Fans' View

Fans’ View: The nightmare brewing in youth soccer

It sounds so innocuous: Let’s put players on teams based on their birth year.

Currently, US Soccer places children on a team based on their school-year. Born on Aug. 1, 2000? You play with kids born from that date through July 31, 2001.

Sounds simple. Kids get to play with the kids they hang out with at school. Many clubs allow players the opportunity to play up an age level if they are skilled enough to do so.

When the US Soccer announced the change to follow the calendar-year rather than the school-year for birth-year registration, I didn’t think much of it. It technically doesn’t take effect until 2017 so I just assumed since my kids were older that the teams would stay the same. Then the panicked phone calls and heated discussions on the sidelines with other parents started, and I realized it’s a wee bit more complicated than I thought.

For my older son, instead of being one of the oldest players on his team he now becomes the youngest. Given his age, and since he’s playing high school soccer now with teammates older than he is, I’m not worried about a size or skill discrepancy. He’s already getting familiar with being the youngest on the team.

However, I was talking with a friend whose son plays on a team that is nationally ranked and they have an even number of kids from both years. What happens to that team? Do they stay as a ’00 team with half the team playing up or do they split into two teams?

For my younger son, the issue is not size or skill, but who coaches the team? Our coach has a son on the team who is ’03. So, in theory, I thought, no problem, my son will play “up” and we’ll keep the team together even though only three boys are ’03.

But wait, is that in the best interest of my son? If he plays with his true age group, then he becomes the oldest on the team. With that comes more experience, more skill, and more size (hopefully). Oh, if only it were that easy. The current U-11 coach has a child on the team who is ’05. That means the club would have to find a new coach for that age group.

Continuing with that thought process, if you’re a C team player currently on a U-12 team, maybe you become a B team player on the younger age team next year? Or maybe you’re an A team player based on the current system, but the age group below you has a stronger A team and suddenly, you are no longer one of the top players in your age group, and you end up on the B team.

Another factor in the decision for my younger son is that next year should be the year his current team will move to 11 v 11. This is the age group where often one team in the age group folds — if you have three U-12 teams at 14 players each, it makes it difficult to continue with three teams if now you have 18 players on a team.

All clubs are trying to find their way through this transition. I know we at Montgomery United will be sitting down to look at all of the possibilities so we can ensure our parents can make the best decision for their child.

As for me, running tryouts is going to be very interesting in the spring.

43 Comments

  1. It certainly will be a challenge for current players and teams.
    .
    I finally had a child that would be “older” in his group but now will be just about one of the youngest players in the country basically playing up a year even though he is in the same birth year as his teammates. The good news… he is in the 99% for height and is as tall as and taller than kids almost two years older than him… I’m 6’4″ so hopefully he continues to be at the high end of his scale… our best hope… as a few coaches have just shrugged their shoulders with the, ‘curse of the birth month sorry.’ which while it is the way of the general sporting world is still typical for how we do things here… bigger faster yada yada yada.
    .
    As much as it eats in my gut…. this is the necessary change and one that should have been made a while ago.
    .

  2. I actually thought this article was going to be about something different – the new mandates about Small-Sided Games (i.e. 8v8, 7v7, etc at specified ages).

    I completely understand the benefit of playing with smaller numbers at younger ages and have been an advocate for it at our club. But many clubs, especially smaller or poorer ones, struggle to have fields with the appropriate dimensions or goals that are the proper size.

    Also, smaller clubs will suffer because they often do not have the resources to field more than one team per age cohort. This means that kids who might have been on a 11v11 team will now be cut.

    • I also agree with the idea of smaller numbers of players on the field at younger ages, but actually see the continued changes in that direction as a benefit to smaller clubs. Smaller clubs obviously equal smaller player pools trying out – a 20 player tryout may only yield a handful of clear “A” team candidates, and the other half of the roster may be better suited for a less competitive B level team. Smaller sided games should make it easier for a small club to field a competitive A team AND have enough players left to field a more developmental B team that can compete at an appropriate level. More kids get more touches, on teams slotted appropriately, and then feed into the larger rosters needed at older ages.

