Recently the US Soccer Federation (USSF) announced important mandated changes. These changes impact every US Soccer Affiliated league and every club in the USA.
What it all means to our club and the leagues we play in?
First, the number of players on the field will be reduced at younger ages; this will be great for soccer development. U9 and U10 will play 7 v 7; U11 and U12 will play 9 v 9; and U13 and above will play 11 v 11.
Second, the cutoff date for determining a player’s soccer age will change from August 1 to January 1. In other words, players born in the same calendar year will be the same soccer age.
ASC has gone through an extensive process to determine how we will approach those changes. The approaches vary depending on the age of a player and whether the player is in our Islanders competitive program (who participate in the NorCal Premier league) or our ASC recreational program (who participate in the Jack London Youth Soccer League).
The Norcal Premier Board has made league level decisions on changes to comply with the US Soccer mandate for the Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 competitions.
- Norcal has announced that U9-13 age groups (players born between 2002 and 2007) will transition to the new formats and age cutoff dates in Spring 2016. Older age groups will transition in Fall 2016.
- Jack London Youth Soccer League, where our U10-14 recreational teams compete and CYSA District 4, where our U16-19 recreational teams compete, have not yet decided how they will handle transitions to the new mandate.
Obviously, we are required to follow the mandates of the playing leagues where we participate.
Our plan for implementing the USSF mandate is below. We will continue to be flexible and discuss any situations where we need to make exceptions to our general guidelines; if you want to explore an exception, please speak with your child’s coach and the coach will present that request to our Islanders Competitive Committee and Director of Coaching.
Alameda Islanders Competitive Program
We understand that the transition is unsettling, but please know that we will work very hard to make sure that this works for everyone.
We would like all Islanders teams to form by calendar year. However, we will continue with our current policy whereby players who are identified as being impact players on the first team in the next age group may be moved to that more challenging environment. In particular, in our older age groups, we may aggressively move some high school bound players up to the next age group in order to accelerate their soccer development. We will also continue to allow players to try out in any age group for which they are eligible to play, but discourage that practice unless approved by our Islanders Competitive Committee and Director of Coaching.
U9-14 Teams (birth years 2003 to 2009)
We will form our Spring 2016 U9-14 teams by calendar year. This affects players born in years from 2003 to 2009. Tryouts will start on January 23rd and 24th for players born in 2003, 2004 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the third weekend of February (February 20th and 21st) for players born in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002,. We have contracted with Challenger Sports (our professional trainers) to facilitate tryouts and to accurately evaluate players to assist us in forming teams. An email (and blog post) will follow shortly with additional information with respect to pre-tryout training sessions and tryouts for the 2016 season.
U8 Developmental Teams (birth year 2009)
We will allow players with a 2009 birth year to participate in Islanders tryouts. However, a more appropriate format for younger players looking to transition to competitive soccer, may be our U8 Development teams.
The objective of the U8 Developmental League is to provide players and clubs with an introductory and age-appropriate playing environment under the supervision of our club’s professional coaching staff. The proposed league format allows players to more frequently engage in age-appropriate match situations, fostering an environment where players can touch the ball more each game while demonstrating their creativity and improving their problem solving skills more so than is possible in larger league formats.
We anticipate that we will enter a boys and girls team in the Norcal 4 v 4 (+goalkeeper) U8 Developmental league. This will require travel to a few away games for those who participate. We strongly recommend that from a soccer development perspective that younger players play 4 v 4 for as long as they are able.
U15-18 Teams (birth years 1997 to 2001)
Our current U14-18 teams (that is, the teams that we designate with the ’97-01 nomenclature) will remain together for Spring 2016. Norcal does not allow the age switch in the Spring for those teams because many of them are participating in competitions that continue from the Fall (State Cup).
Our Current U14 teams (the current ’01s)
Our current U14 teams are caught somewhat in the middle and we settled on an approach that we think makes the most sense to enhance team stability and finding the best soccer development fit. Players in this age group will play in their calendar year age group in the Spring. That is, the players born in 2002 who are on those teams will try out and teams will be formed in February as part of the Fall 2016 U15 (2002) age group. The players born in 2001 who are on those teams will be placed into teams of players born in 2001. The ’01 teams (including 02’ players) entered into NorCal State Cup will continue to play in those competitions in the Spring. Those teams will train together in the Spring until their State Cup season ends. We recognize that this is not perfect, but given the situation, we think it is what works best.
We have not yet finalized who will coach our various teams next year. However, we plan to approve Islanders coaches and announce this after our January Annual Meeting (on 1/11/2016), as is our customary practice. If you have an interest in coaching a competitive team please contact Mike Barnes.
Recreational Program (U6-U19)
Our recreational players (and parents) generally prioritize their reasons for playing in our club differently from our Islanders players. In particular, it is much more important for our recreational players to play with their friends, who are often their classmates or neighbors (typically, our recreational teams are comprised of players in the same grade-we expect that will continue). We will continue to form teams based on these factors. Players will be allowed to register for whatever age group that they are eligible. This will mean that some of the recreational players will be playing with and against players much older than them.
As you can see, there is no one right answer for how to approach the USSF Mandate. We tried to come up with approaches that best addressed the priorities of specific groups. We understand that there will be some players who prefer a different outcome, but please keep in mind this mandate is nation-wide and ASC is one of thousands of Clubs going through the same transition. We are confident that with the strong community we have built within the club and the continued support from our volunteer-based organization we will successfully navigate this transition. We encourage you to speak with your coach or the ASC Competitive Coordinator, Mike Barnes so that you can understand our recommendations.
Eugene Demmler & Vince San Nicolas