In 2014 the United States Youth Soccer Association reported over 3 million registered participants, again making soccer America’s most popular youth sport.
But starting Tuesday, most of those 3 million kids will be playing a fundamentally different game than their counterparts in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In a press release earlier this week, the United States Soccer Federation announced a ban on headers for children ages 10 and under and a limit on the same practice for children ages 11 through 13.
From the U.S. Soccer statement:
The United States Soccer Federation and the other youth member defendants, with input from counsel for the plaintiffs, have developed a sweeping youth soccer initiative designed to (a) improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents and players; (b) implement more uniform concussion management and return-to-play protocols for youth players suspected of having suffered a concussion; (c) modify the substitution rules to insure such rules do not serve as an impediment to the evaluation of players who may have suffered a concussion during games; and (d) eliminate heading for children 10 and under and limit heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13.
The dramatic changes come as a result of a class-action lawsuit over FIFA’s handling of concussions. The suit, brought by a group of soccer parents and players and filed last year in California’s U.S. District Court, did not seek financial damages — rather changes to the sport’s rules.
The United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) and American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) were also named in the lawsuit.
According to U.S. Soccer, the complete details of the new safety initiative along with a more comprehensive player safety campaign will be announced within the next month.
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With playoffs on the line, the Washington Spirit hosts the NC Courage in a must-win regular-season home finale Saturday night.
NC Courage sits high atop their first-place throne with an icy six-win streak, 14-4--4 record overall leading the NWSL with 46 points, 31 goal differential, 50 goals for and 19 goals against. The struggling Spirit, with one win, one loss and three draws in their past five matches, need to find a way to crack the Courage and tack on another win to keep postseason hopes alive.
Mallory Pugh has made strong moves for the Spirit since returning from injury and will be a key player to breakthrough the Courage defense with nine clean sheets (just one more than Washington) and averaging 0.9 goals allowed per game.
The Spirit cannot afford to lose this game if they want to snag a playoff spot, and that chase continues in Maryland.
SPIRIT-COURAGE GAME: HOW TO WATCH
What: Washington Spirit vs. NC Courage
Where: Maureen Hendricks Field Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, MD
When: Saturday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington
The Washington Spirit will make their way to Houston in hopes to secure three points against the Houston Dash on Wednesday night.
The Spirit are coming off of a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars, dropping them to 7W-8L-5D.
For the first time in quite a while, both midfielder Rose Lavelle and forward Mallory Pugh took the field against the Red Stars. Lavelle returned to the lineup after suffering a head injury a few months ago and played 45 minutes in her first game since August 17.
During the 80th minute, Pugh scored her first goal of the season but it wasn’t enough to take the lead over the Dash.
Wednesday nights game will be Washington’s first time as a part of the NWSL’s new broadcast deal with ESPN.
Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
SPIRIT-DASH GAME: HOW TO WATCH
What: Washington Spirit vs. Houston Dash
Where: BBVA Stadium, Houston, TX
When: Wednesday, September 25 at 9:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2