      • In theory I support the move to small sided games. However, in practice I’m not so sure. I have younger boys so this is strictly looking at the U8 level. Currently, our town has a U8 travel team that competes in a Fall and Spring season plus does about 2-3 tournaments a year and does some optional indoor games over the winter. The U8 games are 8v8. The new small-sided requirements would change the games to 4v4 without a goalie. Sounds great, except for the fact that our town is thinking about not having a U8 travel team next year because of the smaller team sizes. Which would mean all the U8 players would play 4v4 but it would be rec games and only in the Fall. The smaller games would be accomplished but it would be against lesser competition and the boys wouldn’t have the opportunity to play over the winter and Spring seasons thus losing a ton of playing time. I think the boys’ overall player development would be worse off.

      • This is interesting fodder. Good conversation.
        .
        My question is… why can’t the other clubs do the same and field multiple U8 “travel” teams of 4 players and then just play against each other … in let’s say 4 games of 20 minutes on a saturday afternoon in a round robin…
        .
        Club 1’s ‘best’ 16 players at the U8 age group
        .
        Club 2’s ‘best’ 16 players at the U8 age group
        .
        each club divided into four teams of 4 playing each other.
        .
        NO standings. NO goals against and goals for. NO pressure. Who gives a shit if a 7 or 8 year old team is the best in the league. Just the chance to learn how to express yourself without parents on the sidelines apoplectic and kids who are emotionally taxed.
        .
        etc etc.
        .
        that way… the undeniable opportunity and learning that occur in a SSG 4v4 can be repeated over and over… the coaches can still teach to tactical and technical quality: teach to shape and how to really understand the nature of numerical advantage attacking and defending as a unit.
        .
        I guess my greater question is… why are 7 years olds playing with eight players in the first place. I see it in my local club. The jump to larger teams is WAY to soon… and this is precisely why kids are unable to solve the SSG riddles subconsciously… because at 7 and 8 they are standing on a ‘large’ field running around aimlessly.
        .
        Or is yours a U8 team actually playing up against U9 travel teams… which also, IMHO is…. I should probably stop now.
        .
        Sincerely,
        the elephant in the room.

      • BTW…. if you were to read my comments lower you would see that maybe I actually do care about the base of the pyramid after all.
        .
        The base just needs to be built properly not out of termite infested wood.
        .
        Put me in charge…I’m from the Horst Wein school of football….

      • The whole league is 8v8 at the U8 level (not playing up against U9). Ideally the clubs would keep the current U8 travel team set-ups (appx. 12 players per team). And instead of one 8v8 game. Split the squad up into 2 4v4 games with 1-2 kids as subs for each game. I agree this would be best for the kids and probably would help the parents chill out a bit because the games would be so high scoring and not look like “real” soccer games. However, what I have heard is that this is logistically difficult for a lot of clubs to get the smaller sized fields and the new smaller goals as selected by US Soccer.

    • At the moment, the discussion has all been centered around the age issue in my world. You’ve given me something to think about – I wasn’t considering how the team size would effect everything as my kids are both past that age.

  3. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    The proposed changes to field size and fewer players in the younger age groups, im good with. I’m not so sure I agree with the age change. It is really only geared to line up EDP and academy teams with the rest of the world. So, US soccer is making sweeping chnages for the .001% of players that this will benefit. The simple solution is this; Begin phasing in the age change starting in 2017 and grandfather in the already existing teams. In reality, most travel programs are only glorified rec leagues regardless of how much you pay or if cool words like “premier” or “elite” are in the clubs name. So why throw them into change and turmoil needlessly?

  4. This happened in the 90’s when they switched from the half year. Certain clubs were already ahead of the curve taking the best from the two age groups and combining them to make new “super clubs”. Think FC DELCO and Buckingham and Hulmeville from two decades ago. I got bumped from the FC Delco team I played for because they brought 6 or 7 guys down from the year above us……and we didn’t win nationals….so they “cleaned house” and brought older players down. The guys I got bumped with all went to the same club with others who were in the same situation….and we created a super club to rival FC Delco ( and beat them in states!). I’m sure this is already happening. I would look to see how LVU is handling it……best club in the area outside the academy!

