Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RCL D1 regional distribution

Here I look at the regional distribution of boys teams in the RCL D1 for fall 2013.  The RCL D1 is the strongest level of play in WA for all age groups except B97.  RCL is a closed league (closed to the clubs shown in the graphs).  However, except for B97, most WA teams at this level are playing in this league (the largest soccer clubs in WA are in the RCL so this is not surprising).

RCL is a state-wide league, but the top division in BU11-14 (32 teams) has about the lowest travel of any league/division.  Almost all teams (29 of 32) come from the SE Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metro area: Redmond, Seattle, Preston, Woodinville, Tukwila, and Tacoma.  The longest distance, Woodinville-Tacoma is 50miles (ca 1 hr) and most games would involve under 30min of travel.  In the fall 2013 season, there were no teams from E WA, W side of Puget Sound or the Portland Metro area in RCL D1.  There was 1 team from N WA (Bellingham) and 2 from the N Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metro area (Everett area).

At the HS age, BU15-18 (again 32 teams) the regional distribution of teams is more diverse and more "state-wide".  In fall 2013, most teams (21 of 32) still came from the SE Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metro area. But N WA (Bellingham) had a team at 3 of the 4 age groups, and N Seattle Metro area (Everett) at least 1 team at each age group although these teams were not in the same club. There are 3 N Seattle Metro area RCL clubs: NWN, Rush and Snohomish. At U15, Rush had a team in D1, at U16 Snohomish, at U17 both Snohomish and Rush, and at U18 NWN.  This suggests that the N Seattle Metro area only has sufficient players to support 1 D1 team at the HS age.  This might explain why there are no D1 N Seattle Metro teams at BU11-14 as significant cross-club player-migration is needed to form a D1 team and this doesn't happen until HS age.

The Bellingham Metro area, despite being only the 5th largest metro area in the state, is well-represented in the HS RCL D1 with teams at 3 of the 4 ages.  The 4th largest metro area in WA is the Tri-Cities and is again is about 2x the size of the Bellingham metro area, but had only 2 teams in D1.  The N Portland Metro area (WA side) is the 3rd largest metro area and also about 2x as big as Bellingham, but is even less represented in RCL D1 at the HS age (1 team).  The second largest metro area in WA, the Spokane metro area, has no teams in the RCL D1.

What is driving these patterns?  The most obvious is population size.  If we look at county size versus # of HS boys teams in the RCL D1, we see see a strong relationship. 
  • King Co: Crossfire, SU, Eastside, PacNW, FCA
  • Snohomish: Snohomish United, NWN, WA Rush
  • Pierce: WPFC, FWFC, Harbor, Slammers
  • Spokane: SSC
  • Clark+Skamania: WA Timbers
  • Tri-Cities (Benton+Franklin)+Yakima: Three Rivers and Three Rivers Yakima
  • Whatcom+Skagit: Whatcom Rangers
  • Kitsap+Mason: Westound
  • #s from here

A couple things jump out:
  • Whatcom Rangers appears to over-produce RCL D1 teams relative to what you would expect given the population size of Whatcom+Skagit counties.  Both the Whatcom region has PSPL "competitors" but not at the RCL D1 level.
  • Spokane metro area has 2-3 fewer RCL D1 teams than expected.  However Spokane does have 3 HS teams at RCL D1 strengths, but they do not play in the RCL D1 (2 in PSPL D1 and 1 in RCL D2).
When we plot the same relationship for the younger ages U11-14 (red line and dots), there seems a very different pattern:
 First, it looks like the size of the player pool has a much bigger effect at the younger ages.  There seems to be a minimum population size of about 500,000 before a region is able to produce a team strong enough to compete in the RCL D1.

HOWEVER, there RCL is promotion-relegation and it may be that there is a initial selection bias at U11 towards the King County clubs and that this takes a few seasons to work its way out.  Next up, I want to repeat this but with my team strength estimates which won't have this initial selection bias.