US Soccer Player Development Initiatives & Birth Year Changes

April 5, 2016

A few months ago the United States Soccer Federation (US Soccer) announced mandates known as the new player development initiatives that require changes to both Age Groups (known as Birth Year change) and Formats of Play (focus on Small-Sided Games). All mandates are to be implemented by the start of the 2017/18 season, but as a leader in the youth soccer community Challenge Soccer Club will implement the changes for the 2016/2017 season. The two major initiatives are outlined below and are designed to align youth soccer teams across the country and align registration with the international standard.

  • Birth Year Age Groups: Starting 2016/17 teams will be formed by birth year. For example 'Challenge 05' will consist of girls born in 2005 (January 1 - December 31, 2005). Click HERE to view the new Birth Year Age Group Chart.

Using the school calendar for age groups is practiced only in the United States and Canada; all other FIFA members go by the calendar year. Previously, age groups were determined based on players born between Aug. 1 and July 31. The change to calendar year age groups will reflect the calendar year, or Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Players are still allowed to “play up” or play in an older age group. Play ups will be determined by the Challenge Soccer Club Professional Coaching Staff.

  • Small-Sided Games: Modifications to the number of players on the field, field size, goal size and game duration will change in the younger age groups.

Benefit to Small-Sided Games
For players, small-sided games mean more fun, more touches on the ball and more tactical decisions. The style of play will allow players to learn different positions, learn tactics quicker, increase fitness and allow players to be more emotionally and socially involved. Most importantly, small-sided games provide an age appropriate environment.

In addition to Challenge Soccer Club making the above mentioned changes one year before we are required to by US Soccer, the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) and United Soccer Clubs League will also implement the new player development initiatives for the 2016/17 season.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does birth year age groups mean? Birth year means players with play in the age group of the year of their birth. The birth year calendar runs January 1 - December 31.