Back in August of 2015, U.S. Soccer made a landmark announcement that it would unify the domestic youth soccer landscape through the U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives (PDIs). The initiatives, which align with U.S. Soccer’s mission to become the preeminent sport in the United States and to advance the sport at all recreational and competitive levels, officially went into effect Aug. 1, 2017.
Within the framework of PDIs, birth year registration and small-sided standards will lead the way in standardizing best practices on and off the field. Birth year registration now shifts from designating a player’s age group based on the academic calendar (Aug. to July) to the year of the player’s birth (Jan. to Dec.), aligning the United States with the rest of the world. The mandate will not only align U.S. registration with the international standard, but also provide clearer information on player birth dates to combat ‘relative age effect’. Relative age effect refers to the selection bias related to players that are more physically mature than their peers due to being born earlier in the year.
Small-sided game standards, which aim to create a better environment for the individual player, will ensure each player progresses through more appropriate size field dimensions and number of players on the field up until they reach the U-13 age group, when they begin to play full field, 11v11 matches. By creating a more age appropriate environment, players will have a better opportunity to develop heightened soccer intelligence and on-the-ball skills.
More than 30 standards within the framework of PDIs officially rolled out Aug. 1, including youth standards, the number of referees, offside calls, training to game ratio, number of licensed coaches and roster size. Since the announcement in August 2015, 85% of U.S. Soccer youth member organizations have adopted and implemented PDIs earlier as a best practice. During the two-year implementation window, member organizations have seen the positive benefits from PDIs.
“Since its inception in 1974, U.S. Youth Soccer has been an advocate for player development. Indeed, the Association has formally supported small-sided games since the 1980s. The U.S. Soccer player development initiatives are most welcome as we know that they will enrich the youth soccer experience.”
- Sam Snow, Coaching Director, US Youth Soccer
“The PDI's are a positive start in seeking to research and understand how we can best develop players within the country. One of the most positive results I've seen so far is the openness and direct communications between member organizations. Each member has come to the table and discussed how we can create positive programs and collaborate for the youth soccer player of today and future generations.”
- Craig Scriven, Vice President and National Director, USSSA Soccer
“AYSO launched small sided games in 1988 with our National Coaching program, making adoption of the other valuable elements of the Player Development Initiatives (PDI’s) a straightforward transition. As a U.S. Soccer National Association, we are proud to partner with the Federation on the implementation of the PDI's. Benefits have been already realized by our early adopters and we’ll see more as the PDI’s align with AYSO’s Vision, Mission, and Six Philosophies where the child; the player is our priority.”
- Mike Hoyer, National Executive Director, AYSO