US Soccer Standardizing Age Groups and Small Sided Games
As announced in August 2015, in another step towards its commitment to long term player development, U.S. Soccer is phasing in new standards related to small sided games and birth-year registration.
What are the changes? There are two (2) changes that will be taking place in youth soccer across the country. The first is all teams will be based upon calendar year birth dates. The second is the format for small-sided games will be adjusted.
Who is mandating this change? The US Soccer Federation (USSF), which is the sanctioning body for all youth and adult soccer associations in the US, including US Youth Soccer and US Club Soccer.
Birth Year Changes
How will birth year work? Currently, Age Groups are defined similar to the school grades with players born between August 1 through July 31 of the following year grouped together. Age groups will now be defined by the calendar year (January 1 - December 31). So all players born in the same calendar year will be grouped together (e.g., all players born in 2000 play together). See the chart below to see how birth years will coordinate with Age Groups for the soccer seasons Fall 2016 - Spring 2017.
11v11 9v9 7v7 4v4
U19 = 1998/1999 U12 = 2005 U10 = 2007 U8 = 2009
U17 = 2000 U11 = 2006 U9 = 2008 U7 = 2010
U16 = 2001 U6 = 2011
U15 = 2002
U14 = 2003
U13 = 2004
What format changes will be taking place?
The number of players on the field for younger players will be adjusted. U13 and older will continue to play 11v11. U11 and U12 will play 9v9; U9 and U10 will play 7v7; and U8 and younger will play 4v4 without goalkeepers. See chart above.
There will also be some adjustments to rules with some of the younger age groups based on concussion protocol and developmental standards.
When will these changes go into effect? These changes will be made for the 2016-2017 seasonal year beginning August 1, 2016. While U.S. Soccer allowed for a two-year implementation period, the state soccer associations and leagues in our area choose to make the changes effective for the 2016-2017 seasonal year. NKSA will be required to place players on teams based on birth year at tryouts in June 2016.
Why are these changes being made by U.S. Soccer? To simplify age groups so there is less confusion as to what age groups players belong in. To aid in player development, player selection, and player evaluation since all youth national teams are chosen by birth year. The US and Canada are the only countries who have used the school year calendar in the past to form youth teams, so this will put the US on the same page with the rest of youth development internationally.
There has been much debate over whether these reasons justify disrupting the current system for teams that have played together for many years, or if the changes are needed at all. Now that the decision has been made at the national level and state soccer associations and leagues are adopting the changes starting in the Fall of 2016, our club is required to implement these changes.
Individual Players Playing Up vs. Age Appropriate
Will players still be able to play "Up" or "Down" in order to play with friends, classmates, or current teammates? As with the current system for team formation, league and tournament rules will allow players to play "Up" but not "Down.” NKSA will generally not be placing players outside of their birth year in order to keep current teams or classmates together. Keeping teams or classmates together could result in an age difference of up to 24 months between the youngest and oldest players on the field. At the younger age groups, this age difference could prevent proper player development.
NKSA’s priority will be individual player development, with some exceptions when necessary for proper team formation. We will continue to play players "Up" who need to be challenged at a higher level. These actions will generally only take place at the recommendation of the Age Group Directors and the Club Director of Coaching. The club will publish specific policies before tryouts based upon what makes the most sense for player development while looking for opportunities to remain somewhat flexible to the extent possible under the new system. We expect more exceptions may be appropriate for older players, such as high school players when the relative age difference is less important and players are already competing in high school sports with and against older players--for example freshman or sophomore players playing varsity sports with juniors and seniors.
Trapped 8th Grader & High School Seniors
What if my child is a 2002 birth year and only in 8th grade? Will they be able to play in the fall if they do not play for their high school team? Yes. Many 2002 birth year players will be freshmen in high school however; many will only be in 8th grade. League rules allow NKSA to place “trapped” 8th grade players that do not play high school with our U14 teams in the fall. Once the high school season is over and those playing high school soccer return, they will join their U15, age appropriate team.
What if my child is born in 1998 and will be a senior in high school? Can they still play club soccer? Yes. As in past seasons, top age groups can be combined. NKSA will likely have U18/U19 teams in both boys and girls. Players born in 1998 that are still seniors will be able to play with this team. The team will consist of players born in 1998 and 1999. We expect most of the leagues and tournaments will end up with U18/U19 combined divisions for this reason.
If you have questions or need further information, contact your appropriate Director.
Greg Bowman, Youth Director: email@example.com
Dan Cheeseman, Director of Coaching BU11-U14: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Wright, Director of Coaching GU11-U14: email@example.com
Wil Cagle, Director of Coaching, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zack Lawson, Director of Goalkeeping: email@example.com
US Soccer Birth Year & Season Matrix
US Soccer Press Release