The USASF, IASF & ICU – What Are They and What’s the Difference?

The sport of cheerleading has multiple “governing bodies” and it can be hard to understand the difference between them. They all serve different purposes and oversee different aspects of the sport.

In this article, we explain what the USASF, IASF, and ICU are and what they do. We also cover some differences and similarities of the organizations (hint: they might have more in common than you think).

Disclaimer: we are not affiliated with any of the listed organizations. Please see their respective websites for official information.

What is the USASF?

“USASF” stands for The U.S. All Star Federation, which is the governing body of Allstar cheerleading in the United States. The organization oversees things like competition rules, certifying judges and coaches, age grids, education, event producers, and more.

They also, along with the IASF, host The Cheerleading Worlds every year. The USASF was founded in 2003 and is based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Read more about The Cheerleading Worlds: What Is The Cheerleading Worlds? Quick Competition Guide

The organization’s mission is this:

“The U.S. All Star Federation is committed to creating a safe and positive environment for its participants’ physical, emotional, and social development and ensuring it promotes an environment free from abuse and misconduct.”

However, the USASF has received much negative attention over the past year…

In early 2020, a lawsuit was filed against the organization, amongst others. It stated that the USASF had been part of monopolizing the cheerleading industry. Not long after, they got hit with another similar lawsuit.

We have explained both lawsuits in a simple way, which you can read about here: All You Need To Know About The Lawsuit Against Varsity & USASF

The organization is now being questioned by many, following both the lawsuits and investigations about sexual misconduct by USA Today.

What is the IASF?

The International All Star Federation, or IASF, is similar to the USASF but governs international cheerleading teams and divisions. The IASF was previously a part of the USASF but split into two organizations in 2016.

International teams follow the IASF rules, which are slightly different than the USASF rules in some divisions. These different also rules apply to U.S-based teams in international divisions at The Cheerleading Worlds and The Summit for example. 

See examples of the different rules here: New Rules For The 2019-2020 Season – Both IASF & USASF

Not only does the IASF manage these rules, but they also oversee qualification processes for international teams. Teams must qualify to compete at events like The Cheerleading Worlds, and the IASF handles that.

The organizations mission is:

To bring structure, consistency, safety and growth to the global community of All Star Cheer and Dance.and With the help of the global cheer and dance community, the IASF will help provide common ground for all countries involved in All Star Cheer and Dance. The IASF will provide clear understanding of rules, a consistent credentialing platform and opportunities for growth of the sport.

What is the ICU?

Lastly, we’ll explain what the ICU is and does!

The International Cheer Union, or ICU for short, is the World governing body for cheerleading. The organization was founded in 2004 with the mission to advance and grow the sport on an international level. Unlike the USASF and IASF, which focus more on Allstar cheerleading, the ICU focuses on National teams and potential future Olympic Games involvement. 

Their work includes communicating with cheerleading federations in different countries, establish rules and regulations, plus many other things regarding growing the sport of cheerleading. 

The ICU is also the host of the ICU World Cheerleading Championships. Click here to read our ICU Worlds guide to learn more about the competition!

Since 2016, the ICU has been a provisional (temporary) member of the International Olympic Committee. In June 2021, the International Olympic Committee gave cheerleading full recognition. That means cheerleading, through the ICU, is one step closer to becoming an Olympic sport!

Want to learn more about the Olympic recognition?

We explain what it means and why cheerleading is not in the Olympic Games yet… Click here to read: Cheerleading Receives Full Olympic Recognition – What Does This Mean?

Conclusion: differences & similarities

So, the main difference between the USASF, IASF, and ICU is which part of the world they oversee and which type of cheerleading. While the USASF and IASF manage All-Star cheerleading globally, the ICU focuses on National teams and the Olympics.

Despite these differences, the organizations are more similar than you may think!

In our articles about the Varsity Brands & USASF lawsuits, the timeline of events reveals how the organizations were originally founded. The USASF was created by Varsity amongst others. Varsity also founded the ICU, and the IASF name is officially trademarked by Varsity. The current president of the ICU, Jeff Webb, is the founder of Varsity Brands.

If you want to dig deeper into this information, we recommend you read about the lawsuits against the organizations. They suggest the organizations have made decisions that benefit each other, along with Varsity, to “take over” and control the cheerleading industry.


We hope this article helped you understand the differences between the USASF, IASF, and ICU. If you found this interesting, consider sharing it with others who could benefit from the information. We greatly appreciate your support!

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