Adjustments being made for new youth soccer rules


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By Wayne Witkowski

Youth soccer practices are a few weeks away and most are adjusting to the changed age alignment, says one director of a local league finishing tryouts for the upcoming fall season.

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“Everybody fought through it. They’re dealing with it. It is what it is,” said Tyler Isaacson, head of the Aberdeen/Matawan Soccer Club.

The U.S. Youth Soccer Association that administers youth programs nationwide announced early this year that it is changing its age classifications. Teams in the association have been going by a school year style calendar that has been in place for many years. In that format, the age groups’ timeline for players was based on an Aug. 1 startup date for each age group. Each player was placed on a team based on his or her age from Aug. 1 to June. By next year, age groups will go by the calendar year, starting Jan. 1, under the new rules.

For example, players who were on a 10U team last year whose birthdays fell between August and December in the old system will skip a year this season and “play up” on the 12U team instead of the 11U team where their former teammates will be playing.
It has forced leagues to drop teams with rosters drastically reduced by the new rule and to introduce new age level teams that now have the number of players that they need.

Aberdeen/Matawan Soccer Club has a typical enrollment of 150 players for its travel teams for ages 7 to 20. There are 400 in the Aberdeen/Matawan S.C. rec program for youngsters ages 4 to 12, and that league has kept the traditional Aug. 1 startup date.

The season begins in early September.

“We lost a couple of teams and gained a couple of teams,” said Isaacson, who said there are new boys teams for players born in the years 2008 and in 2010.

There also was a need to field a second 2005 boys team based on the turnout in that age group, but there was no volunteer coach available for that team and families of some of those players now are looking into leagues in neighboring towns where their sons can play.

Aberdeen/Matawan S.C. also is doing away with two girls teams for those born in 2007 and 2006 — a prime age group for developing players to go on to interscholastic teams. Those families also will need to check into neighboring towns for roster openings.

The tough side issue, Isaacson said, is that many players coming up with the same group of teammates may be playing for different teams this season. It also could affect volunteer coaches who have been with the same team as the players moving up year to year and now find that some of those players could remain on the same age group team as last season, including their children.

It has made for an upsetting situation for some families and the young players.

“There’s been a great effort made by everyone involved with the towns,” said Isaacson, who also coaches Matawan Regional High School’s boys soccer team.

Additional fields may also be needed. There normally were two sized fields in the past: a smaller field for younger children playing eight on a side for age groups 8U through 11U and a larger one for older players a full 11 per side for 12U and older age groups.

The new changes call for the larger existing field for 11 on a side starting with 13U and older teams. There will be a new smaller field for nine on a side for 12U and 11U teams, and one even smaller for teams with seven per side at 9U and 10U. The smallest field for developmental teams have four on a side for teams in 6U through 8U.

Clubs now have to provide four different sized fields and different sized goals as compared to currently using only two fields, Isaacson said.

“Some towns will struggle to have space to make all these different fields, and the costs to purchase the new goal sizes is taxing on many clubs,” Isaacson said.

Some parents have complained to Isaacson that the change should not have been so drastic and abrupt.

But Isaacson said everyone seems to be getting through it.

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