Five Things to Know About U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives

August 1, 2017 marks the official rollout of U.S. Soccer’s Player Development Initiatives (PDIs). Here are five things you should know about the newest standards in youth soccer.
2013 U.S. Soccer Development Academy coed Futsal
2013 U.S. Soccer Development Academy coed Futsal

August 1, 2017 marks the official rollout of U.S. Soccer’s Player Development Initiatives (PDIs). Here are five things you should know about the newest standards in youth soccer.

What are PDIs?

The PDIs aim to create an environment for youth players to grow and develop their soccer abilities. The most notable PDI includes small-sided game standards. Small-sided standards are regulations for youth games played with less than eleven players on each team that include field and ball size, game length and special rules. Fewer players on the field will allow players to be more involved and provide more opportunity for development. The PDI for small-sided standards of play will be implemented across the country.

The age group for youth team registration, previously determined by the August to July school calendar, will change to registration based on a player’s birth year, from January 1 to December 31 of a given birth year. Previously, two players born in the same year could fall into different age groups. Now, all players in the same birth year will register in the same age group.

Why are PDIs being implemented?

The PDIs are designed to shift the focus of youth soccer from results based to individual player development. Tasked with advancing the sport at all levels, these initiatives are being implemented to create uniform standards with the primary consideration extended to the individual player at each age level based on their developmental needs.

Currently, standards of play for youth games vary greatly across the country. Standardizing rules and regulations allows all youth players to develop on a level playing field. It also allows U.S. Soccer to better serve and educate players, parents, coaches and referees. The United States has historically been one of the only countries of FIFA’s member nations to use a school calendar for age group registration. Now, U.S. players will develop in the same environment as leading soccer nations worldwide.

When will PDIs go into effect?

PDIs officially go into effect on August 1, 2017. After PDIs were first announced in August of 2015, the two-year window has allowed every U.S. youth soccer organization to adjust. Clubs have been encouraged to put the new standards in place to ease the transition, so some leading local organizations have already implemented these changes.

Who will benefit from PDIs?

PDIs apply to all youth member organizations of U.S. Soccer, including state associations, U.S. Youth Soccer, U.S. Club Soccer, AYSO, SAY and others. The new standards are meant to provide uniformity to the inconsistent landscape of youth soccer in the United States, making it vitally important that all organizations implement the changes.

Connection to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy

PDIs bring the Academy’s high standards to the younger age groups of U.S. youth soccer, ensuring the best possible environment for all youth players from U-6 to U-12. These new standards will better prepare players to succeed moving forward along the elite player pathway into the Academy and beyond.

Established in 2007, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s mission is to impact everyday club environments to develop world-class players. As the highest level of youth soccer in the United States, the Academy ensures that all its member clubs and teams provide the same high-quality environment to develop players. The Program’s player development philosophy applies to all ages and levels. As a benchmark development program and competition, the Development Academy will be an active participant and laboratory for testing and assessing future best practices related to the Player Development Initiatives.