who would go on to coach three NCAA championships at UCLA, two Major League Soccer titles plus three CONCACAF Open titles. Marine Cano became a household name as one of the best goalkeepers in professional soccer and the coach of many college teams. Joe Bonchonsky Jr would be one of the first AYSO players to receive NCAA All American status at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before a contract with the Los Angeles NASL Aztecs. Eventually, the college and professional ranks would be invaded by AYSO graduates. Importantly, the fans of AYSO, high school and college soccer would fill the stadiums of soccer throughout America. Entrepreneurs of potential professional teams in watching the AYSO start of introducing American youth into soccer became fully aware that the  first AYSO years would eventually commence the desired fan base and American players.
In this website, a list of the hundreds of players who played in the Olympics, World Cup, (especially our ladies) and coached at our colleges would owe their successes to their beginnings in AYSO.  However, it is not the success of a few individuals that would mark the overwhelming success of the five founders of AYSO but it would be the leadership skills of every individual player that would be developed on the field of play of this remarkable game of soccer. We will list the names of the overchievers but we are most proud of the millions of American youth who learned valuable lessons on the field of play that made them excellent citizens of this great country. It all began with the strong foundation of five men and this first year of 1964-65     

With its strong foundation, AYSO removed the chains that constrained other soccer organizations and therein allowed the leaders of every AYSO time period to adjust the template that has proven so successful. The first three years of AYSO are a historic study of combating the obstacles that challenged AYSO but through the perseverance of the strong leadership and the will to Americanize the organization of youth soccer, the results noted on August 15, 2014 provide not only a compliment to the early founders but also to every pioneer member of every time period thereafter.     

While we take time in this website to honor the first five founders of AYSO, we also take time to remember and honor EVERYONE throughout each and every year of AYSO. Not one parent in AYSO seeks adulation as pioneers primarily because their reward always was and will always be the joy of their child who “emerges” from the “game of the day,” “every day,” “then and now.”

It must be stated that the first three years of AYSO were close calls off the field but on the field the joy of each game continued to grow and the games were to go on forever.  The players of the first day games in AYSO have accomplished many of their own objectives and their stories will be told in the APAYSO PROFILES to be noted within each STATE/CITY (REGION) APAYSO Pioneer Story.

In having the first AYSO games played on the field of an elementary school typifies why AYSO was bound to succeed. Not only was the tax-payers’ elementary school fields the successful playing route but the “cost to players” and their families would allow the cost-efficient procedure for tremendous growth. The AYSO success story is filled with growing pains and the first three years found the adults challenged.

Yes, AYSO had difficulties as noted by limited growth during the first three years but leadership in Americanization prevailed and flexibility in adoprting organizational changes became the key. Culver City with a well-intended attitude was to be controlled administratively by the  strong leadership of Steve Erdos during the first two years.  It was the growth challenge to the Torrance leadership that strengthened the Torrance resolve to continue under the leadership of Hans Stierle, Bill Hughes, Bill Wolstencroft, Andy Keir Sr.,  John Cooper, Norm Jackson, etc. As a result, with the implementation of Americanization of the organization, Culver City after missing the third year, returned with renewed energy and the formation of three regions, Culver City, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills resulted. The Americanization of the youth soccer organization met a major hurdle.

The many head coaches and assistant coaches, mostly foreign born ex-soccer players, of the first five teams in Culver City and the four teams of 1964-65 in West Torrance, included George Kay, Gordon Watt, Joe Watt, Gregg Madden, Andy Keir SR  and Andy Keir JR, Bill Wolstencroft, Willie Carson, Mike Balted, Helmut Bicek, and Lorenz Lenhart that conducted the play of the first year at Jefferson Field in West Torrance, CA (Culver City coaches to be added). There is no better reward to the five founders and the parents of the first year.      

While the first two years found limited growth, the Torrance “old country” realists welcomed the infusion of many American-born. The first year of play had a four-year age spread of players and necessitated that two divisions of age would be more competitive in the third year. While the growth in numbers was modest, the quality of play captured the joy of participation. The first two years of AYSO in Torrance and Culver City resulted in a determination that  would expand AYSO nationally and the keys to accelerated growth were researched during the first ten years.

The AYSO leadership still had to contend with a large number of “old country” traditionalists who truly loved their “old country” successes and the introduction of newly found American born parents with no soccer background crept into the administrative positions. Soon, the “old and the new” would work as one and AYSO would solve all of the initial problems and succeed beyond their wildest of dreams.
It is the parental success in AYSO that truly reflects the complete success of AYSO. While our offspring benefitted in many ways, it was the joy at the dinner table that was presented by our youth after each game, win or lose, that made all of us full members of the AYSO FAMILY.
There is one factor that will shoulder most of the AYSO success and that is the game of soccer itself. In this Pioneer STORY we will always be aware that soccer is a team game played by individuals, individuals who soon learned that this unregimented sport, especially at the youth level, allowed for physical and mental expression that captured the thrills and joy of participation. The AYSO Philosophy of EVERYONE PLAYS is one of the primary ingredients for the successful growth of AYSO. In the ten years to follow, the addition of many AYSO Philosophies including  EVERYONE INVITED, BALANCED TEAMS, EVERYONE PARTICIPATES and many others became the hallmarks of success. The AYSO PHILOSOPHIES coupled witnin the game of youth soccer resulting in fair play and youth before soccer is truly responsible for the success of our youth in AYSO. 
On August 15, 2014, we will have journeyed 50 years as "family," a family of parents enjoying the thrills and laughter of our sons and daughters as they proceed through life. Yes, soccer became an American Sport and the sport of soccer became ours to treasure.