New US Youth Soccer Player Development Model

Diane Scavuzzo


New US Youth Soccer Player Development Model | US Youth Soccer Player Development Model, US Youth Soccer, Soccer Player Development Guidelines,  Coaching information, Coaching education

US Youth Soccer Player Development Pyramid

Youth Soccer News: US Youth Soccer Player Development Model

“Soccer is an art not a science and the game should be played attractively as well as effectively. Soccer is a game of skill, imagination, creativity and decision- making. Coaching should not stifle, but enhance those elements.” A quote from Bobby Howe, U.S. Soccer, former director of coaching, professional and National Team coach. 

The coach inspires the soccer experience for the players, and this Model provides the knowledge needed to pass on the beautiful game to the next generation... and the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model wants to inspire and help coaches be their best.

According to the introduction, "The purpose of this publication is to help youth soccer coaches and soccer clubs raise the level of play across the country. This can be achieved by becoming aware of the capabilities and aspirations of their players at each stage of their development and by creating more positive, player-centered learning environments. The key to modern youth player development can be found in the lessons of the free play era, where children took charge of games, learning and fun."

The introduction continues, "By participating in endless hours of player-centered soccer, the children of the street soccer generation developed a life-long passion and a practical feel for the game that has been all but lost in the transfer to over-organized sport."

"By returning to the ideals of the free play era, youth coaches and soccer clubs can use meaningful soccer games and soccer-related activities to unlock the potential of their young charges to produce savvy, sophisticated American players."

Igniting the Passion

Developing a passion for soccer brings lifelong joy.  At the fundemental stage of player development, nothing is more important or rewarding than developing a young person's joy for the game of soccer.  

Soccer Player Development Model

The Player Development Model is well illustrated, offers comprehensive recommendations for coaches of all levels and provides valuable information on suggested curriculums.  

The pyramid of development defines and explains the three (3) main stages of player development.  The first stage is about the young U8 players who are at the beginning fundemental stage. The model reminds coaches that soccer experiences, especially for the younger players, need to foster the desire to play.  

With quotes from top coaches and even famous, brilliant thinkers such as Einstein, the Model outlines the principals of play.

The Malady of Tournamentitis.

The Player Development Model explains that soccer players should not particiapte in excessive tournaments.

"We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development and can reduce long-term motivation."

"Multiple matches being played on one day and one weekend have a negative effect on the quality experience and development of the individual player. Further, far too many playing schedules include so many tournaments and matches that there is never an offseason. We believe that players under the age of 12 should not play more than 100 minutes per day, and those players older than 13 should not play more than 120 minutes per day." 

“The problem in the U.S.A. is they start travel soccer at too early an age. That’s totally detrimental. It becomes more about winning and about collecting hardware than about having the kids play and learning from playing.” A quote from Alfonso Mondelo, Major League Soccer (MLS), director of player development.

“There is no magic formula or short cut to successful development. Coaching at youth levels is all about working with players to improve performance, not about recruiting players to build teams to win championships. Soccer is a player’s game and players should be considered first when political, administrative and coaching decisions are made.” A quote from Bobby Howe, U.S. Soccer, former director of coaching, professional and National Team.

One of the core points in the Model is the importance of increasing players' contact time with the ball. A goal of over 2 million total touches with the ball by the age of 18 is set forth. Another point is whether there should be a goal keeper for under U9 age groups.  Another ... the value of free flowing street soccer where one of the key benefits is that there is no psychological distress over game results, except from the players themseves.  

And perhaps most importantly, the Model reviews what is a coach ... "A coach can be many things to many different people. A coach is a mentor, teacher, role model and sometimes a friend. Most of all, a coach must be a positive personality." 

While it is not 'play,' anyone interested in the game should download and read this Player Development Model.  It can only lead to better play and more fun for our players.

As Albert Einstein once said, "Play is the highest form of research.”  

Perhaps the fun has been forgotten, or overlooked by the zealous effort to win at all costs.

Perhaps the fun does need to return to soccer and that, especially with the younger players, parents, players and some coaches need to remember that Rome was not built in a day.  Players need time to develop. Just let the kids play!

Related Articles: US Youth Soccer's Coaching Director Sam Snow Interviewed on New Player Development Model