The United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) has announced required changes for youth soccer that will impact teams and soccer clubs throughout the United States beginning in the 2016 Fall season. These mandates are NOT specific to AC United but will impact ALL travel soccer clubs.
While there are several new changes, the most significant impact for our club is the change in age groupings. Previously age groups were determined August to July, which generally matches school years. For example, this past season, a U13 team could have anyone UNDER 13 on August 1, 2015 (mostly 7th graders). This is being shifted to calendar year, so next season U13 will be UNDER 13 on Jan 1, 2017 (or anyone born in 2004).
See here for a full age chart.
Note it may appear that some children will jump ahead two years, but that is not the case. There is just a shift in the definition of the age divisions to calendar year.
What does this mean for you as an AC United player/parent?
Most of our teams consist of players born in different years. Although we encourage players to play within their age group, we understand that our club is a community-based organization and established teams may want to stay together if possible.
In order to support this concern, players will be allowed to try out for their age group as well as the age group above them (the guidelines have always allowed players to "play up" but no one can "play down"). For example, if a player was born in April of 2004 she will be in the U12 age group. If she wishes (say because most of her current team will now be U13), she may try out for both U12 and U13 age groups. Note, at a minimum, players MUST attend their age-appropriate evaluations in addition to the older group if so desired.
As in the past, teams will still be created based on skill and distribution of players to make teams across ages. There really can be no guarantee that teams will stay intact but allowing players to evaluate at multiple age groups will provide a chance for maintaining team synergy from last year. We think this is a good balance of following the new guidelines while supporting players who still want to play with their current teammates.
We have consulted with other surrounding clubs, and while some are changing to strict adherence to the new guidelines, others are taking this more flexible approach. There will be more information coming in February or March on specifics of evaluation dates but we wanted to make everyone aware of these changes and how they impact our, and all, clubs.
If you have any questions on these changes, please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or your current coach. For further information on the reason and details of the changes, see the EPYSA web site.