    • After a year people will get use to it…………..as stated above, it puts us in line with the rest of the footballing world! Needed to happen…..

  5. I agree…it’s going to be complicated. I think for the higher level clubs at the older ages, I can be convinced that it makes sense.
    .
    But for the younger ages (<13), the goal should be to make soccer fun. Playing with kids in your same grade tends to be comfortable for most young children. Tell a 1st grader than they have to play against 2nd graders, and they will typically show some apprehension.
    .
    The small sided changes are long overdue, but the age changes have the potential to reduce the number of kids that enjoy the sport. Tab Ramos' explanation was that the change was needed because "parents got confused about what age their kids should play." I don't think this was a big deal – having grade years split up is a bigger inconvenience in my opinion. It should have been implemented on a rolling basis so that teams that have played together for years don't have to be split up.

  6. Fairly clear, U.S. Soccer does not care about the developmental impact on the vast majority of kids playing soccer. They are not educators and parents. They are focused on identifying the exceptional ones.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      As they should be. Correct?
      .
      From my POV excellence is the only acceptable outcome… and we are not excellent.
      .
      Curious about your thoughts.

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        I would disagree. US Soccer should work on many levels, excellence for the MNT and WNT just being one level. When they change the age brackets, how many kids stop playing? Now those kids may not grow up to be Landon Donovan, but they could grow up to be consumers of the game which drives revenue and sponsorship, they could grow up to be teachers of the game, facilitating the continued growth of the game by indoctrinating a new generation of fans. They could grow up to be board members of clubs that will shape the game for may others, etc etc. The last thing that US soccer needs is to weaken or shrink the base of the pyramid. At the end of the day, the failings (perceived) of US soccer is not that the kids are playing in the wrong age brackets but that there is a severe shortage of qualified coaches at the U12 and younger age groups and a shortage of proffesioaly modeled options for players once they are teens. For god’s sake, the U’s academy is still pay to play, so how does a poor kid from the inner city get the oppurtunity to play if he cannot afford it? There are many, many things that the US soccer can do to move towards excellence, instituting a rule change for the (perceived) best or richest .001% does not accomplish this.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Well thought out.
        .
        My rebuttal.
        .
        It is my understanding the U Academy is in fact NOT pay to play.
        .
        My concerns for growing the game in this country have nothing to do with the base of the pyramid.
        .
        By virtue of greater results and leadership closer to at the top of the pyramid (i.e. Producing a genuine HG world class player who Johnny can wear his shirt for when playing at Bayern, repeated success in the most important tournaments) the foundation will grow itself… exponentially. And instead of Bobbi and Johnny being concerned about travel soccer they will be playing pick up in the streets after dark… really growing the base)
        .
        Month after month the US Soccer federation should be asking ~ what is working ~ what is not working to make the professional and national teams better.
        .
        Be nice if they adopted the AGILE model of leadership.

      • survival of the fittest………leave the koombaya….everyone gets a trophy for the rec leagues. Did you just imply that only rich kids go up the pyramid here in the States? That was true 20 years ago….your way off as of today. Look at the backgrounds of most of the MNT players…….they aren’t rich guys and some grew up in trailer parks or the hood……just like most footballers do the world over. Look at the Union Academy……..there are all types of kids that are enrolled there. Kids from the hood and yeah, you got some rich boys too. What you are saying is soooo cliche! Yeah, thats what the Germans did ten years ago with their centers of excellence…….let everyone in? No, they built them for the best and brightest football IQ’s….and looked what happened. They are winning freakin everything!

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        Pach, the base of the pyramid holds everthing up. You cannot have the elite without the masses. You are dead on about pickup, which I see more and more every year in my town. But one begets another and you need a wide base so that a seed is planted for those pickup games to grow.

