US Youth Soccer debuts Player Development Model

How do Johnny and Suzy get from little kickers to the pros?

What should their journey through the American soccer landscape look like?

US Youth Soccer has released their Player Development Model, a 117-page document that tackles growing up soccer in the USA.

Press Release:
FRISCO, TEXAS (February, 2012) – US Youth Soccer is excited to announce the release of the Player Development Model, which provides a curriculum for clubs from the Under-6 to Under-19 age groups. The curriculum is designed to serve as a standard to guide each of US Youth Soccer’s 55 member State Associations and more than 5,500 clubs on how to effectively train athletes of all levels and abilities.

“The US Youth Soccer Player Development Model was a team effort by coaches and administrators from across the United States,” said Sam Snow, US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching. “It will provide not only direction for age appropriate training and matches, but will also give the facts behind the developmental format. I’m confident the Player Development Model will prove to be useful to soccer clubs of every size and level of play for many years to come.”

The Player Development Model features a simple structure to guide all coaches through the steps of strategically training players and preparing for matches. For ease of application, the model is broken into sections for preteen and teenaged players. When used in conjunction with the US Youth Soccer Vision and Skills School Manual, the Player Development Model will provide clubs of all levels guidance and information to assist their coaches and players.

For more information on the Player Development Module and other tools for coaches, parents and administrators, visit

Download the Player Development Model here.


The publication describes itself:

“The Player Development Model is divided into three main parts. Part I is the Primer, which provides general information on coaching methods, training tools and the elements of a healthy soccer environment. Part II, Zone 1: Preteen Age Groups provides information on coaching U-6, U-8, U-10 and U-12 age groups and is organized into separate chapters for each of those age groups. Part III, Zones 2 and 3, Teenagers, discusses the challenges and solutions of working with the U-14,U-16 and U-18+age groups, with separate chapters for each of those age groups.”


A few excerpts of note:

There should be continuity throughout the year in the way training sessions are conducted. Plan all training sessions in advance and in detail.


An integrated club-wide curriculum is the key for optimum player development. There must be a line that connects U-6 to U-19, a line that everyone in the club understands and follows. Without a curriculum, the player development process becomes disjointed, difficult to monitor and evaluate, causing players to graduate with skill gaps. A deficit in one stage of the development process will tend to inhibit acquisition of more complex skills at a later stage.


Too often coaches concentrate on a team formation to the exclusion of essential developmental needs. A common question is, “What is the best formation to win?” Some coaches are quick to permanently place a player in a specific position. That is an erroneous decision. In fact, many coaches teach the game by position. This approach has an over emphasis on a particular system of play and the team formation to execute that system. Systems are not the focus, but rather the framework. The decisive factor is the player and his or her individual qualities, specifically technical expertise. Players must be given the chance to play every position in soccer to deepen their understanding of the game. While it takes more coaching talent to do so, teaching positioning prior to the roles of positions in a formation develops anticipation players. Do not lock players in a position!


At age 5, children start to compare themselves to other children. Even so they still don’t understand competition. They tend to play when they are having fun or winning, but lose interest when the opposite occurs. Even at 8 years old, children may not be physically or emotionally ready or have the cognitive skills to understand and meet the expectations that parents and coaches have of them. They may not have the social skills to understand turn-taking or be emotionally ready to handle criticism. The benefits soccer offers can be lost if results-oriented competition is emphasized too soon.

Overt competition involves more ego-oriented goals and tends to promote the attitude that winning is everything. It often discourages children from trying new tasks, but can encourage them to break the rules in order to win. Cooperation in soccer is the willingness to work together to achieve a common purpose, which empowers players with creative problem solving skills, better communication skills, more sharing of emotions and a better sense of team.

Parents, administrators and coaches have a large influence on the process of balancing cooperation and competition. The needs and goals of the players must be considered in order to build a successful youth soccer program.


It takes many years to develop into a quality soccer player. Indeed, that continued development can be seen even in young professional players. Soccer is a long-term development and late specialization sport. Striving to improve individual, group and team performance is more important at the youth level than the score line.

Simultaneously, players should play to win. Coaches should teach and develop the players as they learn how to win. Parents should support the players and coaches. Intrinsic success is, by its nature, more difficult to measure than extrinsic success. A trophy is more tangible to an adult than the exhilaration a child feels while playing soccer.

The final measure of success for parents and coaches of the player’s soccer experience will require a good deal of patience from the adults. That measurement is the free choice of the child to stay in the game.

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