Youth Soccer Factions United in Frustration with U.S. Soccer Federation
By Mike Woitalla
The USA has so many organizations involved in youth soccer the term "turf war" often comes up.
However, last December representatives from U.S. Youth Soccer, U.S. Club Soccer, AYSO, Say Soccer, the USSSA, MLS and U.S. Futsal (USFF) met to discuss the U.S. Soccer Federation’s player development initiatives.
These organizations, often at odds with each other, came together as a “Youth Council Technical Working Group” in a quest to help the associations’ membership implement the USSF’s various new mandates, including a switch to birth-year registration, small-sided guidelines and a heading ban at the younger ages.
Last week, the Youth Council Technical Working Group released this statement:
The USSF's mandating a switch to birth-year registration has been particularly problematic, leaving many club coaches and directors feeling that the Federation had not considered how complex the transition would be. And while the small-sided mandate is generally seen as a good idea, the particulars of the Federation's field-size and team-size guidelines have come under criticism, especially when combined with the birth-year registration. For example, some believe 9-a-side is too big for 10-year-olds. And as the statement mentions, players moving up one age group because of the registration change means they might not align appropriately with the mandated age-appropriate play guidelines.
Moreover, the USSF's small-sided field chart gives specific field sizes instead of minimum and maximum sizes, leaving clubs and leagues to wonder what the consequences are if they're unable to provide the exact sizes mandated. The USSF's "Field Types and Progression" chart shows how to line various size fields within a full-size field that is 75 yards wide -- not a common width in youth soccer communities.
Says U.S. Club Soccer CEO Kevin Payne, "What has brought us together is a common desire to work more closely with the Federation in advance of decisions being made. We are all very anxious to support the Federation’s efforts. But we want to be part of the conversation about what direction those efforts should take."