I am putting the question out there. Why don't women play what we Americans call "pickup"? A friend of mine joked that it was because women want soccer monogamy - to commit to one team, whereas guys will play with anybody. It's a funny joke, but not much of an explanation.
Pickup is by far my favorite way to play soccer. These are informal games between whoever shows up. You know the spot and the day of the week. The hour is usually sometime between when you get off work and grab dinner. There's no league, no ref's - you use garbage cans for goal posts, and barely keep score. No uniforms and usually you don't divide up by who is wearing light or dark. You line up, every other person steps forward, and there's the teams. (Not wearing different colors had the advantage of making you much more vocal, much better at signaling to teammates when you want the ball.) Some games in LA have been going on for ten, fifteen years - friendships develop through these games that outlive most marriages - though you may only know each other by nicknames like "The Russian" or "Barça." Pickup games are a big part of the pleasure of playing sports like soccer which require little in terms of field and equipment (as is the case with basketball too), and so can be played in these informal settings (whoever heard of pickup baseball?). (When you are watching Law & Order and the detectives need to talk to a black man, he's invariably found playing pickup basketball.)
For reasons I don't entirely understand, however, women - as a class - don't play pickup soccer. Sure you'll see girls like me out there with the boys, girls who are so crazy about the sport that they'll push through the weirdness that they feel when they first try to join in a game not knowing if their participation will be refused because of their gender (believe me, that's a depressing experience and not easy to get past). And you'll see quasi-organized coed games, played outside leagues and teams - but usually those are more formal than what I mean.
I don't think guys know how lucky they have it - when women want to play regularly against other women, they have to join official teams, register, get ID cards and fill out league forms. That's basically your only option.
I used to play pickup with guys in Griffith Park in L.A. Sometimes these games were insanely big. One night, we were at least 15 on 15. Some girls were gathered at the other end of the park, though, warming up as if they were going to play. No uniforms - looked like an informal game. A guy playing near me said that if he were a girl, he'd go play with them, as it looked like a smaller and more reasonable game. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I went over to my sister soccer players.
They were standing in a loose circle. They were younger than me, and most had sleek ponytails. I explained that I was playing in a huge pickup game, and that I would love to get in on a smaller game if they were going to play.
They turned and looked at me, as a single Borg-like unit. Their leader stepped towards me and squinted as she explained:
"Uhm. We're, like, a TEAM. And, uhm, this is, like, our PRACTICE."
The others seemed really relieved as she said this. So, I was, like, "Uhm. OK." And I went back to the 15 aside game, which was, however, quickly getting better as guys peeled off to get dinner. By the end of the night, I was having a great game in a 7 aside match. I felt like I had wheels on my cleats - the game was fast, competitive, and played in the middle of a cloud of dust.
I have yet to experience a female version of the chaotic fun of a pickup game. I suspect one problem might be that when women start such games, they let guys in, and the guys take over. But that doesn't explain the complete and total absence of the phenomenon.
If you have theories about women and pickup soccer, I'd love to hear them. If you know of a great women's pickup game, I'd love even more to hear about that!