2016 USA Soccer Changes | West Morris Soccer Club

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Dear WMSC Families:

We previously forwarded to you a summary of the major changes that US Soccer has mandated in its recent Player Development Initiative for all youth soccer programs in the United States. West Morris Soccer Club, like other youth soccer organizations, is planning for and adapting to these changes -- many of which will be in force for the Fall 2016/Spring 2017 soccer year by the various leagues in which our Travel and Premier teams play. For an overview of the changes that are in store, please refer to this US Soccer website: http://www.ussoccer.com/coaching-education/resources/2015-player-development-initiatives. The changes currently apply only to our Travel and Premier programs -- not to our REC program.     


Because WMSC Travel and Premier tryouts for Fall 2016/Spring 2017 will be run this spring, we will first feel the impact of the mandated changes at those tryouts.  The most important changes for purposes of this email are (1) the change to team formation based on year of birth (the “birth-year change’) and (2) the changes to rules governing U-8 soccer play. The purpose of this email is to provide you with a general description of how these changes will be implemented in the coming months. Not surprisingly, the birth-year change, among the many changes mandated by US Soccer's Player Development Initiative, has caused considerable disharmony in the youth soccer community (e.g.,  http://therecruitingcode.com/u-s-soccer-breaks-the-glass/http://www.nscaa.com/news/2016/02/hank-leung-letter?utm_medium=short_url). WMSC recognizes the unfortunate disruption that these changes may cause to many of our players and teams.  The truth is that WMSC and the other individual community-based youth soccer clubs are minnows forced to adapt to changing national currents beyond each individual club’s control.  We hope to minimize the disruption to our players and teams and ask you to bear with us as we implement these significant changes.


Summary of Birth Year and U-8 Changes:

First, regarding the birth-year change, in recent years eligibility for a given age group has been determined based on an August 1 - July 31 year (e.g., Aug.1, 2004 to July 31, 2005).  This was aligned with the school year to allow children in the same grade to play with their classmates. The birth-year change mandated by US Soccer changes eligibility to the calendar year (e.g., Jan. 1, 2005 to Dec. 31, 2005).  Strictly applied, this change may break many teams in two and prevent players from playing with their classmates (and, in the cases of established teams, with their traditional teammates).


Second, regarding the U-8 changes, U-8 games are currently played with 8 players from each team on the field (8v8 games) including a goalkeeper. US Soccer is requiring a change to 4v4 games without a goalkeeper.  Field size and goal size will also change.


Implementation by WMSC and Other Youth Soccer Programs:

Beginning with the Fall 2016 season, MCYSA (our Travel league) and JAGS and MAPS (our primary Premier leagues), as well as every youth soccer tournament in New Jersey and surrounding states, will require that all participating teams be formed according to the birth-year change.  As a result, to ensure that our players can play within these leagues and tournaments, WMSC must follow suit and implement this change.


Please note:  The birth year changes will not affect team rosters for the upcoming Spring 2016 teams.  Those teams are formed and the rosters will remain as constructed for the Spring 2016 season. 


Travel and Premier Tryouts

WMSC will be running tryouts based on birth-year this spring, but, in recognition of the fact that many of our players will want to continue to play with their classmates and the team they have played with for years, we are also offering the option for children to "play up" one year if they would like to try and keep their team together. An example of how this will work may be helpful.  Currently, U11 teams are made up of children born between Aug. 1, 2004 and July 31, 2005. In the past, all of these players would be trying out for U12 for next year. However, with the change to birth-year eligibility only those players born in 2005 will be eligible to play U12 next year.  Any current U11 players born in 2004 would not be eligible for U12 but instead would be considered as U13 for next year.  With this in mind, WMSC will offer those players born in 2005 the option of trying out with players born in 2004 for next year's U13 team (“playing up”), while also allowing those players born in 2005 to try out with other 2005 players for the U12 team.  Of course, players born in 2004 cannot try out for the U12 team (birth-year 2004 team) but could try out for the U14 team (birth-year 2003 team).  This will create a “two-tryout option” for players who wish to explore the possibility of playing up a year.


It will be the player’s choice to try out for one or two age brackets. Certain clubs have decided to simply move up existing teams (for example, the current U11 team moved in its entirety to U13 for next year), but we feel the better route is to allow players and parents to decide. In recognition of this widespread problem, the leagues in which our teams play will not be restricting the number of players on a team's roster who are playing up.


Importantly, WMSC will continue forming its teams as outlined in our tryouts policy. As always, placement will be based on merit using current season player evaluations, attendance/commitment, and tryout results as determined by our professional training organization.  


We ask for your understanding as we attempt to conform our tryouts and team formation processes to the birth-year mandate, which will be very burdensome for our volunteers to work through and implement. The team formation process has always introduced a bit of chaos and stress and there likely will be a bit more of that this year. Having spent the winter attending meetings about the changes and thinking about how to implement them into WMSC’s processes, we hope our approach minimizes any discomfort. 


Special message for children born in 2002:

The changes discussed above present a special challenge for children born in 2002, who will all be U15 for 2016/2017. In the past, leagues have not offered U15 in the fall because many players play high school soccer in fall or no longer have time due to the increased burdens of high school. However, a significant portion of next year's U15 players will be in 8th grade and will likely want to play Travel soccer. In response, some leagues have announced they will be running flights for U15 teams. WMSC will, of course, field U15 teams for fall if the leagues offer those flights and we have adequate players for those teams.  


Special message for children born in 2009:

WMSC’s U8 teams have typically played 8v8 soccer in MCYSA, but starting this fall MCYSA will no longer be running a U8 league. In addition, under US Soccer’s Player Development Initiative, players born in 2009 will be playing 4v4 soccer.  Based upon the listening and learning we have done over the past several months, we will be forming a 2009 “Academy” for each gender, which will train according to a typical Travel soccer practice schedule. We anticipate that in lieu of a league, the various clubs in Morris County and surrounding counties will host a series of competitive one-day “festivals” during the fall and spring, when teams will play multiple shortened games. Again, this is a work in progress but we anticipate this will be a positive change for those younger age brackets.


Please feel free to contact us, by reply to this email or otherwise, if you have any questions or concerns regarding these changes.


Thank you for your time and support of WMSC, your community-based and -run soccer club.



WMSC Board of Trustees


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