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2016/2017 is the Year of Changes

There are many changes brought on this year by Hollywood Wildcats FC Board of Directors in our constant yearning to improve. 

This page, however, is dedicated to those changes that are not decided by the Club, but mandated to us by the Federation and State Association.


USSF came out the first of this year with guidelines, for players 10 years old and under, in regards to the no-heading of balls at these ages. In games or in practice. The following is the list of rules that go along with this:

  1. There will be no headers allowed in games for U11 (U12) and under players.
  2. Also, there will be no headers in practice as well.
  3. There will be a limited number of headers in practice for ages U11 thru U14. Common sense should be applied by all coaches, remembering that these age brackets will be learning how to head the ball for the first time.
  4. When a player deliberately heads the ball in a game, an indirect free kick will be awarded to the opposing team from the spot of the offense.
  5. If the deliberate header occurs within the goalkeeper area, the indirect free kick should be taken on the goalkeeper area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.
  6. If a player does not deliberately head the ball, then play should continue. Determination on weather a header was deliberate or not will be at the sole discretion of the referee.
Update released 7/12/2016 by FYSA:


In conjunction with the US Soccer Federation and US Youth Soccer, the Florida Youth Soccer Association (FYSA) will be instituting a heading ban for players age 10 and younger. In accordance with the recent U.S. Soccer recommendations on concussion risk management.

FYSA has eliminated heading in matches for player’s age 10-years-old and younger (11u-2006 and younger), per the new calendar year registration guidelines. Heading will not be permitted in 11u and younger age groups.*

Competitive league, tournaments, and other FYSA sanctioned events that include 11u and younger age group teams heading will not be permitted.

Playing Up Rule

211.3   Playing up (above a player’s normal age group): 

It is FYSA's policy that all players compete at a level they are capable of both physically and developmentally. In order for a player to move up more than one birth year will require approval from the affiliate's director of coaching or agent of record and FYSA Director of Coaching. Players, 11u will not be able to play up due to FYSA heading guidelines until the player reaches the age of 11.

Failure to obtain proper permissions may result in the player being removed from the team’s roster and sanctions against the team/club.


Playing Up Logistics and Guidelines

  • Playing up requests are made in regards to player development purposes. Factors to be considered are technical, physical, and psychological. All of these factors should be present for it to be developmentally appropriate. 

  • Playing up requests should not be made for logistic or club/family convenience.

  • For special considerations, a club’s Agent of Record, Registrar, or Director of Coaching can submit via GotSoccerThe considerations will be considered mainly for players 15u and above.


*Exception to the playing up rule 211.3

Recreation leagues that utilize double year age groups may choose to form 12u no heading divisions to accommodate formation of teams and league divisions.


You'll be seeing new field sizes and new goal sizes this year all over South Florida (and US), some will be wrong at first due to space constrains and budgetary issues (new set of goals can cost as much as $3500.00) please understand that the Clubs are doing the best they can with very late mandates from the Federation.


We are still waiting to get the details on this one.


What are Small-Sided Games?
Anything less than 11-a-side is considered a Small-Sided Game.

What are the differences between Small-Sided Games and 11 v. 11 matches in regards to field size, goal size, etc.?
The fields are smaller, as are the goals and the ball. The length of the game is also shorter. The rules to play the game are modified for each age group.

What are the benefits to Small-Sided Games for players?

With fewer players on the field and a smaller field on which to play the game the kids are more directly involved in the action of the game. That equates to more enjoyment in playing, more contact with the ball, more tactical decisions made and executed and more physical movement, which improves the player’s physical fitness.

Is this something clubs in the United States already participate in?
Many clubs, especially those affiliated to US Youth Soccer, have been playing Small-Sided Games in one version or another for years, perhaps even a decade or more.

Are Small-Sided Games a fixture in other countries like Brazil, Germany, Spain?
While Small-Sided Games are not new to American soccer, many other countries around the world also play Small-Sided Games with young players. In fact, Spain plays Small-Sided Games up through the U-15 age group.

What are U.S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer doing to help coaches organize Small-Sided Games?
Assistance is given to coaches through coaching courses and clinics given by the State Associations and the two national organizations.

Where can I find more information on Small-Sided Games?
Anyone interested in learning more about Small-Sided Games should use the Small-Sided Games Resource Center in the Coaches section of the US Youth Soccer website.

When will these Small-Sided Games be introduced in US Youth Soccer?
Clubs that are ready may make the change immediately, especially for intramural programming. Others may wait until August of 2016. All clubs must be playing Small-Sided Games by August 2017.


What is “birth year registration”?

Until this year, soccer programs register players in groups or teams in line with school year registration, which means players born between August and July of the following year are grouped together. For example, players born between August 1st 2005 and July 31st 2006 were classified as “U10” (meaning players under 10).