        Ali, Your Germany argument is not relevant to this discussion simply because Germany already had an established base. They have hundreds of local clubs that provide free soccer education and is the # 1 sport in the country. The Germans had to redefine their strategy because the tip of the pyramid was not reaching far enough from the already significant base. Using Germany in this argument is like comparing the economic decisions and policies of the US and Mongolia. And pay to play is still very much in affect, I’m in South Jersey, so maybe it is different on this side of the river, but there are plenty of clubs that charge a lot of money to play. And I never, for the record, believe in trophies for everyone, our club has phased it out, rightfully so.

      • Again, its more about the larger point. The one you stated…..the top of the pyramid isn’t reaching the level it should…..thats my concern. There will always be the have nots. I’m not cold blooded……just keeping it real. Yes the two academies in SJ cost……NJSC04 and PDA. But I would argue you get what you pay for…..wouldn’t we both agree that PDA is probably one of the best academies in the country outside the MLS? They do give scholarships….but yes, most pay. Thats why their best go up to Red Bull for free. I have had ballers play for these clubs. If your good enough…it becomes free! If your still paying top stamp when your kids 16 and 17…maybe little Johnny isn’t Messi after all. The same goes for this side of the river…..Continental is the pay to play academy….the best go the Union……for free!

      • +1

  7. My concern is for kids with late year birthdays (Nov or Dec). With these age changes, when they are in 8th grade the majority of their soccer age will be in high school. So what happens that fall when there aren’t enough players for a team in our club? To make matters worse our school district doesn’t offer middle school soccer currently. I wish they would address this one issue and figure out a way these “trapped” players in this situation can play that season.

    I agree with the earlier commentor(s) these changes were made to benefit academy level clubs which in the big picture is a small percentage of youth soccer players.

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    Staci.
    .
    You have a knack of writing articles that produce discussion. Well done.
    .
    Regards.

  9. Ok I have a son born in November 2003, who will be negatively affected as his team is likely to split next year due to the change. He is among 5 kids born in 2003, rest 2004. Very possible this team that has grown together over past few years may split if coaches choose not to “play up” their 2004 sons.
    Let me be clear, I don’t think this change is end of the world, or traumatic for kids, and yes, it will become new normal in 4-5years.
    Still, I am not in support of this move–and thought they should have at least grandfathered the existing teams.

    What’s more, it isn’t very well thought out and as proof, US Soccer already, one month after releasing first charge, released a second chart that not only is different from first chart, but no longer lists 2016-2017 when majority of clubs plan on implementing.

    Also, the arguments made in support are silly–
    1. Match rest of world—we actually were birth year up until 1992 then we changed to match rest of world which was then school year. Our youth soccer program grew tremendously and I personally believe the age change helped. However, good part of rest of world went to birth year, shortly after we changed. England only recently changed to birth year. So hard to blame USMNT “struggles” on birth year change considering team until only recently was better than teams of the late 80’s. And USWNT anyone? Sorry, forgot Women don’t matter to Klinsman and Tab Ramos.
    2. RAE—BS. All you are doing is taking a different set of 12 months. Personally I find it BS because in any 12 month range you would be hard to categorize kids by size or skill based on month they were born. Take your child’s team and see if I’m right or not. New FAQ from US Soccer says now this isn’t reason for change although that is what they said back in August.
    3. No one from US Soccer has clearly explained what happens to kids in July-December 8th grade or Seniors who will discover their teams fell apart because of HS/College.
    4. US Soccer is saying that this HAS to affect both recreational and competitive soccer because else kids/parents in the rec leagues will be confused when they suddenly make it onto the elite DA teams playing internationally.

    5. This will grow the sport—really? Now I’ve heard that lacrosse is already sending out emails to kids that the lacrosse leagues are based on “grade levels”. One of the baseball little leagues went and changed back to August 31st cutoff because of outcry–their reasoning for reversing was that kids have more fun playing with kids from their same grade. And as baseball “Fall ball” continues to grow, Lacrosse, hockey, etc, will continue to draw kids away from soccer.

