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US Soccer Player Development Initiatives Announced

In recent weeks, US Soccer announced some exciting changes that will be mandated in the next year relating to how teams can roster players, how these rosters will be made up, field and goal dimensions, and playing formats for all age groups at all levels of youth soccer (recreation and club). US Youth Soccer, OYSAN and Region II have agreed to support and implement these changes, as have other youth soccer organizations in the United States (U.S. Club Soccer, AYSO, SAY, etc.)

Click to view official press release from U.S. Soccer

Beginning in fall 2016, as mandated by US Soccer, US Youth Soccer Association, OYSAN and Region II, all age groups will fall in line with the recommended best practices from US Soccer for Birth Year age groups and beginning fall 2017 will follow the natural progression of number of players from 4v4 all the way through 11v11. It is our sincere belief this is a great initiative, especially for the U9 through U12 age groups as it continues to build on numbers on the field naturally beginning with U9 all the way through full field while emphasizing the development of more skillful and confident players at an early age.

By playing 7v7, 9v9, and then 11v11, teams simply add two more players on the field incrementally every two years and that lends itself to easier transition into team tactics and positional sense. It is our hope that MSC will continue to follow this simple mantra with their player development priorities: from U6 to U10 players should learn to love the game and from U11 to U14 players should learn to play the game!

Changes to the field size and goal size for each age group are also part of this player development initiative. For a complete list of logistic changes (players on the field, field sizes, goal sizes, etc.), please see the links to the right.

Currently, all youth age groups in the Mentor Soccer Club follow a one year time frame between August 1st of one year and July 31st of the following year to determine what age group players fall under. Beginning with the fall 2016 season in Ohio, all teams will have to change to follow these mandatory guidelines from US Soccer, US Youth Soccer, OYSAN and Region II to what is referred to as “birth year” age groups. Meaning, teams will be made up of players now all coming from the same birth year: January through December. For a listing of age groups beginning in the 2016-17 season, please see the links to the right.

US Soccer, US Youth Soccer, OYSAN and Region II are recommending that all states implement this new age group structure in fall 2016 as a best practice. Mentor Soccer Club will follow the lead of US Soccer, US Youth Soccer, OYSAN and Region II in regard to these changes and time frame set forth.

Closing Remarks, Comments and Suggestions

In the next 12-18 months, there will be some anxiety as we go through this process. We understand that parents want to keep their teams and players together, but we advise that you do what is right developmentally for the team and for the players. Playing solely to win games and keeping teams together for social reasons does not push players to the next level, but we understand both are important realities of playing team sports. Winning certainly becomes part of development at the older ages. Keeping teams together for social reasons is not a skill developing decision. It is not the intention here to diminish the importance of the social aspect but merely to point out it plays virtually no role in developing players to the next level. Some players may get displaced. While that is difficult emotionally, it is OK as long as the player finds the proper fit and ends up in a better place developmentally. That scenario may not play out for every player initially, but if decisions you make now are based purely on development, then in the end every player should find an appropriate place.

Mentor Soccer Club will continue to provide information on this subject as it becomes available from US Youth Soccer and OYSAN.

If you have any questions about these changes, please feel free to contact the Mentor Soccer Club at [email protected]

FAQ's

What are the benefits to Small-Sided Games for players?

With fewer players on the field and a smaller field on which to play the game the kids are more directly involved in the action of the game. That equates to more enjoyment in playing, more contact with the ball, more tactical decisions made and executed and more physical movement, which improves the player’s physical fitness.

What does Birth Year Mean?

Birth year means that players will play in the age group of the year of their birth. The Birth Year calendar dates run from January 1st to December 31st. For example, if you are born between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 1999, you will play in the 1999 Birth Year age group. If you are born between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 2002, you will play in 2002. Currently, a roster is made up of players born both in the fall, the winter, and the spring of that one year time frame between August 1st and July 31st. Now, players will all be born in that calendar year.

Why is Mentor Soccer Club moving to Birth Year?

We are moving to Birth Year because the US Soccer Federation -- the governing body for all youth soccer in America -- is going to mandate Birth Year for all leagues sanctioned under the US Soccer. Also, the US Youth Soccer Association and Region II, our immediate governing bodies, will be implementing these changes effective fall 2016. Since MSC is a member of OYSAN and under the umbrella of US Soccer, US Youth Soccer Association and Region II, we must follow suit.