“Birth year registration” means that players are grouped together according to which year they are born in. For example, all players born between January 1st 2006 and December 31st 2006 would be grouped together and would be called “2006s”, “06s”, or now that it is in place for this soccer year (2016/17), “U11s” as all players would be turning 11 in the year in which the season finishes (2017). Most likely instead of U11 we will switch to 11U designation (meaning players 11 and under).

Are Hollywood Wildcats FC planning on using birth year registration for the 2016/2017 soccer year?



Why? Who made this decision? Are other clubs doing it?

The decision to change to birth year registration is in fact a mandate from US Youth Soccer (USYS) and the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), along with other youth soccer sanctioning bodies, and so this change in registration applies to every club in the entire U.S.A. who register players through USYS.

For example, any club or team which plays in the South Florida United League (SFUYSA), or tournaments such as Commissioner's Cup, President's Cup or State Cup are registered with and sanctioned by the Florida Youth Soccer Association (FYSA), which is an affiliate of, and ultimately governed by USYS.

Please see the USYS announcement on this mandate here

Please see the FYSA announcement on the implementation of the mandate here.

Is my son or daughter still going to be able to play with his or her friends and classmates?

The answer to this depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: which level of program they are in (recreational or competitive); their skill level relative to their friends; their commitment level in terms of time, other sports/activities they take part in, how high a priority soccer is in their lives relative to their friends. All of these factors exist already, and so playing on a team with all of your friends isn’t always a reality in the current environment anyway.

This is similar to not having all of your friends in the same class or classes at school. The placement of individual players on specific teams will remain a function of the club, whose job it is to help find each player the best possible environment to both maximize their individual development as well as to grow their love of the game as well as team sports and a healthy lifestyle in general.


Doesn’t U.S. Soccer realize that they’re breaking up my existing team?

U.S. Soccer recognizes that making these changes can impact existing teams in the short-term. However, players joining and leaving teams is something that already happens regularly throughout the country. There are a variety of factors that require teams to evolve and adapt including players’ maturity rates, moving away, focusing on new interests, or their soccer abilities differentiating from their peers. Again, both the small sided standards and birth year registration support the development of the individual player as a priority over a team success.


Can existing teams continue to be registered together?

Again, the answer to this depends on a number of factors. The short answer is that players will have the ability to “play up” with older teammates, so in theory teams would be able to stay together if that was best for each individual player’s development and the majority of the players on the team (for more detail on this, please see the section “How will the club make the decision if our team can stay together?” below).


What is “playing up” and are players able to “play down”?

Players have the ability to “play up” with teammates at older age groups, based on birth year. Players are not permitted to “play down” with teammates at younger age groups, based on birth year. This rule is already in effect with the current registration method. Playing up will be limited at certain ages due to the recent "NO HEADING" lawsuit settlement, more about that latter.


If this is the case, will Hollywood Wildcats FC allow our current team to stay together?

Each team and each player will be evaluated on a case by case basis. What we can confirm is that there will be no blanket rule that everyone has to play at their “true” age and can’t play up.


How will the club make the decision if our team can stay together?

A number of different factors will be taken into consideration, but the two prime considerations will be the following:

  • What is the best decision for each individual player’s development and enjoyment?
  • What is the best decision for the largest number of players’ development and enjoyment?

Here are two examples using these considerations:

Scenario 1:

  • There are two U11 teams (Team X and Team Y), each of which have a mix of players born in 2004 and 2005 under the current school year registration system.
  • Team X plays at a higher competitive level than Team Y and has a majority of players born in 2004 (i.e. older).
  • Team Y is not as competitive as Team X and has a majority of players born in 2005 (i.e. younger).
  • Player A is currently on Team X, is one of the stronger players and was born in 2005 (so is one of the few younger players on the Team X).
  • Under the new birth year registration, if Player A played at their “true” age he or she would be grouped with players who are not as strong as he or she is and so the club would recommend Player A “playing up” with the stronger 2004 group as that is what is best for Player A’s individual development.

Scenario 2:

  • There is a U14 team that has 2 players who are 2001s, 10 players who are 2002s and 5 players who are 2003s.
  • Every player returns at tryouts for the following soccer year and no new players are added to the team.
  • For all 17 current players to be able to continue to play together they would have to be declared as a 2001 team.
  • When playing against other teams in competitive games, the 10 players born in 2002 could be playing against players on the opposition team who are anywhere up to 1 year and 364 days older than the 2002s (for example, our team has a player born December 31st 2002, and the opposition have a player born January 1st 2001).
  • For the 5 players born in 2003, this gap increases to 2 years and 364 days older.
  • This would not only put the players and team at a potentially serious competitive disadvantage, but it is almost always developmentally inappropriate for players to play up what could effectively be up to 3 years.
  • Therefore, the best solution for the largest number of players is to declare the team as a 2002 team and only have the five 2003 players playing up. This would clearly be unfortunate for the two 2001 players who are possible now left without a team and the club would do its best to find them a team to play on, but clearly the decision to benefit 15 players at the expense of 2 versus a decision that would benefit 2 at the expense of 15 players is the fairer decision.


