U.S. Soccer Breaks the Glass

Soccer Age Group Change

U.S. Soccer breaks the glass and leaves it up to local clubs to pick up the pieces.

Thousands of soccer coaches met in Baltimore this week at the annual NSCAA convention, the largest gathering of soccer coaches in the world. There is an incredible amount of concern and confusion about how to pick up the broken glass among coaches.

Thousands of coaches from across the country were all in one place looking for help and answers. Where was U.S. Soccer? NOT IN BALTIMORE. There were two sessions at the convention attempting to help club coaches deal with what is coming. They were not run by U.S. Soccer. Hats off to the coaches running them. They were leaders in soccer, but could not answer practical questions of what to do.

So…What is going on you may ask?

And…Why should you, my Recruiting Code readers care?

First, why should you care?
  • If you are a soccer player this has the potential to disrupt your recruiting process.
  • If you are a soccer player born in the months of September – December, this could damage your recruiting process and your club career.
  • If you are from other sports and you like reality t.v. shows, you can get a front row seat into the craziness. You will get to see why 10,000 plus soccer clubs will be trying to pick up the proverbial glass with their bare hands.
  • If you are a soccer coach, club director, state director, work for any of the soccer acronyms, or work at U.S. Soccer I am writing this mainly to you.

If you are involved in soccer, make sure you read to the end! For the rest of you, if you are patient with me, your jaw will drop.

If you are from U.S. Soccer, please read to the end. You don’t have to agree, but hear me out. I have a few ideas for all of us to move forward with the changes.

I hope your curiosity is peaked.

What is going on?

On August 24, 2015 U.S. Soccer (the governing body of soccer in the United States) announced two major changes. Click here to see the full announcement. One change has to do with mandating the number of players on the field and size of those fields. This has issues of its own, but is for others to write about.

The second change from the August announcement, “Birth-year registration calendars will now align with the start of the calendar year and run from January to December, rather than August to July as it had previously.”

Let’s first take a look at the benefits U.S. Soccer has given us:

“The initiative will align registration with the international standard, while simultaneously providing 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. U.S. Soccer seeks a balance of players that are born throughout the year so that all players, those born in the earlier months, and those born later have equal opportunity to grow and develop as soccer players.” (If you are interested in what the relative age effect is, google it. It is actually quite important no matter what sport you are in).

To begin, let’s clear up a couple of things.

“The initiative will align registration with the international standards…”

The United States youth national teams and ODP players are already aligned with the January – December birth year for teams. Not only are we already aligned with our top players, these players make up less than a fraction of a percent of the 3 million plus soccer players in the United States. As we continue, ask yourself what is in it for the other 3 million players, not competing at the international level.

“…while simultaneously providing clearer information on player birth dates to combat ‘relative age effect’”.

The athletes born in the first four months of a sport’s calendar year are over represented in athletics. If the calendar year for age groups goes from August – July, you will have many more August – December players than April – July players. Guess what happens when you shift it to January – December. You have many more January – April players than September – December players.

U.S. Soccer has not made a more level playing field for players, they just shifted who is disadvantaged.

It makes the process easier,” Ramos said of the birth-year registration initiative. “Over the years you go through coaching youth soccer and you are constantly finding parents and players confused about what age group players belong in. The current August 1 cutoff meant that two players born in the same year could be in different age groups. To make it more confusing, different school systems have different cutoff months for going into the new grades. It was just very difficult for parents to take it all in. This new calendar year system makes soccer easier. If you’re born in a certain year you belong in that certain age group. Simple. It also puts our players on the same age-playing calendar as the rest of the world so they will be used to competing in the right age group.  That makes it much easier for us to scout for the National Teams and find players ready to compete internationally.” 

For you 10,000 coaches out there, we are making this change because Tab Ramos and the other U.S. Soccer coaches couldn’t look at a birthday and identify a player’s birth year for their international calendar.

For you 5 million soccer parents out there, we are making this change because you were too stupid to figure out that your child fell on a team primarily with his or her classmates.

Do we need to change the academic birth year to begin in January to make it clear to all of you what grade your child should be in?

U.S. Soccer has only given these two benefits to a mandate that will disrupt our entire nation’s soccer. Neither reason is actually a benefit, but the pitfalls for our clubs and players are staggering, not to mention the logistical nightmare which has been caused.

I was told by a coach today that I was not progressive and short sighted because I think the change is problematic. I like change. I will get behind change if there is a real benefit, even if pain is involved. Changing the birth year has no benefit.

The problem.

(Thanks for staying with me thus far). Now it gets better if you are a reality t.v. fan.

Here are the terms I heard used by coaches over the past couple of days regarding our soccer players born September – December: Casualties, screwed, they will survive, out of luck. These were not the coaches in the hallways. These were the coaches speaking from lecterns and panels. Coaches in the hallways had much more choice words.

By changing the birth year to January, player born September – December will be one grade above the rest of their teammates.

First major problem: What happens to the team who has January – August 9th graders and September – December 8th graders? While the 9th graders play high school, the 8th graders will not have a team. They will in essence miss a season of play.

Second major problem: Those same September – December players will be seniors the year after their team has graduated. As a senior, they will not have a place to play.

This is not a short term problem. This is now a problem U.S. Soccer has given to its members. This is the gift that will give year after year.

Parents, what can you do?
  1. Don’t freak out. All clubs are going through this.
  2. Make sure your club is preparing a plan (many already are) and will address it before your tryouts. Most clubs have not shared their plans yet because we were all waiting for guidance this week in Baltimore.
  3. Be patient and understand clubs are working on limited information. There are so many issues to deal with beyond your club such as, tournaments, state leagues, U19 divisions, recreational players, etc…
  4. There will be many varied solutions depending on your club and region. There is no consensus among coaches for what to do and no guidance from our ‘leaders’ at U.S. Soccer.
  5. Understand your Directors and Coaches are caught in this, but so is everybody else. When you are emotional remember, your coaches did not ask for this.
  6. Don’t complain. Be supportive. Be part of the solution. Don’t be part of the problem.
Club Directors and Coaches, what can you do?
  1. Do your research. Gather all data you can within your club. Determine how it will affect you.
  2. Confer with all the clubs in your areas and leagues. Share information. Work together.
  3. Be creative. Think outside the box. The answers may be unlike anything you have ever done or thought possible.
  4. Communicate with your parents. Be transparent. Be honest. Start dripping out information as you are able. Don’t throw out information to just throw it out. Take your time, but be ready by tryouts at the latest.
  5. Have a parent meeting when you are ready. Understand they will be emotional.
  6. Realize there will be things you have not considered. Be ready to be flexible if issues come up.
  7. Don’t complain. Work for solutions and present this in a positive way to your parents. Coaches and parents need to buy into making the most of the situation. There will be some short term issues, but you can come out stronger as a club if you are a leader.
U.S. Soccer, what you can do?
  1. Take ownership of your decision and show your faces. Stop hiding. Realize you have set up 10,000 coaches to take bullets because of your decision.
  2. Understand coaches are not your adversaries, we are your backbone and should be your allies.
  3. Realize there are 3 million players who are not going to be on your national teams, but are still part of United States Soccer.
  4. Be leaders who get out in front of the issue. Facilitate a discussion of how to move forward. We know you intended this to help unite, but there are unintended consequences.

A. If you don’t get out front, soccer will splinter further because every recreational and competitive club, every state and league will have to figure out on their own how to deal with this. The solutions will be vastly different and will cause division.

B. Our players with September – December birthdays will be damaged their 8th grade years and their senior years. They could lose two seasons. Players from small clubs will be especially hurt because they have few options for these players.

5. Amend your mandate and tell recreational programs NOT to implement this.

A. If recreational programs implement this, they could lose a lot of players. I believe they could lose as much as 10%.

B. Why do recreational players play? To have fun and be with friends. Friends are those in their grade. It will take a long time to recover if you lose these players. Soccer is not the only game in town.

I know it is a long shot, but here is my request of the powers at U.S. Soccer:

  1. Talk to coaches on the ground; those outside your bubble.

2. Reevaluate whether this change is necessary and in the best interest of U.S. Soccer, all 3 million of us.

3. Be open and if you determine this was a bad decision, be humble, admit your mistake and drop the birth year change immediately. You may believe you would lose respect, but in fact you would gain our respect.

  • Focus on the small sided games and field sizes. Most coaches will back you to work out the kinks on this.

U.S. Soccer take note: There is anger, frustration and confusion. It is not small numbers. It is not a simple majority. It is a huge percentage of coaches. Coaches are not speaking up because you are U.S. Soccer. The unknown coaches feel they have no voice to speak to you and the bigger names fear retribution.

Coaches and parents,

U.S. Soccer may not realize how big of a deal this is and how you feel. Whether you agree or disagree with the new age group decision, here is my last proposal to you:

Every person involved in soccer needs to speak up now. If I am wrong about the mood of you all, support U.S. Soccer’s decision right now. We need the dialogue either way, and we need it immediately.

Every soccer person should do these three things:

  1. Contact U.S. Soccer and let know what you think. Give them support or let them know you don’t agree. Be respectful. It is about ideas, not about personal attacks.