    That being said why are a very few individuals, some not even American, making such an important change affecting 3 million US youth soccer players? Sorry, El Pach, this change isn’t going to suddenly produce quality soccer talent for the USMNT.
    One internet theory is allegedly DA clubs have trouble prying kids from clubs where they have fun playing with their friends in their grades. Disrupt the club teams and thus these kids will be see DA as a choice.

    More than one forum where change is favored has mentioned along same lines that “pay to play” clubs are the enemy and this disruption to them will help grow soccer. However, nothing is really offered as replacement.

    My own personal favorite theory–Klinsman is determined to keep Germany as a world cup dynasty by ruining US chances for decades to come! (remember this if we don’t qualify for 2018 WC!)

    So bottom line–end of the world? No. But I would love to see EPYSA and other youth soccer leagues gauge impact on number of players over next 5 years. I have a feeling that numbers that had been growing may decline.

    • Baseball is losing kids by the minute…..regardless of fall ball. Baseball has become the defacto sport for pudgy little white kids who can’t compete at anything else! look at the amount of foreign born major leaguers these days….its a dying sport in America…..one that soccer will overtake in the future. Lacrosse is for your blue bloods on the main line…….and it will always be, they have tried pushing lax in the city now for almost ten years…with little fruition. My point, soccer is kind of unique here….and it makes a tough comparison with every sport…….except basketball. Your right….it will be the norm in a few years, rough transition….but smooth sailing after.

    • there is also plenty of science out there about kids at the beginning of their birth year as compared to kids at the end of the birth year…on who exactly goes up the pyramid.

  10. Regarding small-sided. I agree playing 4v4 at 7 and under is good idea. And 7v7 and 9v9 aren’t bad ideas. However, I am inclined to believe the 7v7 and 9v9 field sizes may grow after a few years as fields these sizes will lead to bunching up, and injuries as kids being kids, testing and learning their new strength, are still going to blast the ball and in small area look out!

    Also, I think impact on clubs shouldn’t be underestimated. Many clubs struggle to find coaches now. Not only do 4v4 mean more volunteer coaches needed, but they are going to make it harder still if they are seriously requiring coaches to get an “F” license to ooach even youngest kids.

    One solution might be–scratch idea of teams at younger levels. Instead club trains all the younger kids as one group, and then on game day, split kids by age into random 5 player teams(one sub). This prevents individually strong player from dominating any one team, and gives all the kids chance to play, while reducing need for great numbers of coaches.

    Just a thought to throw out. Of course very strong kids should by age 7 be encouraged to “play up” for U9 team.

    Union Goal

  11. Staci—Great article once again. Thank you for posting. Been following this for last few months and glad it made the page here.
    Thought for new article—what would you do to improve current youth system?
    Personally I think emphasis by Klinsman and his supporters that these changes will transform US Men’s team into a World Cup winner are a fallacy.
    What’s really needed is look at high school and college soccer if you want to improve USMNT.
    If those in charge are truly against Pay to Play then encourage and reform High School and College soccer systems which are merit based and best opportunity to expose more kids outside of club soccer to the sport. Expanding months of play would be great start.

    One aspect of the USWNT coverage vs USMNT—the college careers of the women were stressed throughout, with UNC, Virginia, Florida State, UCLA all mentioned. How many on the US Men’s team went to and played college? No idea since it wasn’t mentioned during the Men’s games.

    Other article idea–the social aspect.

    The stress by Klinsman and others to make soccer elite and specialized is discouraging. Even in that new FAQ by US Soccer they dismiss the social aspect but truth be told, people in US (and I imagine elsewhere) play sports for fun and enjoy the social benefits.
    Many club teams are together for years, with parents, coaches and players becoming lifelong friends.
    If this makes us “weaker” internationally, a point I don’t agree with, so be it.

    PS. That new FAQ US Soccer posted on the changes should be read by everyone involved in youth soccer. Maybe just me but tone was very condescending and where it mentioned social aspect was trite to say the least.

