U.S. Soccer

U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives

Welcome to U.S. Soccer’s presentation on the Player Development Initiatives. We want to make sure all members of the community are as up-to-date as possible on our collective plan to attract, develop and retain players to best of their abilities. 

The PDF presentation below serves as a resource to inform all stakeholders about current PDI mandates (standards) and to provide additional recommendations regarding best practices (philosophies) for players 12 years of age and younger.

Download the full PDF presentation: English  |  Español

Download the Frequently Asked Questions document: English  |  Español

Birth Year Registration - Register players according to a Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 time frame


Focus moves away from the team and onto the individual player

  • Development and winning do not have to happen independently from one another
  • Our misguided desire to win at all costs at the youth levels often comes at the expense of individual player development
  • This change will inspire many parents and coaches to rethink how teams will be formed moving forward and this should take place with each individual player in mind based on his or her developmental needs

The focus moves away from bigger, faster, stronger

  • Changing to birth year registration doesn’t eliminate relative age effect (RAE) because whenever there is a defined age range, someone will be the oldest and someone will be the youngest; however, this change does help better understand and account for RAE
  • Parents and coaches should have an increased awareness of a player’s birth month relative to his or her peer group and level of performance
  • This should help combat focusing on kids that appear to be better simply because they are up to 364 days older than a teammate or opponent

Uniformity across the country and across membership

  • The current landscape is highly variable
  • A uniform framework allows U.S. Soccer, and the programs of our members, to provide consistent messaging and education for parents, players, coaches and referees
  • Having uniformity doesn’t mean that all soccer will look the same in all places at all times
  • It does mean that the soccer community can be better aligned with U.S. Soccer’s player development objectives and we can collectively harness the advantage our nation’s diversity and populations has to offer

Aligns with international standards for youth development

  • This means aligning with the international standards used by the world’s leading soccer nations so that kids in the United States are developing in an environment similar to those playing in Germany, France, Spain, etc.

Birth Year Registration Chart - 2017 U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives

Small-Sided Games - Development philosophy and playing standards for players 12 and younger

Develop improved skills with the ball

  • Players improve confidence and comfort with basic ball skills (dribbling, trapping, passing, etc...) 

Develop intelligence with and without the ball

  • Promote faster decisions and better awareness 
  • Develop partnerships within the team

Provide an age appropriate environment

  • Standards align with physiological needs of players based on year of birth

Uniformity across the country and across membership

  • Similar to the outcomes listed for birth year registration, having consistent standards allows U.S. Soccer and the programs of our members to provide more meaningful messaging and education for parents, players, coaches and referees

Small-Sided Games Chart - 2017 U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives

Implementation Timeline All information about the Concussion Initiative is implemented with immediate effect.

Birth year registration and the small sided standards will be mandated in August 2017

  • Some members chose to adopt these initiatives earlier and began implementing in prior to August 2017

  • Please contact your local member organization for more information on implementation

The Player Development Philosophy information is provided to encourage as best practices

  • Although not currently mandated, U.S. Soccer believes members should adopt these principles to align with our values and objectives for player development

How to Best Support the Changes

  • Have patience

  • Stick to the facts

  • Read the FAQ

  • Communicate with and get answers from your local member organization and leaders

 Additional Resources

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