Birth Year and Small Sided Games


There are initiatives started by the national soccer associations that NMYSA and our league are affiliated with that are currently being acted upon by youth leagues across the country. We have included the text from the US Youth Soccer site to explain these changes.

These relate directly to how we form our teams and how many children we play on the field.



FRISCO, Texas (Sept. 1, 2015) Next year, the world of youth soccer will continue its evolution as all members of U.S. Soccer will begin to transition on two key factors to encourage further youth development. The first change will be the nationwide adoption of Small-Sided Games and the second will be a shift from school-year to calendar year for the age grouping of teams.

With these initiatives, we’re more likely to have players better prepared down the road,” said Tab Ramos, U.S. Youth Technical Director and U-20 Men’s National Team head coach. “With small-sided standards, what we’re trying to do is to help players develop by putting them in an environment where they are constantly involved in the play, and our changes in birth-year registration will make age groups easier to understand, while aligning our calendar with the international calendar.”

US Youth Soccer, the largest member of U.S. Soccer, will assist members with information on these changes through the national office and our 55 member State Associations.

US Youth Soccer director of coaching education and long-time advocate of Small-Sided Games, Sam Snow acknowledged, “Since the mid 1980’s US Youth Soccer has been an advocate for Small-Sided Games. Why? The many benefits to the players and even to novice coaches are clear. With fewer players on the field making quick tactical decisions is easier. Players are in the vicinity of the ball more often which engages them in all four components of the game. The players are realistically exposed to the principles of play frequently. In short, Small-Sided Games will accelerate the development of American soccer players.”

Small-Sided Games

Small-Sided Games will be mandated come August of 2017, with specific changes occurring in regard to alterations to the field size, goals and rules. The result will be a decrease in 11-vs-11 competitions in lieu of more 9-vs-9 and 7-vs-7 competitions. U.S. Soccer will encourage the adoption of Small-Sided Games best practices in August of 2016. US Youth Soccer has been encouraging Small-Sided Games for more than 20 years and most of the 55 member State Associations have adopted the philosophy during that time.

The benefits of Small-Sided Games for players include 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 — creating a more fun and enjoyable game.

Small-Sided Games FAQ: [Download PDF]
Small-Sides Games USSF Standards Chart: [Download PDF]

What we’re trying to do is to help players develop by putting them in an environment where they are constantly involved in the play,” Ramos said. “That could be with the ball and that could be without the ball, but when you make things small-sided, everyone is somehow involved in the play, whether that’s in defending, in cutting angles, in cutting the ball back, you’re always in the play.”

Calendar Year

Effective August 2017, the grouping of players will also change nationwide, with encouraged adoption of best practices in August of 2016. U.S. Soccer will go back to calendar birth years to align with international standards and Youth National Team programs.

US Youth Soccer will implement the best practice of calendar year age grouping for player registration beginning with the 2016-2017 soccer year for US Youth Soccer programs and competitions.

Using the school calendar for age groups is practiced only in the United States and Canada; as 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.

US Youth Soccer, a respected leader in player development for more than 40 years, has seen the evolution of the game and various changes. The US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program has used the birth year for the grouping of players since it was established in 1977. In fact, the James P. McGuire Cup, the oldest trophy in youth sport, awarded at the annual US Youth Soccer National Championships also shows the history of teams named for their calendar year age group.

Calendar Year FAQ: [Download PDF]
Calendar Year Age Matrix 2016-2025 [Download PDF]

“Overall, the two things this accomplishes is it makes things easier and it gets us on the samecalendar with the rest of the world,” Ramos said. “So now it becomes easier to identify for U.S. National Teams and everything else when it comes to international soccer.”

Click here for U.S. Soccer’s official statement on the changes. More details will be provided as available regarding specific implementation for these mandates from U.S. Soccer.

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Hello Lincoln Soccer League!

I wanted to send out a separate email to your league to address compliance issues that have been a problem in the past for Lincoln County and reiterate the recent US Soccer Federation player development initiatives that Lincoln County Youth Soccer League must adhere to.  Let me first start by saying that we are excited that Lincoln County now has a new complete volunteer board of directors and we look forward to a strong member relationship going forward.  That being said, there are a lot of changes that our National governing bodies, the United States Soccer Federation along with US Youth Soccer, have implemented beginning this season as outlined below.  We realize that this will be a transitional year and the new “Player Development Initiatives” will take time to implement and for coaches, players and parents to understand and become familiar with.    It is important to know that these initiatives originated from the USSF and apply to all USSF members, USYSA, (Our national governing body), AYSO, SAY, and US Club Soccer. NMYSA members must comply with these initiatives and NMYSA policies in order to be sanctioned, (insurance/member benefits) and to be in good standing.  Below is a summary of the initiatives along with the NMYSA Risk Management policies that must be complied with.  For more information, please visit our website at, or, for specific information about the player initiatives.
Birth Year Registrations
USSF has mandated that all players be registered/categorized by their birth year rather than school year.  The youth council has adopted this mandate beginning with the 2016-2017 season so all player will register by birth year and follow the age chart below.  Leagues can opt to form teams with players in combined birth years so long as the team division is reflective of the oldest player and the heading restrictions are applied to players 10 years old and younger. Please make time to visit the USSF link above as there is good information about USSF philosophies concerning the initiatives.
Small Sided Soccer
USSF has also mandated small sided soccer with the playing rules indicated below.  U8 and below play up to 4v4, U9/U10  play up to 7v7, U11/U12 play up to 9v9 and U13 and above play up to 11v11.  Players can play up in age division but cannot play down in division.  Players U10 and younger cannot head the ball in games or practices.  Below is the USSF Small sided playing rules which includes field dimensions and other pertinent information.
Concussion Initiatives
Players 10 years old and younger cannot head the ball in games or practices.  This includes all U11 and below players and can include some U12 players.  If players head the ball in games, the referee will award a indirect free kick to the opposing team.  For U12, U13 and U14 groups, heading is allowed in games but limited in practice to no more then 25-30 headers per player week or 30 minutes of heading practice per week.  There are other concussion initiatives  issued by the USSF as identified on our website and included in the NMYSA Concussion policies.  Specifically, all coaches must take the online CDC concussion course before they can be cleared to coach with NMYSA.  In addition, coaches must also read and acknowledge the CDC coach’s fact sheet annually and Parents must also acknowledge and read the CDC Parent Fact sheet annually.  The State of NM has also passed concussion policies that we adhere to.  Please be familiar with NMYSA concussion policies at and share this information with your registered members.
Risk Management
NMYSA requires that all coaches complete a Risk Management disclosure annually and that they pass a background check , (back ground check is good for 5 years).  In addition, we also require that the coach complete the CDC online concussion course.  This is a compliance issue that has not been adhered to by Lincoln County in the past that must be adhered to going forward.  All coaches should be issued a coach pass card annually which is evidence that they have complied with the NMYSA Risk Management policy.  For more information on NMSYA’s Risk Management policies, please visit
We are grateful that so many of you volunteer your time to bring youth soccer to your community.  Please let me know if you have questions concerning the Player Develop Initiatives or need further information
Gloria Faber, Executive Director
New Mexico Youth Soccer Assoc.