Positive Change in US Youth Soccer


Beginning in August, 2017, there are changes coming to US Youth Soccer…

Recently, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced changes to encourage youth soccer development. You can read the official press release here

The two key changes are as follows: 

Birth-year registration

  • Will now be aligned with the calendar year (January to December) rather than school year.
  • The example given is that “a U15 player (players 15 years old or younger) would have a birth year of 2000 for the 2015 registration year.”

  • This applies to all age groups and is being done to combat the “relative age effect” which has been shown to give competitive advantage to players who are physically older than their peers. 

Number of players and size of the field

  • The field dimensions for players in the U6-U12 age groups will be smaller than they are currently, as will the number of players on the field.

  • The size of the field and the number of players on the field will increase from 4v4 to 7v7 to 9v9 until players reach U13 when they will play 11v11. 

In this post, I will focus on the second change – that of smaller fields and fewer numbers on the field. 

This doesn’t mean fewer players get to play; on the contrary, now a coach can set up 2 games happening simultaneously to get more players more touches on the ball. 

Click here for the USSF analysis of why small-side match standards will benefit players. In short, though: 

  • Fewer players on the field means more touches on the ball and increased touches translates to more individual skill.

  • Players who are more skilled may become more confident and comfortable when in possession of the ball.

  • The ratio of players to field size is designed to assist players with making the right kind of decisions and improving awareness.

  • This approach builds on itself as players get older and start playing with more players on bigger fields.

  • And as players get older, the building block approach also allows them to better integrate into a team model where they develop partnerships with the other players that make up the team.

Why this might be a great idea

Manchester United recently completed a study of playing 4v4 rather than 8v8 in youth soccer. The results are staggering and have profound implications for youth soccer coaches.

On Average 4v4 versus 8v8 had:

  • 135% more passes
  • 260% more Scoring Attempts
  • 500% more Goals Scored
  • 225% more 1v1 Encounters
  • 280% more Dribbling Skills (tricks)

If you are looking for some ideas on how to better integrate small sided games into your practices, check out my books, both of which employ a game-based soccer philosophy.

US Youth Soccer Recommended Reading List


Hi all,

It’s been a while, but I have been busy prepping for my new class at school. I just found out today that both of my books have been added to the US Youth Soccer Recommended Reading list.

If you have read either of my books, please click here and consider leaving a review.

I am currently working on a book of practice sessions utilizing game-based soccer activities.

It Pays to Win on Offense: A Game-based Approach to Developing  Soccer Players that Score and Create Lots of Goals

It Pays to Win on Defense: A Game-based Soccer Approach to Developing Highly Effective Defenders



Creating the most effective learning environment for soccer


I believe in a competitive, game-based approach to soccer. Game-based soccer training is the philosophy that all practice activities can and should be turned into a game. By “game,” I mean that there are winners and losers. The players can be competing against themselves, each other, in teams, or all together against a target. There should always be consequences for the losing person/team in this approach. It does not have to be a big consequence, but the players should develop a mindset in which it pays to win. Consequences should depend on the activity/game, but they can range from a few sit-ups to a short sprinting exercise – it should be just enough to motivate the players to try harder to win next time!

Using a Game-based approach helps to create an environment in which every player is incentivized to compete at his or her highest level. This is where the biggest developmental gains are made, both individually and collectively. How do you set up an environment where players are always incentivized to give their best? Make everything a competition with consequences for the losers. As the coach, it is up to you to determine the most productive ways to define competition for your team; for example, some games are more suited for competing against an external target, a player competing against his previous best score, or two individuals/teams facing off against each other. The goal is to make the consequence just enough to incentivize the player/team that lost to try harder next time and also to encourage the winning team to up their game so that they don’t have to do the consequence.

How do you create the most effective learning environment with your team?

James Jordan

Author of It Pays to Win on Offense and It Pays to Win on Defense (available now from Amazon)

Coaching – How much is too much?


I saw the above infographic on Twitter yesterday (@LBfutbol) and it got me thinking about coaching youth soccer here in the states. In America, I feel that we live in a society that places a large emphasis (and value) on rationalization and specialization. These two movements intersect in American youth soccer in a number of significant ways.

  • Does it not make sense for parents to get their son/daughter playing soccer from the earliest age?
  • Is it not logical for them to desire a safe and structured playing space for their son/daughter?
  • Should parents not want the “best” coaching possible?
  • Is it not logical that these parents want coaches with playing pedigree and coaching “qualifications”?
  • Does it not make sense that those coaches who have playing pedigree and coaching qualifications (badges, diplomas, licenses, etc.) should want to be well compensated for their time?
  • Is it not right, then, that parents should demand “quality coaching” as a return on their investment?
  • Do many coaches not feel the need to “perform” their coaching role to justify their position?
  • Is not a large part of this performance “doing” something, “saying” something?
  • Is this a good use of practice time?
  • Given the attached infographic, would coaches be preparing their players for the games more by allowing their players to play more?

If you are interested in implementing a game-based approach to soccer training, check out my book, It Pays to Win on Offense: A Game-based Approach to Developing Soccer Players that Score and Create Lots of Goals

It Pays to Win on Offense is currently sitting at #5 in the Top Sellers for Soccer Coaching e-books on Amazon.

Also available is my new book: It Pays to Win on Defense: A Game-based Soccer Training Approach to Developing Highly Effective Defenders,

Updates to It Pays to Win on Offense


In getting some great feedback from my beta readers for my upcoming book, It Pays to Win on Defense (see picture below), which will be released on Wednesday, I went back and updated It Pays to Win on Offense

Many of you downloaded It Pays to Win on Offense when I offered it for free (and quite a few of you have paid for it since then). Please go ahead and download the latest version to get benefits of my updates – Amazon lets you do it for free if you already own the book. Of course, if you don’t yet own It Pays to Win on Offense, go ahead and get it!


Available in 2 days….