The United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) has announced major changes for youth soccer that will impact teams and soccer clubs throughout the United States, beginning in 2016.
In light of these upcoming changes and with the belief that a quick acclimation is in everyone’s best interests, the TBAA Executive Board has been working on taking the appropriate steps to make these changes as smooth as possible for our players.
Our goal remains to make sure each child plays at a level that is best for him/her to thrive while, of course, complying with the new mandatory changes. This brief letter is intended to explain the changes and hopefully address anticipated questions and concerns. We want to educate our families and garner your support during this time of change. Please remember that this is a U.S. Soccer mandate and NOT a TBAA Soccer Club mandate. The governing body at the highest level made this decision and that this decision affects every club in our leagues, our state and the rest of the country.
The two major changes:
1) Birth year age groups (January 1st cutoff replacing the current August 1st cutoff)
2) Small-sided games (fewer players on smaller fields for many of our younger travel groups)
BIRTH YEAR AGE GROUPS
The most impactful mandate by U.S. Soccer is the change to birth-year age groups, as opposed to the August 1 through July 31 age groups we currently use. Many years ago, the latter groups were introduced to more closely align with school cutoffs. Now, U.S. Soccer is changing registration to a calendar year system to align with the rest of the world. Although this change from the national association is mandatory, they did leave one decision to the individual clubs: we were given the choice of changing ALL of our current travel teams to the new age groups or we could allow our current teams to remain together and begin the change with our new Under-8 teams that will be starting in the fall of 2016. A decision to change all of our current teams would have resulted in many players on each travel team having to leave their teammates and start fresh with a new team.
However, TBAA recognizes that one of the primary reasons that kids play soccer—at all levels—is the fun and camaraderie of playing with their friends. To that end, TBAA has designed the implementation of age appropriate play for the 2016-17 season with the following considerations:
Adhere to the developmental intent of the new standards.
Stay true to our commitment to age-appropriate play.
Allow our established travel teams to remain together.
TBAA’s implementation plan was carefully and thoughtfully constructed starting when US Soccer announced the mandated changes earlier in 2015. We believe that allowing our current travel teams to remain together is in the best interest of our players. We will be strictly adhering to the new mandates beginning with the new Under-8 teams that will be formed to compete in the fall of 2016 and more information on these new Under-8 teams will be coming out as we get closer to tryouts in the spring.
In order to more smoothly allow our younger players to make the transition to the new travel age groups, we have decided to implement the birth-year age group mandate in our intramural program beginning this spring. So, for example, all of the players born in 2010 will be playing in the same age group. We understand that this change may cause a little confusion early in the process and we will do our best to make this a smooth, efficient transition. We strongly believe that by implementing the change for this spring season, it will provide an opportunity for our intramural players to be fully acclimated to the new rule change when they begin travel play.
In a less controversial move, U.S. Soccer is also mandating smaller-sided games for players aged U12 and younger. The result will be more 9 vs 9 and 7 vs 7 games, with corresponding alterations in the field size, goals and rules. Briefly, U10 and younger travel teams will be playing 7 v 7 on a 47 x 30 yard field; U11 & U12 will be playing 9 v 9 on a 75 x 47 yard field and U13 and above will be playing 11 v 11 on a full-sided field.
The benefits of Small-Sided Games for players include more fun, more touches on the ball and more tactical decisions. Fewer players on the field means more touches on the ball which translates to more individual skills and greater long term enjoyment. The style of play will allow players to learn different positions, learn tactics quicker, increase fitness and allow players to be more emotionally and socially involved — creating a more fun and enjoyable game.
Here is a link to a short video that may answer any questions that you have or provide you with additional information: http://www.ussoccer.com/coaching-education/resources/2015-player-development-initiatives
We appreciate all of the support that our soccer families have given to our club and we hope that you will continue that support as we all make our way through these changes. Thank you and please feel free to contact us if you have any specific questions.