  12. Scott of Nazareth says:

    Staci – thanks for writing/posting this article. Please keep us posted on how MonU continues to interpret/handle these significant changes. I am a part of our local community club board and these changes are challenging for clubs at our level for sure.

    I am totally on board with the small sided changes and our club has utilized the 4v4 program for our “in-house” program from U4-U8 for years. We have partnered with neighboring clubs to create an informal 5v5 league for certain players at U7, U8 & even U9. From U9 on up we create teams to play in various local/regional leagues based on the competitive strength of the individual teams. I think the change to 7v7 and 9v9 will make the progression a little smoother for the players as they age up. Yes, it will be a challenge to find/create additional playing fields, but believe the work involved will be worth it for the end result.

    The birth year/age cut off is the area I struggle the most with. As outlined in many of the arguments above, I understand to a degree why they are making the change and how it will help our country compete internationally, but have a hard time aligning with it simply because we are a community based club that generally competes against other community based clubs.

    For most of us, the truly elite/premier/gifted players that come up through our programs generally don’t stick around very long with us and I completely understand it and encourage those players to take the next step in their game to play in a more competitive environment.

    I see our club’s mission as one to provide a playing opportunity for all players at all skill levels no matter what their age is. For clubs like ours, we already struggle at U13 and above as our registration numbers begin to dwindle due to kids finding and making time for other activities in their lives. Generally the ones who do stick around tend to come back not because they have dreams of playing for the men’s or women’s national teams but because they enjoy playing the game with their classmates and friends. Eventually, maybe some of these players will be a part of their local high school teams and for 90-95% of the players that make it that far, their playing days will end there.

    My fear is that we’re ignoring that the social/fun aspect of the game is what keeps the players in the game at an early age. Anyone who’s had any length of time with youth soccer knows that kids/players develop at different rates and that the “Superstar” U8 player doesn’t always keep that label at U12 and that just as often some “middle of the pack” player at U10 suddenly blossoms into the teams best defender, or uncontainable striker or stud goalie.

    If their neighbors/school friends are playing in another age group at an early age what’s going to keep them playing?

  13. Just to piggyback off of what UnionGoal was hinting at. With the DA going to U12’s and splitting the 13’s and 14’s each having their own academies….I think quality coaching will become an issue. The more and more age groups the DA adds………the coaching…and probably the players…will be watered down. If the academies are going to expand like this……and their serious about it…..then pay the coaches full-time….like overseas. Its held with great prestige across the pond to teach and coach the kids. Funny, I guess we view it the same as education here……no respect and little thought. Even more annoying….people who never played at a high level or taught in a classroom….think they are authorities on both! I know plenty of qualified people who would drop what they were doing in a heartbeat if it actually paid a livable wage……badges and all.

  14. here is also part of the disconnect in the States. Many of the posters here speak of the kids at the bottom of the pyramid and playing for fun. This is all well and good…..but you realize those kids everywhere else keep on doing that….playing pick up games for fun with their friends….they will do that their whole lives. The kids who play pick up games, have fun, and want more…who are serious ballers….whether its the kid or the parents pushing it…..are in the academies by 8, 9, and 10. They already have to make that decision……even when they are that young. I have always posed this will be the biggest obstacle here…..because we don’t believe in treating kids that way here…..but they are already viewed as commodities by the clubs across the pond. We are already seeing this in the club compensation cases……it is clear the whole idea of making money off kids skeeves America out….as it should. But that is the reality we are competing against……..an 8 or 9 year old in Barca’s academy has a shot of staying with them…..he also has a shot at being dropped and to look elsewhere. How bout a 16 year old kid who is dropped from an academy….they are in trouble. Do I start a job…or roll the dice with football. These are decisions made everyday by the countries that we are trying to catch. These situations would be seen as ludicrous here…..