“Have a question or concern? How about something you really like or something that you might not like so much? Let us know. We are always open to your feedback.”

  • U. S. Soccer Federation
  • Phone: (312) 808-1300
  • Twitter: @ussoccer
  • Email: coaches@ussoccer.org

2. Spread this open letter high and wide on social media. Engage conversations all over the country and at all levels of youth soccer. You may share this article to get the conversation going.

3. Use every social media platform at your disposal to facilitate the conversation.

Thank you all for entering into the discussion. We can and will come up with creative solutions. We will come out stronger as a soccer nation.

To my Recruiting Code readers who are not attached to soccer, thanks for listening in.

Bryan Drotar

 

120 thoughts on “U.S. Soccer Breaks the Glass

  1. I disagree. I feel like US Soccer’s previous age bracket definition keeps US Soccer players on an island. Why not incorporate US Soccer into the rest of the world, who have been playing soccer a lot longer than the US?

    Also, on your first point, at least in my area, younger age brackets don’t generally play in the winter league. The coach might set up a futsol league, or a tournament or two for the off season, but in our area, Fall league ends in November and Spring league soccer resumes in March. Plus, a percentage of the more competitive players for the older league brackets opt out of high school soccer and continue on for the Winter league. This is due to the varying level of skill set on the high school teams. It is fairly common for a player with more ‘heart’ than ‘talent’ to take out a strong player who has been playing club soccer for years. Anyway, my point there is that I’m sure an ambitious 8th grader could find a winter league soccer team to play with.

    On the second point, regarding Seniors who have birthdays sometime between Aug -Dec, at least in our area, our clubs need to combine all high school aged players onto an ‘A’ team and a ‘B’ club team to offset the ravages of atrophy in this age bracket. So the trend has been to have the ‘high school’ aged girls play on either team, or both and the team age bracket is set to the oldest age to incorporate all players.

    So, unless your area varies greatly from my area, both of your points don’t really indicate any problems if US Soccer aligns with the rest of the world. If your area is different, then, ah, never mind hee her!

    1. Thanks for the comment. Dialogue on both sides of the issue is important. I am glad it will work out well in your area. There are many areas of the country and many individual clubs that are struggling to find good answers to these questions.
      Bryan

      1. In some parts of the country there is even another time these players are going to get left behind. Where I’m from, in Northern California, junior high/middle school soccer is participated in as widely as high school soccer. Not only are the young players on a team left out in 8th grade, when their older teammates go off to play high school soccer, they’ll also be left without a team in 5th grade, when their teammates enter middle school and take a season off to play with their middle school team.

      2. Bryan,

        Thanks for calling all of us confused parents “too stupid…” Clearly you are an arrogant person both on and off the field, and clearly you are not a leader. Comments like those are not how you start open dialogue. To those of us who played other highly competitive sports, such as travel hockey, we didn’t have such “confusing” age conformity issues. I welcome the change as my son was/is a trapped player. It does level the playing field in some regards with concern to body maturity.

        1. Thanks for your note. If you will read the article carefully, I was saying that US Soccer is implying that parents are “too stupid” to understand the age groups. I think parents are plenty smart enough to figure out the age groups.
          I am glad for your son that the change will help, but I do disagree that it levels the playing field. It merely shifts the calendar year. There will still be older and younger players.
          Thanks,
          Bryan

    2. Sara,
      1. Where do 8th graders play in the Fall season?
      2. Your scenario for high school works if the club does a U19/18 combination, effectively eliminating the U18 age group, and gin with a U19 and U17 configuration. Problem is, no communication has been made on this and most have not figured it out yet. But, dual age groups kind of go against the rationale for the change, doesn’t it?

    3. Sara,

      This is a big deal to the 97% majority of players that will NEVER play at a high level of soccer. For example, In my area, 75% of our youth soccer stated in a recent survey to our teams that the #1 reason they play soccer is to “play with my friends.” Well, now US Soccer has implemented a restriction that will eliminate the opportunity for little Johnny to play with his friends because he was born in Sept and his friends were born in January and February of the following year… Never mind that they are in the same class and only a few months apart in age, Johnny is older and can’t play with those friends now.

      Ok, that’s a hypothetical situation, but it is happening all over the country. A real life situation that my club is facing: I will now have 8 players that will be in 8th grade, but they are U15. And then I will have another 8 players that are U15, but they are going to be playing HS as they are now 9th graders. So… In my opinion, US Soccer has completely ignored grade-levels and High Schools with this change. So…what do we do? I’ve talked to about 100 coaches and directors this weekend in Baltimore… Everyone with a different idea or answer. A bit more guidance and problem resolution from US Soccer would have been nice.

      Now, on to the small-sides games initiative… For the state organizations that were not already on a small-sides system, well yeah, it was a good move to mandate these changes for them, they are clearly behind. However, for the past 18 years, my U10s were playing 6v6 on a 35×55 field. This has allowed players more touches on the ball, adequate time for decision-making, and a great transition game. But now US Soccer is telling me to add more players to a smaller field?! Now I need to play 7v7 on a max field of 30×47?! What!?! So just because I had the time and the players, I decided to analyze this change… Going from 6v6 to 7v7 and from a 35×55 field to a 30×47 field, here is what I found:

      – 14% less touches per player
      – 17% more times the ball was out of play
      – 8% more fouls
      – 11% more shots (which is good, but 9% less shots on target)
      – 2 additional goals scored

      These weren’t the figures I was really hoping for when someone told me that these changes were going to “increase development.”

      Dear US Soccer, please show me the statistics you found and the research you completed for these changes. I find it really hard to just follow someone’s word blindly… Show us the research, then we can talk.

      1. As I read this and the comments I see a preponderance of comments around breaking up competitive teams. To me that signifies why this change is needed because the focus is misplaced. To me the focus has to be the development of the player. Players don’t develop based on what grade they are in but based on their physical age.

        We worry too much about winning in sports and whether my son or daughter will get that college scholarship rather than then the enjoyment of the game.

        The fact is that the birth year change and the small-sided field dimensions take the focus away from “winning” and to development.

        I also bristle at the fact that all coaches are up in arms about this. During my C Licensing course – when this announced (a month before USSF’s official announcement) – all the instructors (State-Level DOCs) and 40 coaches hailed this as “about time.”

        If there is an issue I have is that USSF isn’t making itself available to answer questions and quell concerns. At my club we got out in front of this. Met with all of our parents and held training sessions based on the birth year and the feedback we’ve been getting is that clearly communicating the changes, having a plan of action and getting out in front of it have aided in insuring our parents and players are less anxious about it.

        The study people cite that kids want to play with their friends showed that the number 1 reason kids want to play sport – to HAVE FUN. When we parents get in the way of things and complicate it – that’s when they don’t have fun.

        My youngest son is a U8 Travel player. He will by virtue of his birth miss playing U9 and be bumped up to U10 in the next season. He started training with players who will be U10 next season and not only did he hold his own – he had fun – which as a coach and parent was all I was concerned about. It’s all we should be be concerned about.

        Read the book “Play to Learn. Learn to Play.” It will give great insight into these changes.

        1. I agree 100%…kids can always make more friends, parents on the other hand have issues with this. You can never get rid of REA no matter where you draw the line.. develop the kid not the team.. it is easier to do when you volunteer vs. getting a paycheck on the backs of kids sports…

        2. USSF has stated the objectives of the player development initiatives as it relates to the Birth Year Registration are to 1) Align with the international standard and 2) combat relative age effect. Not everyone internationally applies this structure, most notably amongst those that don’t are England where their cutoff is September 1, so that is a misnomer and misinformation. Additionally, there is zero evidence that these changes will cure the relative age effect, it is simply going to shift it. US Soccer is talking out of both sides of its mouth. They indicate that teams are able to play up and that is good for development. Well, based on how they have it now, the players born January through March will go from playing against some older kids (born August through December) to playing all younger kids. That’s contradictory. Ultimately, my biggest concern is that this change is being heralded by US Soccer as helping with player development. How can that statement possibly even be said in earnest when it is taking away time that players have to develop? Michael you said yourself that your son will miss his entire U09 year of development. Does that not concern you? Does it not bother you that when he is in 8th grade he won’t have a competitive club team to play on for half the year because his teammates will be playing high school ball? Does it not bother you that when he is a senior he will not have a club team to play on for half of the year because his teammates have graduated? Is there a reason this could not have been grandfathered in so that 48% of the youth population (estimated and using figures that others have used in articles and publications speaking out on this change) does not have to sacrifice two years (the one they are skipping and the cumulative effect lost when teams are not playing) of their youth careers? Can anyone honestly say that is in the best interest of player development and way too big of a price for kids to play when this is being implemented only for the top <1% of players who are already in development academies where this is the age group structure? If we did this to the education system in this country people would lose their minds!

          1. Agree totally with your comment as admin and manager for competitive club/teams for many years I feel the majority of youth soccer players are being sacrificed for the tiny minority who might be looked at for regional and national teams. Players are going to be jumped two age divisions in many cases and this WILL be a loss in development. I believe it will be difficult when you may have half of your 8th graders left behind, in many clubs there will not be enough spots open to accommodate them on another team and they will miss at least an entire season of play. Will also happen again their senior year.

