Developmentally Appropriate Youth Soccer Modifications

Kindergarten-Second Suggested Soccer Modifications

  • Keep practice and games to one session per week
  • Limit the weekly session to no more than one hour
  • Use fun and games to teach skills instead of drills
  • Make sure all players have a ball and are involved in every activity
  • Play small-sided games, and use subs as outlet pass receivers on the sidelines in the offensive third of the field to keep them involved
  • Limit the season to 3 months
  • Do not keep scores or league standings (1)

Third-Fifth Grade Suggested Soccer Modifications

  • Separate the games from practice
  • Hold one practice and one game per week
  • Limit practice and games to one hour
  • Limit roster to 8 players
  • Play 6 v 6 during games
  • Use subs as outlet pass receivers during games
  • Let the players take turns keeping score
  • Limit the season to 3 months
  • Do not keep league standings or have playoffs (1)

Sixth-Eighth Grade Suggested Soccer Modifications

  • Play small sided games of 8 v 8
  • Limit the roster to 12 players
  • Allow all players to have equal playing time in all positions
  • Extend the length of the game to 70 minutes
  • Play 12 games over the course of 3 months
  • Hold no more than two 90-minute practices per week
  • Playoffs are OK, but use a round-robin style
  • Let the players keep score
  • De-emphasized league standings are OK (1)

Other Information on Soccer Rule Modifications

The US Youth Soccer Association has made rule modifications all the way up to the U12 age group in an effort to make the game more developmentally appropriate. Modifications include decreasing the number of players on the field as well as decreasing the size of the field. This allows for more players to get involved in the action and helps to prevent some players from being left out. Check out all of the rule changes at US Youth Soccer

A Modified Soccer Program that Works

An example of a modified program that has been successful comes from Washington, D.C. Founded by a former administrator of a traditional organized soccer program, this soccer program focuses on developing friendship, self-esteem, physical skills, creativity and independent decision making in a child-centered manner.

This program employs no formal competition or league standings. It has no awards ceremonies or all-star teams. What it does have is a lot of fun and a lot of soccer. For 10 weeks each fall and 8 weeks each spring, play groups get together with an adult leader. The play groups tend to be formed from families in the same neighborhood, and parents are allowed to play with their kids instead of just looking on from the sideline. During their play time the trained leaders conduct games involving one or more skills essential to the game of soccer. These games focus on getting all participants involved and allowing them to have a maximum number of touches with the ball. The program philosophy is “let the game be the teacher.” At the end of the practice there is the option to participate in a 7 v 7 competitive game so that participants can come together and display their skills while working on a common goal. Both parent and player satisfaction in this league is high (2).


(1) Bigelow, B., Moroney, T. & Hall, L. (2001). Just Let the Kids Play: How to Stop Other Adults from Ruining Your Child’s Fun and Success in Youth Sports. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

(2) Green, R. C. (2001). Action research in youth soccer: Assessing the acceptability

of an alternative program. In A. Yiannakis & M. J. Melnick (Eds.), Contemporary Issues of Sociology of Sport (pp. 79-90). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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