In light of the recent Player Development Initiatives from US Soccer, a number of questions have risen regarding field sizes, birth year registration, the impact these initiatives will have on teams, players, clubs, etc. and US Soccer has since provided answers to the most common questions regarding this entire transition. 
Why are these changes being made?
The current landscape is inconsistent and not as successful as it could be when it comes to player development. Through these initiatives, U.S. Soccer aims to develop players with more individual skill, intelligence, creativity and confidence. These changes also provide a consistent approach across the country while challenging the status quo of our soccer landscape by focusing on the development of the individual versus the success of a team. Parents can also have a better understanding of exactly whatthey should expect from a soccer program for their children.
Are these changes aligned with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy?
Yes. These initiatives align the entire youth player development environment with the proven approach and success of the Development Academy program. Clubs, coaches and parents who are in programs external to the Development Academy are encouraged to incorporate these philosophies of player development. These initiatives fully support the existing technical framework of the Development Academy, which serves as the model for development across the country.
How do these changes affect the current soccer landscape?
U.S. Soccer recommends putting these initiatives into place as a best practice beginning in August of 2016, as they will be mandated in August of 2017. This provides organizations two full years from the announcement in August 2015 to plan on how to best implement the initiatives in the future. Georgia Soccer is working with all clubs to implement the changes, the birth year mandate begins Fall 2016.


What age groups do the small sided standards affect?
The 7v7 model is 6 field players and 1 goalkeeper per team, which will be for the U9 and U10 age groups.  The 9v9 model is 8 field players and 1 goalkeeper per team and will be for the U11 and U12 age groups.
Are the build out lines mandatory for 7v7 play?
Yes. The build out lines are required for 7v7 play at the U9 and U10 age groups. The build out line is used to promote playing the ball out of the back in an unpressured setting.


Why is birth year registration going into effect for all levels of play and all age groups?
Having players train and play according to their age and developmental stage supports the objectives of the small sided standards by focusing on the physiological and developmental needs of the player. This change is meant to better safeguard the development of youth players at all ages and levels.
Why can’t there be different standards for recreational and competitive teams?
There is no universal definition of what separates recreational from competitive soccer. In addition to supporting the overall objectives of player development, U.S. Soccer believes that having separate registration systems based on undefined levels of play would create unnecessary confusion, and this would not provide a consistent approach across the soccer landscape. Players should also be provided the opportunity to develop to best of their abilities regardless of the level of play they are participating in.
Is my son or daughter still going to be able to play with his or her friends and classmates?
The answer to this depends on a variety of factors, and one major consideration is how your club is making teams. Playing on a team with all of your friends isn’t always a reality in the current environment. This is similar to not having all of your friends in the same class or classes at school. Another factor is that the age cutoff used for school registration varies across the country. This means that there are already a variety of unique player age and grade combinations. The placement of individual players on specific teams will remain a function of the local club and league to help find the players the best possible environment for their development.
Don’t you realize that you’re breaking up my existing team?
U.S. Soccer recognizes that making these changes can impact existing teams in the short-term. However, players joining and leaving teams is something that already happens regularly throughout the country. There are a variety of factors that require teams to evolve and adapt including players maturity rates, moving away, focusing on new interests or their soccer abilities differentiating from their peers. Again, both small sided standards and birth year registration support the development of the individual player as a priority over a team success.
What is “playing up” and are players able to “play down”?
Players have the ability to “play up” with teammates at older age groups, based on birth year. Players are not permitted to “play down” with teammates at younger age groups, based on birth year.  DDYSC’s “play up” policy will remain the same, players must be one of the stronger players in the age group above to “play up”  Players are not permitted to “play up” unless cleared by the DDYSC Director of Coaching.
What is “relative age effect”?
Relative age effect (RAE) refers to the selection bias towards players born earlier in the calendar year. Registering players according to birth year will help everyone understand and better identify the potential for bias. Birth year registration is not intended or expected to eliminate relative age effect.
How does this change fix “relative age effect”?
The player development initiatives do not claim to fix this issue. However, having players grouped by birth year does make it easier to understand for parents and coaches.
How do I determine the birth year used for a competition?
Birth year registration should be based on the year in which the season ends. For example, if a season begins in the fall of 2017 and ends in the summer of 2018 (ex: 2017-18 season), the players would be registered based on their age in the year 2018. Competitions that take place in a single year (ex: fall of 2018 only) should use that year to determine birth year. To simplify determining the age group, just subtract the birth year from the year the season ends.
Year Season Ends – Birth Year = Age Group:
  • 2017-18 – 2003 = U15
  • 2022-23 – 2016 = U7
  • 2018 – 2012 = U6


What can I do to support the initiatives?
Support and the education of parents is key. Unless we do this together, we won’t be successful. U.S. Soccer acknowledges that these changes are not as easy as flipping a switch, so that’s why there is a 2 year implementation window. Change of this magnitude takes time and it can be uncomfortable. Because of this, U.S. Soccer asks that the entire soccer community please have patience as these changes are implemented, and trust that these and future initiatives will lead to long-term success in the area of player development.