July 8, 2012
People often ask me why bordering towns have different set-ups for their youth programs. Some play 5 v 5 at the U-6 level while some play 4 v 4 with a goal keeper at the U8 level. The variation from town association to town association has parents confused and left wondering which format is the best for player development.
When in doubt we need to do the research and check in on US Youth Soccer recommendations that indicate that the best formats are:
U-6: 3 against 3 no goal keepers
U-8: 4 against 4 no goal keepers
U-10: 6 against 6 with goal keepers
U-12: 8 against 8 with goal keepers
U-13+: 11 against 11 with goal keepers
I have had many debates right on the soccer field about the benefits of small-sided games. Many parents want to see what they experienced as youth players or what they see on television, which often times is full-field play with 11 on a side. We know more now about player development than ever before, and we need to make that commitment to development in order to give our youth players the best chances to succeed in learning skills and tactics in this great game.