In another move to foster long-term development among players, the United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) recently announced two major changes to its youth soccer standards and coaching regulations.
According to an Aug. 24 MLSSoccer.com article, U.S. soccer will change its birth-year registration calendars from its current August-May format to a January-December format. Additionally, the federation will implement new coaching initiatives aimed at strengthening youth soccer players’ individual skill and ability, giving them more opportunity to improve.
By switching the registration cut-off date from Aug. 1 to Jan. 1, America’s youth soccer teams will be more in line with international youth leagues. In a statement released by U.S. Soccer, U.S. Under-20 head coach Tab Ramos said this switch will help eliminate the relative-age effect, which favors players born earlier in the year with more physical maturity.
“This new calendar makes things easier for everyone,” Ramos said. “If you’re born in a certain year, you belong in that certain age group. It also gets us on the same calendar with the rest of the world, so now it becomes easier to identify for U.S. National Teams and everything else when it comes to international soccer.”
By mandating and standardizing small-sided game participation at the same time, youth soccer players will be able to develop heightened soccer intelligence and learn key skills to help improve their game without the presence of an age bias. Small-sided game participation will allow for practice between smaller groups of players for younger players, providing more individualized attention at an early age.
The announced changes will undoubtedly impact the thousands of children and teens who play soccer today. Across the U.S., soccer is the second most popular youth sport, with 284,000 boys and 209,000 girls enrolled in high school soccer teams.
“When you have young players in an 11v11 game, there are only so many involved in any one play at a time,” Ramos explained. “By taking numbers away and playing 4v4, 7v7, and 9v9, you are multiplying their chances on the ball, increasing their touches and making it overall more for them by making them an active participant at all times.”
U.S. Soccer’s changes are scheduled to go into effect by August 2017.