Phew- there’s been so much going on! Right now, the big news in the youth club soccer world is the US Soccer Coaching Initiatives published at the end of August. If you haven’t heard about this, I’d be surprised, but the two basic changes are these…
1- Age groups are going to change from Aug 1-July 31 to align with the start of the calendar year otherwise known as birth year registration.
2- Small sided standards are going to be established for players under 12. “The field dimensions and number of players on the pitch will increase in size from 4v4 to 7v7 to 9v9 as players age, up until they reach the U-13 age group and begin to play full 11v11 matches.”
I’m just going to talk about the first one this post… (these are just my thoughts and opinions- as always please make sure to do your own reading and research!)
Most of the buzz around our sidelines has been about the change of the birth dates. This seems to be a logical change that will align the clubs with the National Team dates and the boys Academy team dates. It’s kind of funny because people have had all sorts of misunderstandings about the ages changing including… the season will change, there will be more dangerous play because of a wider age gap, and it’s unfair because kids won’t get to play with other kids in their same grade. Hmmm… no, the season doesn’t have to change because the age guidelines change. Right now the season doesn’t start in August! Who knows what the future holds, but the season dates don’t follow the age guidelines even now. The next one just made me laugh- a year is a year is a year no matter when it starts or stops. The last one I guess could be a logical argument, but on both my girls current teams there are a split of teammates in two grades.
To me, the most interesting aspect of the birth year registration will be the change of the “great soccer birthday.” Many top clubs and teams like to recruit players born in August/September/October as they are the most physically mature. My LSG has a July birthday and has always been one of the youngest. Her bestie on her team is 11 months and 11 days older than her. It hasn’t been a problem for her, but it will be kind of funny to have the girls that have always been the oldest move to being among the youngest on the team. The director of coaching of BSG’s club reminded me that although it may be perceived as a negative for these girls, developmentally it can be advantageous as they will be playing an age group up. Both my girls who are in the younger year of their current age groups will be repeating their current age bracket unless they choose to “play up.”
Although age groups will now be referred to as 2003 etc… there will still be the U__ designation that will determine pitch size, ball size and more. Click the image for more information.
There’s been a lot of discussion about when the birth year registration will take place. Although the US Soccer Initiatives mandate compliance by August of 2017, it looks as though the birth year registration changes (at least in California) will take place starting in 2016. (No, that doesn’t mean that your kid will have to switch teams in January- just that the new season will have the new birth year registration. For most teams this will mean after State or National Cup) As far as I know at this time (September 2o15) there haven’t been official announcements from Cal South or ECNL, but it sounds like that is all coming soon.
Several people have likened the age change to a band aid being ripped off and I agree with that analogy. It’s going to be difficult and will break up established teams, but after a year all should be fine. I’ve heard several teams that are planning on staying intact with the youngers playing up, but this could be difficult with girls up to 18 months apart playing together. That doesn’t seem to be a lasting competitive strategy and may especially impact smaller clubs that don’t have teams at every age group.
For our family the change will be difficult especially for my BSG who has been with her team since U9. Competitively it may give both my girls more options with their March and July birthdays, but leaving cherished friends, teammates and family friends will be sad.
What do you think about the changes? How will they impact your athlete? I’d love to hear what you think!
All of the age changes have finally trickled through the age groups and we’ve moved to all birth year teams. It’s been a difficult adjustment for many as in my post End of an Era. Below is the updated age matrix chart…