        3. I have been reading a lot of comments from various sites on this subject and I find people that are okay with the mandate belong to very large clubs. The probabilities are higher that your children will have a good coach, play with some friends and be on a competitive team. This change will not have much an effect your club or child. However I believe very large clubs are in the minority.

          1. Bobby,

            You are correct. Large clubs will weather this change with little problem. Many in those large clubs do not see the impact on smaller clubs and communities. There are also states such as California and Texas with winter high school seasons that don’t interfere with club as much and have high population densities. They won’t be affected in the same way as most of the country.
            Great comment.
            Thanks,
            Bryan

      2. AJ, I totally agree…and my Dec 06 daughter is going to miss out on a whole year of smaller sided games, due to these changes. She is a U9 now would have been U10 next year and played 6v6 in our area. Instead, she skips U10 and goes straight to U11 and 9v9. I’m very disappointed with these changes and the effect it will have on my daughters development.

        1. In my opinion, they have not adjusted the small sided age groups to reflect the “new”(October) birth year matrix. Small sided should shift up a year so U13 and U12 will be 9v9. Don’t get caught up in thinking that your child is jumping from U9 to U11. I know on paper it looks like that at the moment. The progression continues at one year increments, they are just calling the top group U19 instead of U18. Everything works “up” a year from the top. My current U16 daughter “jumps” to U18 next year, but doesn’t skip a year of playing, she just goes from the oldest on the team to the youngest. This applies to Aug-Dec kids. Jan-July current U16’s go to U17 next year, provided they don’t keep the team together and all play U18.

    4. I agree. The people who are complaining the most seem to be the people with the oldest kids on the team. I’ve always had the youngest players on the team. That aside we had 4 “older” players on our team who started high school in the fall and our team could not play in the fall because of that. It works both ways. My younger one’s team has 5 “older” players, two of whom will be going to high school next year, leaving their team with the choice of not including them for next season or adding more girls to the roster so that in the Spring they can rejoin the team. Everyone needs to stop panicking and just accept that this is happening. Seems to me that some folks “held back” their kids for athletic advantage and are now upset that the advantage is being taken away. Suck it up people, it will work out.

      1. this isn’t about being “held back”… This is about 5th graders being forced to play with 6th graders. My kid has an October birthday. Yes, he has the advantage now and I’m upset about him losing that.

        What I’m more upset about though is that I have to tell him that he can’t play with his team next year, that instead he will have to try out for what is essentially a 6th grade competitive team that has already been playing competitive for a year.

        He’s going to tell me that he wants to try out for the 5th grade football team instead.

      2. This has nothing to do with having kids who were once older, now having to compete being the youngest. What has me concerned is us soccer is going to miss out on a lot of kids by mandating clubs go to birth year. ODP and national Id training have always been by birth year. Having club soccer aligned with school year, gives those August-December players a chance to be top of the age group. I think as a whole, it was a good way to identify stronger players who happened to be born later in the year. Now the identification process will miss out on a lot of these players. Players who were before considered “younger” had the benefit at being at the top of the odp and national id age group.
        It is unfortunate that we are in such a hurry to align ourselves with European countries, that us soccer makes foolish decisions. The top 1% of kids have always been competing by birth year – us development academy, Olympic development program, and national identification program. Now, the 99% of soccer players will be dramatically impacted by a rash decision.

      3. I can promise Katherine it is not a case of wanting competitive advantage. I am happy for players to play against older kids. What I am not happy about is that they are forfeiting chunks of their youth careers that they can never back. Universally the response at the NSCAA convention a few weeks ago was against this movement for that reason. Your scenario where your team did not play because you had four older players in high school is not the norm, it is an extreme exception. In most cases those older kids are in the same grades as the kids they playing with; your team must have been the rare circumstance where those players started school early. How would parents react if nationwide a change was implemented in the education system that resulted in players losing half of their education in the 8th grade and again in the 12th grade? Would parents accept that it was going to make them smarter? That is, in effect, what these changes are doing and why out cry. Before telling people to suck it up or just accept the changes, think about the analogy to your child’s development and education and how you would feel if it were your kid.

    5. Sara,

      I believe the situation in you area to be the minority. I could be wrong, but my area is going to be in a world of hurt when it comes to the 8th graders and seniors. Our players will lose two seasons of play, unless they change this decision.

    6. Sara Yes – agreed. However I believe (like many others) …. it should be phased in, starting with U7 and grandfather teams who have played together for years. Why should my OCT son bypass U13 and my SEPT son bypass U11. Meanwhile – be torn from the teams they have played with for many years.

    7. I am sorry Sara; not sure where you are from, but in Kansas City, kids play competitive indoor soccer (and I’m talking both sessions) as young as 7 years old.

  2. Bryan I agree with what you are saying. My daughter plays at a large club and has an Oct bday. She is not a YNT player but loves to play soccer. Now half of her team will be gone and she maybe be dropped to a lower team. It is very hard not to get emotional when you are talking about your child. I heard that there is a percentage of players on the team that must be the correct Birth year and the rest of the the players can be younger. Ex: 70% (99) / 30% (00). Is this true?
    Another thing, it is just not parents that have children with birthdays Sept to Dec that are upset. I know parents that have Jan birthday children that are not happy. These girls now lose all their friends and start a new. Most girls play the sport because they love it and love their teammates, not because they want to make a NT roster.

    1. Yes, there are going to be a lot of players who get split from their friends. Research shows that two of the top reasons children play sports is to be with their friends and have fun. I would encourage you to share this with your entire team and club; and every one of you light up US Soccer’s phone line on Monday and spread this all over social media.
      Your question about the percentage of players who have to be in their birth year is a great one, one which should have been answered. This is an example where every state association and league is going to have to make their own policy with no guidance.

      1. Bryan, players who want to play with their friends are either the younger groups (who will not be affected) or the rec players (who will not be affected). Older players who play competitive don’t care for friendships as much because they almost compete with each other on the same team – who will make it to the next level.

        1. What do you mean that younger players won’t be affected. Of course they will. I coach in a club and we are a pretty decent team (U11) but, that being said, we don’t really have any kids that likely will have a career in soccer beyond high school. These kids are crushed that the team will be broken apart and no, I don’t put winning above individual development. We’re in a small club which means several of my current players either lose their 8th grade fall seasons in a couple years or we lose them to one of the larger clubs. I would argue that the majority of smaller clubs feel this way. It certainly won’t affect the larger clubs in our area as much that treat soccer as a business but, the clubs like ours exist because many parents don’t want that environment for their children.

      2. I don’t see this as being as big of an issue on the competitive side. For teams that are playing travel but just playing for fun (love of the sport) rather than higher aspirations (college) this might be a greater concern. Our club has a rec league and the recreational side was already using the school calendar for our state rather than the soccer calendar that the travel teams use. This will not change.

        However, when it comes to playing with friends, that is hit or miss. Our club holds a draft or assigns teams for competitive purposes. And since we have kids from various cities and schools (around 1500 kids in our rec league) you might end up on a team with 3-4 classmates or with a bunch of kids you have never met before. Relationships are usually build during the season BECAUSE you are on the same team rather than being pre-existing. You could end up with classmates on your team that you don’t like just as easily as with those you do.

        I don’t think it will effect the growth of soccer at all. If anything, we seem to be pulling a lot of kids in the last few years who might have played football but whose parents were scared off by the concussion issue. Baseball also seems to be dying a slow death on the recreational side (though the travel program is stronger than ever).

        1. Scott,

          Thanks for the great comments. What do you see as the real benefits to the change? I have no doubt soccer clubs and associations will adapt and “survive”. I cannot see and have not seen a good argument for making the change. Short term problems have never been my concern. I know there is a lot of emotion about teams being pulled apart. Those issues can be dealt with and will be behind us in a year. I am most concerned about the 8th and 12th graders whose counterparts are a year ahead of them in school. This will be an ongoing problem for many regions and clubs (not all). Unless there are compelling long term benefits to changing the calendar year, why should it be done?
          Thanks Scott!
          Bryan

          1. August 1st is an arbitrary construct. If we take your argument to the extreme for the sake of the 8th and 12th graders then the soccer cutoffs should match school cutoffs in the below matrix.

            Kindergarten Entrance Age (March 2014)
            Jul. 31 – Hawaii (effective 2014-15), Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota
            Aug. 1 – Arkansas, Indiana
            Aug. 15 – Tennessee (effective 2014-15)
            Aug. 31 – Arizona, Delaware, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Washington
            Sept. 1 – Alabama, Alaska, California (effective 2014-15), Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin (19 states)
            Sept. 10 – Montana
            Sept. 15 – Iowa, Wyoming
            Sept. 30 – District of Columbia, Louisiana, Nevada, Virginia
            Oct. 1 – Colorado, Kentucky (Aug. 1 in 2017-18), Michigan (effective 2014-2015)
            Oct. 15 – Maine
            Jan. 1 (of the school year) – Connecticut
            Local education agencies decide (the state may set a date range) – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont

            Source:
            http://ecs.force.com/mbdata/mbquestRT?rep=Kq1402

  3. Great piece…..finally someone else is exposing the same fears as I…..but I think the hit will be more then 10%….and each year you get a u8 rec player moving to u9 competitve….and she finds out she will be trying out against girls a grade older…she may very well decide to do Lax, softball, cheerleading, or somthing else insted of soccer. This will be a reacurring theme each year, the sport stands to take a huge hit.

