U.S. Soccer is making major changes to the way they develop young players and investing in the coaching of youth players. The changes will go into effect in August of 2017 and the hope is that they can produce more skillful and intelligent young players.
The first change will be to alter the youth calendar for marking age groups. Instead of the current August-July calendar, the youth soccer year will run from January-December. This brings the U.S. in line with the international standard.
In terms of development, the federation is putting a focus on small-sided games for those under the age of 12. The U-6 age groups, U-7 and U-8 will play 4v4. When kids get to U-9, they will begin playing 7v7 and by the time they are at U-11 and U-12, it will be a 9v9 game. Only once players are 13 years old will they play 11v11 on a full sized field.
"In general we would like for players to be able to process information faster, and when they are in this environment they are going to learn to do that over a number of years," U-20 manager Tab Ramos said. "When you have young players in an 11v11 game there are only so many involved in any one play at a time. By taking numbers away and playing 4v4, 7v7, and 9v9, you are multiplying their chances on the ball, increasing their touches and making it overall more for them by making them an active participant at all times. Fast forward 10 years and there are thousands of game situations added to a player’s development."
The coaching initiatives will take a few years to implement, but the goal is to emphasize player development over winning and to increase the number of touches and reps all players get. They want coaches to take a long-term approach, stating "No 10 year old has ever been on a World Cup winning team." U.S. Soccer has also created a new F LIcense for coaches, which is for the 6-8 year old age group.