The latest step in the evolution of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program is to go younger.
Beginning in Fall 2016, the USDA will drop its lowest age group to the U-12 level, with several new academies joining the current academies who will expand to U-12.
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From a press release:
The U-12 Academy will adopt all aspects of the new Player Development Initiatives, which were recently announced by U.S. Soccer in another step of its commitment to long-term player development after being a best practice for the last 10 years. U.S. Soccer standardized small-sided games based on player age groups, while also aligning birth-year registration calendars with the start of the calendar year to run from January to December. The development initiatives, which will be a best practice in 2016 and a mandate by August of 2017, are focused on advancing youth players’ individual skill and intelligence, and providing players with the best opportunity to improve.
They are added the U-13 age bracket as well. Whether you like the single-sport climate or not, there’s little question more touches on the ball are a good thing for kids.
That said, we’d love to see more kids free-form and not being drilled into a formula. Baby steps.