    Icing on the cake: the only other youth sport in our country with a Jan cutoff? Baseball. And by the way, after a two year study, US Little League annonced a few months ago that..yep, you guessed it…they are moving to the August 1st cutoff in 2018. They fell this move will help them gain and attract players due to the fact that now the boys will be able to play with their classmates….

  4. It truly amazes me that US Soccer won’t consider starting birth year change for U8 teams and phase in over time allowing current U9 and above to be grandfathered at current system.

    1. Or at least start the phase in at U12. Teams older than that can go on to compete as they currently are. It’s crap to me to suddenly break up all of these teams and friends because an idiot at the top of US soccer thinks it would help them be in line internationally…who gives a crap about our alignment with international development programs…99% of the players never make to international play, so why does it matter??

    2. Oh my god yes…all other changes could occur and if they had just been aware enough to realize this was the “perfect” solution to the changes they want made, very little issue would have been taken with it.

  5. It’s about money and how can people get more of it. US Soccer has implemented a lot of changes, see development academy system, and we are still no better now than we were then. US soccer needs to realize that the best athletes in our country play basketball and football. In other countries, they don’t have those options. US soccer does what is best for US Soccer and that is a new development since Gulati took over. They could give two cents how their decisions affect others, just so long as it benefits them. Gulati ascended to his position by riding coat tails of guys like Hank Steinbrecher bye started as an errand boy. Get rid of him and Klinsmann and start over from the top down

  6. I’ve got to admit that I haven’t cared about the politics of US Soccer until this was announced. It seems clear to me that they have their own interest at heart and not individual players. As for me and my club, it is will be my recommendation that we continue using the August to July cutoffs and have our January-July kids “play up”. As a previous respondent said, Little League tried it and it failed miserable and I fear the same for youth soccer in the US. With the unprecedented growth in US Soccer, this is a bad time to alter the formula that has gotten us where we are today, there are just too many options in the youth sports world for kids to compete.

  7. What is your question? What answer do you want? What help are you looking for? Support yourself and your kid. Tryouts are supposed to be full of anxiety. Just go to the tryout for your age group. If you want to try to make an older team, try it. Relax – it’s just a kids’ game. And history fans know that during youth soccer’s greatest growth years, the birth date was a Jan. – Dec. calendar.

  8. My U10 boys team already fell apart in December. My son has an April birthday. This month our boys with an August-December birthday already moved up to the next year. Four players were left behind. My son was one of those & opted to quit playing & try wrestling. My 14 year old son is a September birthday & he does not want to play if he has to play against kids that are a grade ahead of him. He is also trying out wrestling & will start trying rugby soon. Thanks US soccer for forcing kids out of the game. I am glad we will no longer be apart of your snobby organization!!

    1. Wow. Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry to hear this because soccer is such a wonderful game. Your family is not alone. I have been hearing from parents and coaches all day long on Facebook, email and private messenger with similar stories and situations. I hope they have wonderful experiences with the other sports and have fun!
      Thank you,
      Bryan

  9. Couldn’t agree more. Why not grandfather it in?

    US Soccer trying to catch up to the rest of the world???

    The tied a team who plays their home matches on the infield of a track stadium. They have bigger fish to fry than this.

  10. US Soccer is concerned only with the top elite talent and this change is a reflection of that. Most of the kids who play soccer never make it to the highest levels, as with most sports. Only a fraction of the kids playing will every play High School soccer, even less will ever play College…It’s only a tiny fraction of those that play college that will ever make it to the professional ranks. These changes are pointless and only hurt the vast majority of kids. My daughter plays for a large club here in TN and her team has been playing D1. She is a September birthday. She is now facing being split up from almost all of the players she has played with for the past several years. For her, this change means basically moving up a year. She is now going to be playing mostly with girls who have been playing 1 year up in age group from her. She is U14 right now, but will now be playing into primarily a group of girls who are playing U15 right now. She is frustrated that she is being made to leave her friends and now play in an older division and no one can give a reasonable explanation as to how this is going to help. It is very frustrating as a parent who is shelling out thousands of dollars a year for club soccer.

    Its the unfortunate reality of the society we live in. The few in power make selfish decisions that in many cases have negative effects on the masses.

    1. Completely agree…there should be a NATIONWIDE strike to complain about this nonsense. TALK TO THE MEDIA…SPREAD OUR CONCERNS OUT…MAKE NOISE…

      The solution could be easy…create a TOP division with the BEST players and let them follow this age matrix…for all the others, phase it in starting implementing it in U10 or U11 this year…let the others remain the same if they wish…

      1. Vincente,

        I would appreciate any noise you can make. Please use any connections you have. I have reached out to some media, but no big takers yet. Feel free to direct them my way if you need to. I would suggest you get everybody you know to call and email US Youth Soccer and US Club Soccer. The USSF is not going to budge. The youth organizations are where the pressure needs to be applied.
        Let me know how I can help you.
        Bryan

  11. I think I could be more accepting of the change if there was a clear upside. But where is it? National team and ODP/ID recruiting is already based on birth year. For these purposes, the age bracket of a player’s club team is meaningless—as is the player’s hometown, club affiliation and grade. Why turn the system upside down for such a small, small percentage of the players? Do any players benefit, or is it just making things ever-so-slightly more convenient for national scouts? College scouts recruit by class, so this does nothing for them, right? With no upside other than saying you are [dubiously] on par with “the world,” it just doesn’t make any sense. Such a change will likely discourage many players, prompting them to quit the game prematurely, while in no way encouraging or attracting players.

    I say this as a parent of three children born early in the year. Yeah, I’ve read Gladwell’s “The Outliers,” and I get it. Some of the strongest players on my oldest’s elite team tend to be September-December. But at some point, school year (regardless of whether or not kids go to different schools) becomes a huge part of their identity. While not a problem for big clubs and organizations, abandoning 8th graders and seniors will be a big (and unnecessary) problem at some point for many clubs. In my oldest’s case it will potentially divide a top high school club team where the older and younger players would both be joining weaker groups of players when classified by birth year. In the end, the youngers will play up so that they retain their team, and this won’t really hurt them, but I can’t help but ask “why???”

  12. This entire soccer coaches are “up in arms” and “kids will be hurt” theory is ridiculous. I am stunned about how many kids switch teams every year. You cant keep track season to season. So keeping teams the same…very few if any remain the same anyway. Nearly every country plays in the Jan. 1 – Dec. 31st – we are just joining every other country that are already using that time frame. Kids that played on a U14 team this season, half the team members were in 9th grade and the other half of the team were in 8th grade. You wouldn’t believe it by reading this but we did it! And starting next year when everyone is in 9th grade or 10th grade we wont play in the early fall….you can play for your HS team!

    The older player – younger player theory….right now if you are born on June/July you are the youngest. Are those kids being hurt, penalized for being so young and a part of the ridiculous August 1st cut off date (who came up with that day anyway?) But now the September -December kid who has been the oldest kids on the team and maybe in an older grade as well – will now be the youngest on the team. So that isn’t fair to them, but it was fair to the kid who has been the youngest and a grade below their entire experience of playing soccer. News flash – the kids have been doing it and they are OK. Really they are.
    Which means once again it is the parents.

    My point – January 1st – December 31st is the way nearly the entire world is doing it and the US is just joining the rest of the world in using those dates. Teams changing? They change constantly. What about Coach John Doe that cuts a kid to take another kid. That change of the team is acceptable? Don’t you think that is a little more crushing to a kid?

    It will never end. Someone is going to be happy and someone is going to be unhappy. Teams are going to change ever year they way they always do – by parents taking their kids to other places and coaches cutting kids.

    The US is not creating this never seen before date – it is simple – Jan. 1st through Dec. 31st and joins the rest of the world. It will take a 1/2 a season to adjust. “Kids just want to play and have fun” – as some coaches and parents say…exactly – so it isn’t fun if they play with a few different kids? Or maybe Mommy and Daddy are seeing their kid lose what they see as an advantage being older or love the team they are on for themselves because they play the position they want them to play. Kids are resilient and will adjust. They have seen their teams change throughout their careers and it will continue to happen with this change.

    1. “””so it isn’t fun if they play with a few different kids?”””

      If the kids I know are a representative sample, they will have fun playing other fall/spring sports where they will get to place with their classmates (aka friends).

    2. For this past season, having a team made up of two grades(your 9th and 8th graders) would be a rare exception in most places. For the most part the current 97’s are seniors, 98’s juniors, 99’s soph’s, 00’s freshmen. Of course, there are a handful of young juniors or soph’s playing 99 and 00 now.

      The real problem is that they are aligning to do this with the international standard, but only really looking at true international competition which runs calendar year with finals in the Fall. Not seasonal year like youth soccer. For example, U-17 Girls WC in fall of 2016, the cutoff is 1/1/1999, you can’t be older than that. The first age chart that they released in August mirrored this age group. But US Soccer changed it in October, probably because they quickly realized very few would ever make it to U18 before graduation.