Why don’t we wait until the US Soccer Federation mandates Birth Year?

For the same reason that if you are preparing for a flood to come, you don’t wait to sandbag your homes the day the flood starts. We do it before the flood starts so we are prepared and can avoid more problems. The same anxiety teams, coaches, parents and players are feeling now will be far greater if we wait until the last minute. It will be better for everyone if we get out ahead of it and do it now so people can get used to the change and prepare. We want all parents and players to know about this now and avoid surprises.

Why can’t we phase in the Birth Year change? Why does the change have to be all at once?

As a state league Club, we felt it was important to make the change as quickly as possible as this would causeless confusion going forward and create uniformity across all of the age groups.

Why is US Soccer going to Birth Year?

US Soccer is going to Birth Year to align youth soccer with the rest of the world. Every country in the world plays Birth Year and all international youth soccer competitions are Birth Year, including all Youth National Team competitions and Youth World Cup competitions. US Soccer recognizes that the change will help our players develop faster. They hope it will benefit in the short term by producing better players and in the longer term by producing players who can compete on the world stage and win a World Cup. Currently, all ODP programs are birth year, as are the top Developmental Academy programs it runs under its umbrella.

Are there any benefits to playing Birth Year?

The main benefit for playing Birth Year is for developmental purposes. At the local level throughout our state, it will allow for better development because it will push individual players, raise the competitive standards, improve team competition and create more meaningful league games.

Are there any disadvantages to playing Birth Year?

There are no disadvantages to playing Birth Year. It will eliminate the ability for older players to play down with younger players as existed under the Calendar Year system. If you believe older players playing against younger players is an advantage, then one could assume closing this loophole is a disadvantage. In the opinion of our MSC instructional staff, playing an older player against younger players is an unfair advantage if the younger players aren't ready, and it simply is not good for the development of that older player.

What is Calendar School Year (School Year August 1st-July 31st)?

Calendar Year is the current soccer calendar that is based on a School year calendar that most leagues in the United States use to form teams. The current “Calendar Year” runs from August 1st to July 31st.

Can players play in an older age group?

Yes, as in the past, based on player ability and team need, a player may play up an age group. For example, a player born in 2000 can go and play in the 1999 Birth Year age group.  Though this is not suggested and it will be looked at by MSC on a player by player basis, taking the player’s development as our first priority.  We will evaluate all requests to play up but rarely, if ever, will we grant them as we feel it is best for development for players to play their own age.

 

Can players play on a younger age group?

No, players CANNOT play down with younger players. For example, a player born in 1999 CANNOT go and play with the 2000 Birth Year age group.

Can I just keep my 2015-2016 team the same for the 2016-2017 season?

No. MSC will be adjusting all teams to Birth Year rosters. Not doing this can potentially have players playing up against players who are potentially 24 months older than the youngest player on the team since they would need to play in the Birth Year of the oldest player on the team. This could present a challenge for your team and a developmental challenge for the younger players on your team. 

Will these changes be made to Rec soccer as well?

Mentor Soccer Club is currently looking into this to determine if the changes are mandated for Rec soccer.  We understand that many Rec players play the game of soccer because they love the game and playing with their friends and classmates is their first priority.

.Will other area Clubs be making these same changes?

Yes, all Clubs affiliated with US Youth Soccer are mandated to make these changes. 

How will the mandated small sided game format help develop players at the grassroots level?

a. Small-sided games (SSGs) are a stair step approach to the adult 11 v 11 game as they allow players to grow technically, tactically,     physically and psycho-socially at a developmentally appropriate rate.

b. The move to SSGs for preteen players is based on educational research on the way children learn. Just as with their academic education their soccer education is progressive. Empirical studies have been conducted into the improvements in the game environment for children in SSGs as opposed to the adult version.

c. SSGs aid in player development. They allow players to have a higher percentage of contact with the soccer ball than in the 11 v 11 game, both offensively and defensively, which indirectly improves a player’s soccer technique. SSG’s also exposes players to an increased number of soccer situations (game phases), which helps improve their tactical knowledge and ability to make good decisions with and without the ball.

d. Active participation, more playing time, less players on the field, more opportunities to defend & attack and simplified rules equals more fun and enjoyment, which directly impacts the player retention rate.

How does this model of play look for older players and how does it affect them?

The English FA did a case study on this format of play and developed a video that demonstrates the benefits of this mandate. To view the video, please click here or visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1Lb5pDTaCg.

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