Playing Numbers and Field Sizes
Small-sided games should be used for match play for players under the age of twelve because they provide for the appropriate development of skill and the understanding of simple tactics. Small-sided games in match play for younger players create more involvement, more touches on the ball, exposure to simple, realistic decisions and ultimately, more enjoyment. The number of players on the field of play at each age group should promote development, enjoyment of the game and provide a logical progression from year to year. All the State Directors of Coaching in Regions II, III and IV have agreed that the following would provide the most appropriate development:
  • Under 6: 3 v 3 (no goalkeeper) Field 20x25 yards
  • Under 7: 4 v 4 (no goalkeeper) Field 23x40 yards
  • Under 8: 4 v 4 (no goalkeeper) Field 23x40 yards
  • Under 9: 6 v 6 (including goalkeeper) Field 40x60 yards
  • Under 10: 6 v 6 (including goalkeeper) Field 40x60 yards
  • Under 11: 8 v 8 (including goalkeeper) Field 50x90 yards
  • Under 12: 8 v 8 (including goalkeeper) Field 50x90 yards
  • Under 13: 11 v 11 (including goalkeeper) Field 60x100 yards
  • Under 14: 11 v 11 (including goalkeeper) Field 60x100 yards
  • HS Rec: 11 v 11 (including goalkeeper) Field 70x110 yards
The reasons for this progression in playing numbers is relatively straightforward (please also refer to the player development section at the end of this document).

It is not developmentally appropriate for players below the age of five years old (U5) to play organized soccer. Four year olds do not need any formal game play. Parents should encourage their child to enjoy kicking a lightweight ball back and forward or into a goal for some quality 1-on-1 time. Excite your child about the game.

For the U6 group, children do not typically possess in their makeup the desire to 'share' or pass the ball. Players, therefore, need to be provided a small field with few numbers for them to succeed in dribbling the ball in the right direction and turning before going out of bounds (even this will take time!) Three players on a side make a basic unit of a team triangle, where all the principles of the game can be learned (by playing experience only - no structured coaching!) No goalkeeper allows for increased success in dribbling and scoring and all players learn to interact with the ball and their feet.

The U7 and U8 groups have a player added to their format to make 4v4. This introduces the concept of team diamond, providing three potential players to pass to. Don't be surprised when this still does not happen!

The U9 and U10 age groups have the logical progression of adding another field player and then this is where we believe that is appropriate to introduce the position of goalkeeper, which makes 6v6. This will present the extra challenge our 8 and 9 year olds need in front of goal at this stage in their playing development. This provides a new and challenging learning environment for a consistent 4 seasons (based on spring and fall play). We continue with a small field and team numbers to maximize each player's involvement and contact with the ball and still progress in their understanding of the principles of the game.

U11 and U12 follow another logical step by adding another two players for a consistent period of 4 seasons. These ages are known is coaching education circles as 'the dawn of tactical awareness'. By continuing with a smaller sided format, players are more likely to see and understand the attacking and defensive principles of the game as applied to small group settings. The fewer players on the field make it less confusing to see and therefore understand. Players also get more touches on the ball, again promoting skill development and enjoyment of the game.

At U13 and above, players are generally ready to move to the 11-a-side game.

With this consistent state-wide approach, OYSA Coaching courses can also be further tailored to be more specific to the playing numbers and field formats.

  Copyright 2007 Virginia Youth Soccer Association. All rights reserved.
  Copyright 2007 Demosphere International, Inc. All rights reserved.