      RAE concerns? It doesn’t eliminate it, it just shifts it. It will always be present. Tab Ramos “easier to identify talent” BS. Just ask the coach when #7’s birthday is.

    3. Yes there are changes every year and yes teams do evolve but no where near the level that these changes will cause. Every team is being reshuffled at the same time. The smaller clubs are especially affected by this. Suddenly there are not going to be enough kids to field many teams due to the changes. The smaller clubs already have issues keeping numbers for teams. Those kids could look to move to a different club but I guarantee many try a different sports or focus on a sport they already play and drop soccer. It’s not as simple as accept it and get over it. I don’t know the breakout of large clubs to small but I have to imagine the small clubs have a very significant number of kids if not the majority. Many many kids are going to be turned off by these changes and simply walk away from soccer.

    4. Take this scenario . U15 player has a Feb birthday and plays for a Div 1 team. Next year, my kid will be a U16 player playing for a Div 2 team. The Sept – Dec kids keep the Division 1 Status and will play as a U17 team. How is this fair to push 2/3 of the team to a lower division when the team earned the Division 1 status ? There is not recognition for Div 2 teams at the age of my kid. The kid will not qualify for any tournaments what allow college coaches to see our kids. There has got to be a grandfathering in to help the kids.

      1. I have heard this about a dozen times from parents in the past day. This will disrupt the recruiting process for a lot of kids. And it will take away something they have earned. It is a hard pill to swallow.
        Thank you for sharing your experience.
        Bryan

    5. Tell that to my daughter who’s entire team will play together after her senior year and she will be left out or play for a different team. Oh by the way her team has been (the core group)together since u11. She is devistated when she found out this spring will be her last year in Club play with her team.

    6. Not sure how some don’t see the issue here. I agree that teams change on a very regular basis, which some may have an issue with or not. But the real problem is that by switching this age cutoff, more percentages of kids are affected. Yes with the current cut off there are those that are affected (here in illinois any August birthday player, plays at a younger age group). But with the new cutoff there will be much greater percentages affected. I.e, for Illinois, instead of just August it will now be players born in September thru December that are affected, meaning going into their 8th grade year, if born in the months Sept.-Dec., they will not have a fall team to play on because the clubs shut down the teams, for the fall, that have high school age players. I agree with all the others that have pointed out that ODP and other high level squad are already aligned….lets leave it at that!

  13. If I was being cynical then it seems to me that this would be a great way to affect High School and College soccer if you had no control over those governing bodies. It would also greatly affect the bodies who roster and insure players as well and maybe force them into doing what you want versus what they do today. Think about this, a seasonal year today runs Fall to Spring, yet under this new model for example in the Fall a player will technically be a true U13 but come Jan they will be a U14 so they get lumped into the U14 age bracket. Now if we move to Spring Fall seasonal year then tryouts would need to be later as they are with ODP but then on Jan 1 a U14 would be a U14. Looking at this on paper this would make a lot of sense if you are going to do this. Maybe this is just USSF trying to get there own way over the people who technically they have very little control over. After all they have tried to work with HS and NCAA but have so far gotten nowhere. If this is why and cynical me thinks it is then shame on on USSF…….

  14. Let’s say the most effective players on a team are born between August and December. We move those up, and then we have to replace them. Who do we replace them with. The strongest players on the second that are of age or the August-December from the younger team.

    Effectively you are going to take the best players from one team and replace them with the best players from the younger team. The best payers from the younger team are not going to be as strong as the best players from the older team. This means the standard of play across the board has dropped. Players in the Middle will look at their team and say, “I was playing with the these good kids, and now I play with the not so good kids, I think we should find another program.”

    Players will be forced to play up an age level.

    Relative Age Effect is a formulate opinion based on a collecting minimal amount of information. Yes their is a good correlation but it’s not an exact science. Find me the extensive peer reviewed articles and journals an I may listen more.

    RAE does not account for the other variables such as…
    Birth order
    Age group the player played in.
    Environment the player grew up in
    Exposure to the game at all levels and abilities with relatives playing the game.
    Whether the player played a position specific role.
    Did the player train 2 nights a week and a game at the weekend like most
    of our soccer player.
    How much they played and who with.

    This is just a few, I am sure there are much better, sociologists and researchers out there than me!!

    I hope they make the u-turn on this.

  15. As a concerned coach and parent, I created an online petition at Change.org entitled “Sunil Guloti, Tab Ramos and all of US Soccer…Please do not change the age registration calendar!!!”
    If you are opposed to the changes coming, take a moment to “sign” the petition which will generate a note to Sunil Guloti, President of US Soccer, Tab Ramos and some others asking for consideration of amendments to the proposed policy.

    Petition: http://tinyurl.com/j9ptk3c

    Very important, please share this out to as many as possible… through Facebook, directly through email to concerned coaches and parents (not matter where in the country they are), Instagram… and ask everyone to play it forward. With the speed of the internet and the power of social media, we should be able to get the message out loud and clear, from across the country, ahead of US Soccer’s General Meeting at the end of February.

    If anyone has ideas regarding how to get attention and dissuade this change, I’m happy to chat.

    Regards,

    Dave Tobias

  16. Great column, but a year too late. They are now already in place for the soccer year. Last year everyone knew it was coming, but the details were still being worked. Unrealistic to ask them to change their minds now. Where were you last year?.

    Cain

    1. Actually I was hoping with the changes there would be a plan in place and advice for implementation. I have been preparing my club and hoping U.S. Soccer and my state would be able to offer guidance and assistance. I finally wrote this when I was sure there is no plan, help or advice coming.
      Thanks,
      Bryan

      1. What kind of plans are you hoping for? During this years tryouts your birthday determines your age group just as in previous years only now the bracket has shifted to a single calendar year. What kind of additional guidance would clubs need?

        Unless you are hoping for “grandfathering” or “waivers” or “exclusions”, etc, this seems pretty straightforward. Having a rotating scale where some teams are Aug-Jul and some are school year to implement it gradually might help existing teams but only adds to the paperwork and confusion.

        The only issue with clubs needing assistance would probably be with the small sided changes as far as field sizes. And these mainly will effect the regions of the country that decided to never implement the suggested guidelines. The main logistical issue now will be gaining uniformity in the sizes of fields. I’ve seen 6v6 played on both huge fields and tiny fields . . . in the same state with the same teams because of the availability of space. Making ALL fields for all age groups roughly uniform would be a step in the right direction in my opinion.

        1. Scott,
          For my club we have done our due diligence and worked through how to make the changes. The problem our club and many clubs around the country are trying to deal with is that those players who are born September – December will be 8th graders when their teammates are 9th graders (playing the high school season) and will be 12th graders when their teammates have already graduated. For these two years, it leaves these players without a team unless the club can figure out what to do with them for that season.
          My question to you is not for advice of how to implement.
          It is what are the real benefits to making the calendar change? How does it improve soccer in the U.S.?
          Thanks Scott!
          Bryan

    2. Soccer year doesn’t start until August, at least where we are. Some may be getting ahead of it, maybe CA, but nothing is required until August. I am willing to bet there will some changes. They already “quietly” changed it October. US Soccer doesn’t want to talk about it. If they did, they would have had a presence at the NSCAA this past weekend. Tab said identification basically starts with DA and moves up. So why change all other youth programs for “easier identification” if you don’t plan on looking there.

  17. This is such an unfortunate place to be in for so many extremely talemted players who fall in the August – December period. They didn’t ask to have their soccer dreams smashed but unfortunately that’s what will happen. U13 boys are in the middle of going through puberty and if you are a late bloomer (like my son) this is going to ruin you. He is already much smaller than many early blooming U13’s and now he will have to compete for a spot in a Premier team against boys who are 9 months older than him. What about all the teams who have spent 4, 5, 6 years building a strong team and who have the continuity and chemistry that comes with many years of playing together? Why and how does it make sense to destroy that?
    The most logical thing eould have been for US Soccer to phase this change in over multiple years starting with U 9’s or U 10’s (leaving the older ages to finish out with the “old system”) – that sounds to me like a win-win situation. To me, this new proposal seems to set us up for a lose-lose situation… just saying

  18. This wouldn’t be near the issue if it was phased in at the younger age groups. The big clubs will survive this as they have the numbers to reshuffle the teams without fear of not being able to field teams due to lack of numbers for a particular team. What US Soccer and Klinsmann don’t understand is the options and pressures kids have to play other sports. It doesn’t take much for the kids to go in a different direction away from soccer and this change will do exactly that. Rather than go through the uncertainty and anxiety of trying out for different teams or worrying if they will have enough to field a team many are just going to walk away. Whether it’s try a different sports they’ve never played or put more focus on a sport they already play, large numbers are going to move away from the sport because of this. This will set back US Soccer. The numbers playing soccer will decrease because of the way this is being implemented.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. My son is a current U12 August birthday. He will skip U13 and go straight to U14. In 8th grade he will be without a team as well. He plays on the top basketball team for his school, but soccer is his #1. I fear he will put all his efforts into basketball and leave soccer after these changes. This is all very disheartening.