    • 100%.
      .
      Not sure we can play both ends and be world competitors.
      .
      when football is ingrained in the culture who gives a shit about travel soccer for my 12 year old… A kid is a commodity. Period. The INDIVIDUAL. not the TEAM. In order to be an INDIVIDUAL based soccer nation… we have to place a monetary value on the player.
      .
      that is the truth and the reality.
      .
      because the game hopefully becomes engrained in the culture the kids who love footy will be playing non-the-less. You can find a game anywhere else in the world and there is a reason for that… I can’t find 5 flipping kids for my kid to play with regularly cause mom and dad are chasing them off to practice — where they stand around half the time.
      .
      Once again… build the base by producing a better product both professionally and nationally at the top.
      .
      If my kid isn’t good enough to be in an academy… I’d rather him hanging with his buddies playing till after dark than to be carting him to Lebanon for some inane U13 tourney on a saturday… or God forbid ONE lousy game that funks up the whole day.
      .
      Good riddance to travel soccer. Travel soccer has as much to do with why we suck as anything else.
      .
      Just my personal feelings not directed toward you as generally we share sentiment on this. Remember a beer on the Yellow Wall someday.
      .
      Sincerely,
      a droog

      • Interesting, drop club soccer and just have the academies…….very interesting. Your going to have a lot of pissed off parents….but again, maybe thats exactly whats needed! And Pach, you took it all the way back to our first conversation! A droog……haha +1

      • Sorry you feel that way about travel soccer. On one hand I do regret there aren’t more pick up games of soccer. My son participates in one of older teens and young adults who have aged out of travel soccer (most clubs don’t offer past U14). But for most part, most fields and parks do not have games or kids playing. One summer weekend my son and I drove around to various soccer fields in the area looking for pickup games. Aside from a few kids playing baseball or basketball, most parks were empty.
        That being said, I am happy my son has played travel soccer past 3 years. He loves playing, the competitive level, constant practice, and most of all the relationships he has made. He has played on teams with kids from 9-10 different clubs, from over 20 different schools, kids he wouldn’t have met normally. Often he is in game like today where he knows kids from the opposing team, and afterwards no matter who wins or loses, the kids will hang out, bust on each other, and notably compliment each other and then play “world cup” for another hour!
        Also, the “pay to play” tag is a bad one in my opinion as almost every adult I’ve met involved with travel soccer are volunteers…I am guessing Staci is one. Many don’t even have kids still involved yet love seeing what they helped develop continue on for “next generation”.
        I am guessing your experience was a bitter one and I am sorry for that. But what is alternative? Do your children play rec? Do they for DA?
        Thanks and good luck, El P.
        UnionGoal

    • imagine this approach in the US:

      “Dier speaks with a maturity that belies his 21 years but it is the product of his life experiences. At seven, he emigrated with his parents and five siblings from England to Portugal, partly because his mother, Louise, had got the job of running the hospitality programme for the 2004 European Championship. After a year in the Algarve, they moved to Lisbon and Dier was scouted and taken into Sporting’s youth set-up – the one that produced Luís Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and all the rest.

      “Dier played seven-a-side football at Sporting from the age of eight to 13. In the 2-3-1 formations, he started out on the right of the midfield three before dropping back to become one of the two defenders who, he says, “would play as wingers really”. He was a centre-half when he graduated to 11-a-side games and he would routinely play on dirt pitches, which sharpened his technique and attitude.

      ““It’s a very relaxed approach at Sporting in terms of football,” Dier says. “They pride themselves on bringing you up as a polite and respectful person. They would never get angry with you if you missed a pass but they would do if you were disrespectful to someone. There was no shouting. I hear a lot that that is the case in England.

      “A good player for them was someone who could understand when they made a mistake and correct it for themselves. When I first came to England to play, I saw coaches having a go at players when they made mistakes and then they would literally be talking them through the game.

      ““In Portugal, the coach would sit on the bench and not say a word. We’d just play. It was a matter of us making mistakes and learning from them by ourselves. You understand the game a lot better that way. For me, the sign of a bad player is someone who makes the same mistake twice.””

  15. quakerflaker says:

    As a longtime reader of this site, I have always been greatful for the content here – postings and comments. I still feel feel this way but I feel the need to chime in here on this one as a longtime youth coach.