When will the club let us know if our team can stay together?

The short answer is that only once tryouts have been completed will player placements to teams be announced. This is of course the same as every other year, regardless of the changes to age grouping happening this year.

However, the club wants to be able to plan ahead as much as is possible and we know the same is true for players and parents. Internally, the club already has theoretical groupings of players in according to birth years and thought about how it would affect teams and individual players.

To further aid this planning, during summer, the club will be conducting “birth year age group training” whereby all players will have practice sessions with other players in the club who are in the same birth year (the details of these practices will be communicated accordingly). This will allow the club, as well as parents and players, to think about the following:

  1. The club can further evaluate which players may need to play up based on their individual development.
  2. The club can further evaluate which age groups may need to be combined for 2016-17 that will benefit the largest number of players (see scenario 2 in the section “How will the club make the decision if our team can stay together?” above).
  3. For players and parents to see their potential new teammates – you may be leaving some friends behind in an older/younger birth year from your current team, but you may be joining some friends from a different team who are the same birth year – as well as making new friends of course!

Based on this analysis, the club may instruct players to try out for an age group older than their true birth year. However, this will not be binding and players may be asked instead to try out for their true age group when tryouts actually happen. The reason for this, for example, might be that the club might have a larger number of registrations for tryouts from players who are currently not playing with the club during 2015/16 and so it may end up being in the player’s best interest to try out for their true age rather than immediately trying out to play up. Again, this will all be on a case by case basis and will be communicated to players appropriately.


Why is birth year registration going into effect for all levels of play and all age groups?

Having players train and play according to their age and developmental stage supports the objectives of the small sided standards announced by U.S. Soccer by focusing on the physiological and developmental needs of the player. This change is meant to better safeguard the development of youth players at all ages and levels. For more information on USYS’ small sided standards please click here.


Will recreational programs use the birth year calendar registration?



Why can’t there be different standards for recreational and competitive teams?

There is no universal definition of what separates recreational from competitive soccer. In addition to supporting the overall objectives of player development, U.S. Soccer believes that having separate registration systems based on undefined levels of play would create unnecessary confusion, and this would not provide a consistent approach across the soccer landscape. Players should also be provided the opportunity to develop to best of their abilities regardless of the level of play they are participating in.


What is “relative age effect”?

Relative age effect refers to the selection bias often shown towards players born in the earlier months in any age grouping method. For example, under the former school year registration system, a player born on August 1st 2005 may have a physical, mental or technical advantage over a player born on July 31st 2006 due to being up to 364 days older.


How does this change fix “relative age effect”?

Birth year registration is not intended or expected to eliminate relative age effect. However, having players grouped by birth year does make it easier to understand for parents and coaches as registering players according to birth year will help everyone understand and better identify the potential for bias.


How do I determine the birth year used for a competition?

Birth year registration should be based on the year in which the season ends. For example, if a season begins in the fall of 2017 and ends in the summer of 2018 (ex: 2017-18 season), the players would be registered based on their age in the year 2018. To simplify determining the age group, just subtract the birth year from the year the season ends.

Year Season Ends – Birth Year = Age Group:

2016/2017 – 2003 = U14

2022/2023 – 2016 = U7

Please refer to the Birth Year and Season Matrix at the bottom of this page for more detailed information.


What can I do to support the initiatives?

The support and the education of parents is key. Unless we do this together, we won’t be successful. U.S. Soccer acknowledges that these changes are not as easy as flipping a switch. Change of this magnitude takes time and it can be uncomfortable. Because of this, U.S. Soccer asks that the entire soccer community please have patience as these changes are implemented, and trust that these and future initiatives will lead to long-term success in the area of player development, which will ultimately lead to better developed players and a bigger, more talented player pool for the highest levels of soccer in the U.S.A., including our homegrown MLS players and our Women’s and Men’s National Teams.


Who can I talk to if I have more questions?

It’s important to communicate with your local soccer leaders to avoid misinformation about these initiatives and their objectives. This includes speaking with your coach, club or league administrators, the contact details for whom you can find below. If you have additional questions that are not covered in this FAQ document, please feel free to email us at info@hollywoodwildcats.com or even contact U.S. Soccer at coaches@ussoccer.org.


Birth Year and Season Matrix