  19. To paraphrase the movie Moneyball, “If we play like the Yankees in here, we’ll lose to the Yankees out there.” I would argue same can be said of trying to beat Germany in the World Cup. All the recent changes on the Men’s side still have not yielded the success that Bruce Arena had over a decade ago. Furthermore, why are changing the way we develop the female player. I believe the US just had their most dominant world cup performance in 20 years. The problem isn’t development or identification of players, the problem on the men’s side is the top athletes don’t play soccer. Age group change will only make this problem more profound as more U8 boys will opt to play a sport where they can participate with their classmate who is born in a different year. The reason our women are so good is soccer does get the top athletes. More so then Lacrosse and Softball and at very least even with Volleyball and Basketball. Age group change could actually hurt the women’s future talent pool as young females may opt out of soccer before they start playing so they can play with their friends. I would suggest we don’t fix what’s not broken and embrace what the US has to offer and develop a true United States style of play and a developmental plan that fits our culture and our needs.

  20. Such a change needed years of research and slow implementation, it seems youth club DOCs, College coaches and league administrators, as well as MLS representatives, should’ve all been consulted for pros and cons before such a decision was made. But as usual, we all want U.S soccer to be the next best thing yet everyone does things different and how they want from the top down. U.S soccer does things how they want, NCAA does things how they want, Tournaments do their own thing, ID camps do their own thing, High School organizations do their own thing and the clubs and leagues do their own thing. Wake up people, american soccer is no different from corporate organizations, “to each his own”, and this is quite unfortunate.

    Also, how much difference will this age alignment make when heading could possibly be banned from soccer at the most fundamental level.

    We’re going in circle here.

  21. Last time I heard this was about the kids, who has the right to take anything away from them at any level. Top players will still make the National team. Oh ya, I forgot, we already have the best team in the world… Women’s team anyone!!!

    Fix this thing and the men will advance. Get rid of the A.G.E- Arrogance, Greed and Ego. When was the last time you watched the women’s team get into a fist fight on the field, ya, never. U20 men’s, 5 months ago.

    Change the men’s regional/national ODP coaching and see what happens.

    Sorry boys, the girls have figured it out. Time to grow up!

  22. My granddaughter looks forward to being with her teammate friends. This will tear apart friendships. At the child’s level, it is more about this than changing rules to set them up for pro-soccer. It it goes Jan. to Dec. or Aug. to July, there will still be some older and younger. Besides sometimes the younger play better and advance by playing with higher up. Sometimes the younger are even playing better than the older. It balances out!!! Let the kids be kids ….don’t let rules ruin their fun and friendships or none of them will even want to participate.

  23. As a parent, coach and board member of a small competetive soccer club this is going to be a huge issue for us. To me the issue isn’t about certain players having a competetive advantage based on their birthdate. I really could care less about that. Someone will always be at an “advantage”. The problem is with kids missing out on a season or two because of the change. We currently have 3 players on our u13 team born in 2002. Come this fall with the birthdate change they will be too old for the u14 team. (we will have this same problem each year for the foreseable future). What do they do? We have no team for them to play on as all the other 2002 kids will be freshman. They have played with our club since they were u8’s and now will be left out in the cold. The next closest competivie club to us is at least 45 minutes away. While kids playing in big cities may be able to find 13+ kids born from Aug-Dec and still in 8th grade this simply is not the case for smaller towns. Praying US Youth Soccer will come to their senses soon.

    1. Thanks Chris. This is one of my major issues as well. I am not concerned with who is oldest or youngest in an age bracket. That can work itself out. One of the major issues is what to do with the 8th and 12th graders when they are missing the rest of their team to high school or graduation. A couple parents have said in their region, it affects the 5th graders as well when the 6th grader play middle school.
      Please keep sharing this with all your soccer circles and contacting your state associations and leagues to put pressure on U.S. Soccer and also to help you navigate the changes (because they most likely are coming).
      One of our readers has made a petition for anybody to sign. Each time it is signed Sunil Gulati (U.S. Soccer receives an email to his email box). It can be found at https://www.facebook.com/therecruitingcode/. Just scroll down until you find it (a picture of a boy sitting on a ball).
      Thank you all and keep up the communication.
      Bryan

      1. This is exactly right. The shuffling of players and friendships will sort themselves out. Kids will make new friends. The real issue is kids having no team to play on. Grandfathering does nothing to address that.

    2. That problem is very common right now Chris. The only people that have no problem with this are in large clubs with several teams in an age group. They are in the minority.

  24. The problems you identify are ALREADY PROBLEMS for those of us in states where the school year is based on calendar year. Yes, if things stay the same, 3/4ths of my son’s team will graduate and he will be without a team his senior year. As a trainer and parent, yes…the current system is confusing. Is it a big deal that it’s confusing? Not really, but going calendar year certainly makes it simple. I, for one, am for the changes.

  25. The problems you identify are ALREADY PROBLEMS for those of us in states where the school year is based on calendar year. Yes, if things stay the same, 3/4ths of my son’s team will graduate and he will be without a team his senior year. As a trainer and parent, yes…the current system is confusing. Is it a big deal that it’s confusing? Not really, but going calendar year certainly makes it far simpler. I, for one, am for the changes.

  26. My daughter is an August birthday and now will be able to play with her classmates. So I, for one, am looking forward to this.

    That said, I understand the frustration, but also know it is ultimately much ado about nothing. I was a hockey player, myself, and we did something similar about 25 years ago when I was a young player. Similar reactions, but at the end of the day it was a non-issue – just as this will be.

  27. The main problem with this article is that it shows the world how we, in America, focus more on sports in high school than academics. We are the only country who enslave our children to school sports in order to benefit them for college. The rest of the world does it in clubs. High school is all about academics and pe-college preparations. I am glad this change is taking place because may be it will give our sports fanatics something to re-wire their brains and help these kids thrive in a more balanced way. Also, YES it is less confusing to go by birth year (I am so glad it’s happening).

  28. Bryan, thanks for the article.
    To start, I am a USSDA academy player for a team on the midwest, and this is my junior year of high school. However, since I am born November 27, 1998, I am currently the youngest player on my team. Throughout my youth I excelled through club because I played against peers in my actual grade, but in ODP I was constantly against players not in my actual age group (a year is a long time for development in children) and did not progress as equally. The difference between a player born Jan 1 and Dec 31 physically and technically at the younger ages is great, and although US Soccer says they look past this, a recent look at the U17 roster for the Aegean Cup shows zero players born in the last three months of the year 🙁https://twitter.com/usaprospects/status/689126879635193856)

    Next year I will be one of the oldest players on my academy team for the first time all throughout high school, and I wonder if my development would have been greater had I been given a chance to excel with peers of my grade-age.

  29. As a youth coach for 15 years and a D1 college coach I think there is to much concern about these changes. First of all figuring teams have a 50 50 split in ages within the age bracket this will effect at most 9 athletes. I have coached many GU18 and GU19 teams and faced this problem. Filling the roster of the 9 players effected was a bit of a job {as is recruiting in college]. The new players found new friends on the team and these relationships have lasted 15 years after there playing days ended. So don’t be alarmed it all works out in the end.

  30. The simple solution is this, the youth soccer associations out there do not have to comply with US Soccer. Just because US Soccer is “mandating” this change, whatever that means, does not mean US Youth Soccer, US Club Soccer, the State Associations, Soccer Leagues and everyone else have to comply. US Soccer does not run youth soccer in this country. They can not mandate anything. I am on the side that this is not good for the 99.99% of the youth’s playing soccer today. It is probably ok for everyone else. But as we all know in this great country of ours, we do not always do what is best for the vast majority.

  31. “The athletes born in the first four months of a sport’s calendar year are over represented in athletics. If the calendar year for age groups goes from August – July, you will have many more August – December players than April – July players. Guess what happens when you shift it to January – December. You have many more January – April players than September – December players.”…. This doesn’t make sense. If there are more fall born athletes in every “class”… then changing the year boundary definition doesn’t change that ratio.

  32. There’s nothing wrong with the current system other then the fact our best male athletes play other more lucrative U.S. sports. Is there anything wrong with the women’s side other then the fact they don’t get enough funding? Or Waite lately it’s been our high school and college system are bad for developing talent. The women play high school n college soccer they are constantly 1 or 2 in the world. its all about money people open your eyes. In Europe and South America they pay the families, they put your child thru privately school for FREE. But here in the states you pay for both. Now when when your child plays both high school or college here they play for free. Its all about money not the kids.

  33. Guess I’m lucky that I moved on from youth soccer several years ago and don’t have to deal with this. But I’ve been through the mill a few times – coached all levels of youth for 20+ years starting in the early 80’s. A few years in we went through this same painful process in reverse – tearing teams apart to adjust from birth-year to a Sept-Aug seasonal year. A few years later, the seasonal year was again changed, this time to go August to July. All this supposedly so our National programs aligned with the International standard. In the long run, it made no difference, just like this change will.