    We just need to recognize that there are different paths in the youth game. Yes, there are elite kids that may, please God, end up playing at the national team or even U level. 99.99% will never get there so the goal for these guys is to develop, grow as human beings, and walk away with a love of the game. That, my friends, as a “B team” coach, is where I am focused. This whole calendar change will create some winners and losers. Kids born late in the year will be the losers for the most part, while those born in the beginning will benefit. Any way you slice it will create arbitrary winners and losers but it is hardly “a nightmare”. Yes, your kid may be disadvantaged but as someone working in the medical profession, there are far, far, worse things that could befall you.

    For me, I’ve never had the luxury of having the same group of kids over an extended period. Most recently, my club didn’t have enough kids for the transition to 2 teams at the u13 level so we had a combined u13/14 “B” team that struggled to play up for the most part at the u14 level. This year we reinvented ourselves with significant transition, smaller roster, and some rec kids as a full u14 squad. Yes, it has been tough on the kids but this is what builds character and we’ve certainly had some fun along the way. This, to me, is what it is all about – contributing to the development of human beings. So please relax a bit and spare me the “nightmare” talk. This has been an absolute joy to me and God willing, my players, along this journey.

  16. Hi Quakerflaker,
    First off–thank you for your time and commitment to coaching!
    To be clear, I didn’t say it was a nightmare. But I do believe it is unfortunate that existing teams couldn’t be grandfathered in. I also believe they should monitor the number of players at league level and note how that changes next 2-4 years, as possible there will be drop-off, especially at 8th grade Aug-December and at younger ages where classmates grouped by grade in other sports.
    Change is unnecessary and doesn’t address issues of drop-off at high school age or how to develop soccer players.
    And not well thought out if less than two months after releasing one chart, they go and issue another chart, plus contradict their earlier statement that change was needed to reverse RAE, and now state “Birth year registration is not intended or expected to eliminate relative age effect.”

  17. This whole business reflects very poorly on US Youth Soccer. As stated previously, it just wasn’t fully fleshed out. The age matrix is a mess. For example, it makes no sense to change the age groupings to calendar year yet leave the seasons spanning years. In fact, by so doing we have now worsened the age gap for the younger players. Using the current schedule a young August birthday player will be roughly one year below age limit at the start of Fall to 3 months below at the end of the next year’s Spring. Using the new schedule a December birthday (the youngest now) will be roughly three months over a year below the age limit to six months below the age limit at the end of Spring. And the older kids are older too. If you are going to make this change, why not change seasons to run concurrent with the calendar years as well?

    • Malabranca,
      Worse they have two charts floating out there, confusing matters even more. For example my son born November 2003 is listed on one chart dated August 24th as U13 2016/2017, and second chart released October 21 lists him as U14 for same year.
      So which is it?

      If they had grandfathered this in, it would have received much less opposition.

      UnionGoal

  18. Problem is highlighted quite a bit by Beau Dure on Soccerwire.com where he notes there are two charts floating about, and that even the development academies will not be on same page next year, even though most leagues now are doing so.

  19. I may have missed it discussed but for children born in September, October, November and December, they will likely miss the opportunity to play in the fall when they are in 8th grade. Their chance to play club soccer their senior year of high school will also be in jeopardy. The only clubs that will be able to accommodate the Birth Year change will be the huge clubs. This is not the way to build life-long fans of the game to support the professional clubs and national teams. I also do not think its a good idea to be lowering the amount of clubs available for kids to play at. Talent ID at the younger ages isn’t a foolproof endeavor.
    This change really is about making grouping the top 1% of players easier at the international level. That’s it. There is no developmental gain from this. It’s not going to win us a World Cup. All its going to do is put smaller clubs out of business and alienate kids born later in the year from the game. And those national team players almost all began on a town team at one point. A player rarely begins at PDA at U7. U7, U8, U9, etc. are all to pay for the ages that matter later on anyway. At the end of the day, we’ll be missing out on elite players by limiting the number of places they can play. Elite players do not always look so elite when they are 8 years old.

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