    I both agree and disagree with the points. There are so many more players now, but there are so many other factors in play. When I started, the norm was the local club with a few teams, and recruiting consisted of the player walking a few blocks down the street to the next playground. This was a big deal then because everyone had just enough players and it caused a lot of migration. Now small clubs are extinct, their best players hoovered up by the mega-clubs that sprung up, and incidentally most of those are hurting because the same happened to them with the advent of academy clubs. But everyone still alive has hundreds or thousands of players, and the ability to shuffle into new competitive teams. In regards to the high school game, US Soccer has taken steps over the last few years to make it irrelevant, so that consideration never entered their conversation. Just like a bad cold, this too shall pass…

  34. The shift doesn’t change a thing. I don’t mind it, though. Except for the headaches it’s giving me as a coach and doc of a smaller club. I think it’s a clear signal from US Soccer that they don’t believe High School soccer is the path for young players to develop. If players stay with clubs they can play the entire year if they want.
    A lot of players want to play with friends but most want to play with players who are at the same level. Especially if they have higher aspirations.
    Finally, age shouldn’t even be a factor. Players should play in the most appropriate environment, which would include playing down in age! Our culture of cheating to win has eliminated that option, though.
    I’m going to keep doing the best I can, whatever the rules may be. 🙂

  35. I actually favor the new mandates (both the birth year and the small sided games). I feel bad for some current age groups that will be adversely effected but future players will not lose a season or two. When they start they will simply start at U9 instead of U8 or U8 instead of U7, etc. Most teams fall apart before the U18 age groups at all but the largest clubs because most kids turn their focus to academics, social activities or preparing for college by this time.

    I coach for a club and every year it seems we have at least a half dozen or so kids who were accidentally placed in the wrong age group for tryouts. Does this mean we don’t know the correct cutoff date? No, but we don’t have a program that sorts this information that often comes in last minute and when you add the potential for human error there always seems to be some mistakes. I’m not saying that making all kids of the same year fall into the same age group will eliminate these mistakes but I’m guessing it will cut down on a lot of them.

    The shifting of the relative age benefit from one segment of months to another seems to be a push in my opinion. I don’t see it as much of an argument for the change (outside of no longer having the dual RAEs we seem to have in the US and having only one like the rest of the world) and absolutely NOT a valid argument against the change.

  36. The 12th grade problem is going to be tough to solve without going to a U19/U18 mix. But, the 8th grade problem can be “fixed”, it is just going to take communication and coordination, which will be the wild card. This year, at least in our state, club is played in the Fall only for U15-U18, basically all high school age kids. That is obviously four age groups. With the new birth year matrix, and the potential 9th/8th grade problem, youth soccer will have to go to five age groups playing only one season(Fall or Spring depending on where you are). This would be next year’s U19 – U15. This allows the 9th graders to play one season of club and one season of high school. The only downside is that 8th graders miss out on playing both Fall and Spring of club ball. State Associations will have to add a U15 State Cup in the Fall and play the five age groups cups next year compared to the four age groups that we just completed. It does save the parents of 8th graders a season of club fees.

  37. In weighing both sides of the issue, I see some comments supporting the change and identifying some small benefits (or at least parity). These small benefits only affect a handful of players and a few coaches at the national level. At the end of the day and summing it all up, this proposed change by and large has an overall net negative impact on youth soccer.

    It is unfortunate that US Soccer has has addressed the needs of a few hundred members (at most) and not the millions that I believe they should supporting.

  38. Your whole article is unfounded. They did the same thing in little league baseball. So your example of you have Jan-Aug 9th graders and Sep-Dec 8th graders where the 8th graders wouldn’t have a team is bogus. They would all be the same league age and thus play on the same team. There is actually a disadvantage for Jan-Apr kids as they will be the youngest in their league age.

    1. The team the 8th graders are missing is when their compatriots are playing for the high school teams. Baseball did make this change. From articles and stories people have been sending me, it has not all been for the positive.
      My question to you is, what advantage is there in making the change. I am still waiting for somebody to tell me what the benefits are.
      Thanks,
      Bryan

  39. Those who have commented that they coach or their kids are on teams that have a mixture of two grades already, are complaining that they are already not being able to play, for example, in the fall because part of their team is older and plays with their middle/high school team. Why did you have them on a team like that in the first place? You were setting yourself up for not having a team to play on in the first place when part of your team was already “playing up”. That being said, my daughter was born at the very end of the calendar year and I’m concerned this will screw her up. She’s had aspirations of playing at least at the college level since she was a little girl and saw her oldest sister playing collegiate soccer. She may be overlooked since she won’t be as physically large as a player born in January. She’s more petite as it is. Now, the cards may be stacked against her. And, I’m concerned about what she will do her senior year of high school. So sick and tired of all of this soccer drama. Just glad this is our last child to go through all of these changes.

  40. Can one of the few people who actually support the birth year mandate please explain to me how this will make a single player a BETTER player?

    Here’s some of the negatives.
    *breaks up existing teams that aren’t good enough to “play up”
    *kids with August-December birthdays now have to play against kids that have 1 more year of experience then they do.
    *won’t affect RAE, it will just shift it.
    *8th and 12th grade issues
    *Kids will not play with classmates
    *Will reduce the number of kids playing the sport. Little league made this same mistake a few years ago and are now changing it back to school year. Because their registration DECREASED.

    So please somebody who thinks this is good, explain why and how it will make kids BETTER players.

  41. My daughter 13 years ( born in April) and son U10 ( born in dec) loved playing soccer in current teams. My daughter has been part of ODP for last few years.
    KIDS IN SAME GRADE LEVEL CONNECT BETTER MENTALLY and at different levels especially when they are young
    With so many choices like football, baseball, basketball, most athletic kids in US don’t necessarily choose soccer.
    My son , who had fun time in previous his team has no place in our club team ( it is at higher level) he was supposed to move . He is all set to quit soccer and is join basketball.

    US soccer should try to make sport more popular, attract more kids to sport rather than worrying aligning to rest of the world. Those very small percentage of kids playing ODP/NT ( my daughter in same category) , were already aligned.

  42. This really does seem like a way for US Soccer to circumvent high school soccer to help academy and club soccer become more prominent. I’m relatively new to the soccer scene, and I never hear of kids being recruited at high school games for any next level opportunities. I hate it for my daughter that she will go straight from U12 to U14, but she is fine with it. We have been speaking to our club’s director to have her train part-time and guest play for friendlies with our U13 team to get her acclimated to 11v11. I asked her about the change, and she said bring it on. She looks forward to competing with the “older” girls.

    From the perspective of D1 soccer, I think it may be overstated about kids missing their friends. My daughter has had to make new friends in each of her 3 years of D1 soccer, because kids either moved to other clubs, got cut, or stopped playing. There is some initial disappointment at the loss of teammates that became friends, but she gets over it, and makes friends with the new girls. I was just happy to hear my daughter’s excitement about increased competition.

    If US Soccer is trying to minimize high school (HS) soccer to facilitate a change in the national soccer culture, then they had to take this step, in my opinion. For those kids that are trying to reach the highest levels (national teams, professional or scholarships), US Soccer may ultimately be helping that future generation of players. Depending on where you are in the country, HS coaches can be very hit and miss. I’m not saying all HS coaches are bad and all club coaches are good, but my limited knowledge shows that more HS coaches are lacking, not to mention the potential resource limitations that some high schools will have due to community size, financial resources, and facilities.

    While I like the idea of them phasing in the calendar age rule, I can understand why it was done in this force-feeding manner.

  43. I understand the “Age” consideration aspect…the way it is now…you have older players (born Aug-Dec) playing in the same group than players born up to July next year…however, that perfectly follows the school age calendar. With this new change of calendar year, you don’t solve the problem…you will still have players born in January in the same group than players born in December on the same year…but more importantly, you are effectively penalizing those “older” current players born in Aug-Dec to skip one full Age Category…if they were playing U13 this year, all of a sudden, in Aug, they will be forced to play in a U15 team, skipping the U14 cat completely…Talented players can (and always could) play on a higher division if they wanted…why penalize the others?

    A change of this nature should be done as a phased in change…think about it…and please RECTIFY AND RECONSIDER.

    Thank you

    1. Vincente,
      I would not worry too much about the skipping of an age group. In reality, this is just semantics. A U19 age group will be added at the top. All kids of the same year are being filtered into age groups that are just titled differently. There are a couple of years with the younger kids that makes them jump in field size and numbers of players on the field, but of all the problems I believe this one is minor.
      Thanks,
      Bryan

  44. With all due respect, I disagree with you – nor am I one of the 3 million people you are speaking on behalf of. Quite frankly, I don’t think your argument considers all of the facts. I live in a town where the school age cutoff is December 31st and our travel program is organized by GRADE. So, what does that mean? It means that my daughter, born December 9, 2003, is in SEVENTH grade and my son, born December 16, 2005, is in FIFTH grade. Currently they are playing travel soccer in the U11 and U13 age brackets. The problem is – not all districts have the same age cutoff. This means that my kids are often competing against players well over a year older than them – sometimes as early as August of the previous year! Even in my own district, it is common practice to “hold back” children born in December. So, even on our OWN TEAMS, there is sometimes a 15/16 month age gape between the oldest and the youngest. It has been completely unfair and unbalanced for years, but have you heard me or others in my position complaining to U.S. Soccer??? Not for a second! The ones who are up in arms over this decision are the people who have always had the oldest players on the field, an advantage they are terrified to lose. Now that their kids are going to be the youngest, everyone is outraged! Everyone is protesting! Everyone has opinions! Yet, no one seemed to have any concerns before – as long as their kid was the one dominating. Why should anyone else matter??? Ironically, this new age mandate doesn’t even change the fact that my kids are, and always will be, the youngest on the field. I can’t change that, and (despite the fact that the Vice President of my travel soccer club suggested that I could’ve held them back) I never tried. They were both born in December and, unfortunately, it’s just the way it goes. The new changes won’t give my kids any more of an advantage, but it will eliminate the DISADVANTAGE that existed when there was no clear age regulation. While it is unfortunate that some kids will be affected, many of whom are friends, I am sure everyone will survive in the end. I am quite certain there are bigger issues in the world.

    1. Bottom line is that these changes do not affect everyone in the same way, but a majority of the country has school cut-off in August or September and therefore mirrors the current soccer age groups. Your state is one of the few that is not on this schedule. On the other extreme are states like Florida and California that play club in the Fall, then high school in the winter, and club again in the Spring. They are not affected as much as the other states with a specific Fall or Spring high school season. Your case is unique in that your kids are young for their grade and even younger for soccer due to the club organizing by grade, not birth date. Soccer aside, I have two girls with October and December birthdays and I preferred that they turn 18 the senior year of high school, not their freshman year in college. A decision we made well before we ever registered for soccer. Also, not quite sure what you mean by there being no clear age regulation currently.

  45. I feel the whole birth year change is about aligning the Relative Age Effect (REA) of players in clubs to the REA that exists in US Soccer youth team selections. What players are benefitting from REA at the club levels now? Clearly it is Aug-Nov. The advantages to players because of the REA is well documented so I won’t go into here but clearly these are not the players US Soccer is interested in getting these benefits. US Soccer wants the Jan-Apr players to get these benefits because that is primarily who they select for their teams and who THEY are developing most. A review of current US youth teams published on their website (where many, but not all, birthdays are listed) clearly shows the REA in their selections. If US Soccer is serious about combating REA, then they should transparently publish the birth months of players on EVERY one of their team selections (not linking BDs to individual players, just the total numbers). But they won’t do that because they don’t want you to see that the VAST majority of their player selections are born in the first two quarters of the year.

  46. It seems to me that it’s the parents of children who already have an age advantage who are the most concerned. Anyone with multiple children – or children with varied birthdates – already knows that some will be the oldest on the team, & others will be the youngest. There’s no way around that. My high school senior plays 3 different sports, & he falls as the youngest, middle, & oldest accordingly. You bet there have been advantages & disadvantages to both: but mostly just advantages. He loves to play competitive AND recreational sports & has made quite a few friends in both arenas along the way. Kids are resilient people. It would appear, however, that parents are much less so. Perhaps the solution is requiring competitive teams & leagues to follow the new standard – based on birth year. Then allowing rec teams participation based on grade. If a child truly wants to play competitively, I promise you, they will adjust! And if a child simply wants to play for fun, they can still do so. Parents really need to think about whom this is actually affecting.

    1. Lynn,

      Though many parents have commented hear about competitive advantage based on where their child is born, that is not the issue. There will always be younger and older kids no matter when the calendar year begins. At issue is the disadvantage long term of players who are in 8th grade while their teammates are in 9th grade and playing for their high school and again when they are seniors and the rest of their team has graduated. For these children, this negatively affects two of their seasons between 8th and 12th grade.
      Also at issue, is why are we making the change? Still nobody has given any benefits for the change.
      “We will survive and we will adapt,” are sad reasons to make such a drastic change.

  47. Both my kids will leave soccer this year as a result of this announcement. They were playing travel soccer with friends in their same grade from town and having a great time. Now knowing they will be on a mixed grade team, that their old team is being broken up and they will have to start all over, they have decided they’d rather not try out. They also play lacrosse and will just focus on that instead. Goodbye US Soccer – hope this works out for you!

    1. Marie,
      My daughter and over half of her team mates have decided the same thing. A team that’s been together for 9 years which I coach will split, we have 9-02 birth years, 8-01 birth years. They will all be freshman in fall 2016, they love the game, they went 8-0 in fall, won a tournament but have no interest in trying out for other teams after working so hard together for all theses year. So they’re losing many players and a coach in my personal experience alone. There is no positive to this decision made for 3 million + players by a handful of US Soccer individuals.

  48. Bryan,

    I appreciate the time you took to put this together. I would say that both of the major problems you outlined exist now, they just reside in a different space on the calendar. Referencing you mention of a shift – the shift exists here as well. If the present Aug-Jul synced up with the school year, than this would not be the case. But it does not and, as you mentioned, this would be difficult to do with the understanding that different school districts utilize different timeframes. As it stands now – there are kids that are either playing with a team a grade younger or having to play up in order to stay with their grade. You pointed this out as a major problem going forward … but that representation is somewhat unfair in that it exists either way.

    1. Rik,
      Thanks for your comment. In a country this big, there are variances, but most of the country is on a September-August school year, which currently makes our August birthdays play in the wrong school year. With the change, it will go from 1/12 of our players who have this problem to 5/12. The impact is substantial and will adversely affect many players.
      Thanks,
      Bryan

  49. Bryan,
    School year and eligibility timeframe to attend school (kindergarten) are not necessarily in sync. In my location (NJ) the eligibility date for kindergarten is Oct 1st. My understanding is that an Oct eligibility date is not uncommon. Born in Sept, at the appropriate age, you may attend. Born after Oct 1st, you must wait for the following year. This would mean Aug-Sept birthdates would not necessarily sync with present standards. The change would shift Aug-Sept to Oct-Dec or 2/12 (1/6) to 3/12 (1/4). Yes – more affected initially, but not as many more as it seems. These were presented as major problems, as if they did not exist otherwise. I am simply pointing out that they did and that the impact may not be quite as substantial. I realize this will adversely affect many players. It will help others, and also not an insignificant amount.

    1. Thanks Rik. I appreciate your clarification in New Jersey. One more question, what do you see as the benefits for changing the birth year? How does it positively affect the clubs and players in your area?
      Thanks,
      Bryan

  50. I saw this on another site and thought it wrapped things up nicely.

    “If you listen to some of the podcasts on soccerwire.com and elsewhere, having reached out to USSF on this issue the overwhelming impression is that USSF thought that all they were doing was making a simple administrative change. They knew some teams were going to break up and some teams would have some of their roster play up to keep teams together but they had not thought the mandate through. They did not realize that it would cause a year of small-sided games to be missed by existing players, that 8th graders were going to have issues, that seniors were going to have issues. They didn’t even think through the fact that a soccer year falls across two calendar years which is why the first chart was so vague. And they originally told everyone it would be discussed and voted on this February but instead changed their mind and caught everyone by surprise by passing it through via their executive board at the beginning of Summer and only telling people after it was a done deal.

    It came as a great surprise to USSF that people were up in arms over the changes. Even their own program, the USDA was pissed off over the changes as they were using the fall year to determine their Uxx level but the new mandates (eventually) specified that the spring year was to be used and that is causing them all sorts of problems with their long term commitments.

    Evey since their first announcement USSF has tried its best to avoid talking about these issues not only with the public but also avoided talking about it with US Club, USYSA, AYSO, SAY, USSSA and so on. In short, no one at USSF wants to take responsibility for the change and won’t even talk about the issues which is why those member organizations started meeting on their own in December as the “Youth Council Technical Working Group” in an attempt to hash through all of these problems on their own. And after another month of failure in getting USSF to talk to them about these issues they went public with their recent statements to that effect in order to try embarrassing USSF into talking to them.

    So for the people here who choose to put their trust in US Soccer, why the hell should we? They have screwed up this mandate from day one, passed it in secret 8 months before they said they would, have refused to even talk to the member organizations about it and have offered zero advice in how to smoothly implement them.”

  51. This has absolutely everything to do with directing the flow of high level athletes AWAY from college. No one says it, because a college education is a must-have in our US society today — unless you play pro sports. Then you have a career for at least 8years (on average in the U.S.). This is how our country differs from other countries and why the birth year will effect such a large portion of our players hoping to play in college.
    “Like it or not, we end up facing the inevitable truth that the development of pro players must be the responsibility of pro clubs. And those pro clubs must also bear the responsibility of making sure that the youngsters who don’t make it are not simply discarded, but have been provided with at least the means to fashion an alternative life.” From a Paul Gardner article explaining the reasons behind the decisions: http://www.socceramerica.com/article/56234/development-academy-players-hit-college-roadblock.html

    Has anyone surveyed the college recruiters to see how they will be handling the changes? My daughter will now play on a team NOT in line with her graduating year, and I am trying to figure out how college coaches will still have space on a team for her graduating class by the time a recruiter will come look at her team (in its new, younger, age bracket).

    1. Holly,
      Thanks for the great comment and sharing the link to the article.
      For the recruiting process, it will be incumbent on families such as yourself to reach out to college coaches your daughter is interested in playing for and letting them know what events she will be at and on what team. College coaches are typically looking at several recruiting classes at once, so they are already looking at older and younger high school teams. This should not be too big of a deal.
      As with the current structure, the most important indicator of finding a college is the player being proactive and keeping in contact with coaches, developing relationships.
      Thanks,
      Bryan

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