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Lake Wylie Athletic Association

Lake Wylie Athletic Association

Small Side Games Information

 Why Small-Sided Games?

US Youth Soccer has thought long and hard about the answer to the question, "Why Small-Sided Games?"

What does "Small-Sided Games" mean? These are soccer games with fewer players competing on a smaller sized field. These are fun games that involve the players more because fewer players are sharing one ball.

All ages can play "Small Sided Games", but it has a definite developmental impact on our younger soccer players. US Youth Soccer recommendations for "number of players" at the various age groups are as follows:

U5 | 4 against 4 no goal keepers
U7 | 4 against 4 no goal keepers
U9 | 7 against 7 with goal keepers
| 9 against 9 with goal keepers
U13+ | 11 against 11 with goal keepers

Here are some of the reasons why we believe, as soccer coaches, administrators and parents must guarantee that our young soccer players play small-sided games:

1. Because we want our young soccer players to touch the soccer ball more often and become more skillful with it! (Individual technical development)

2. Because we want our young soccer players to make more, less-complicated decisions during the game! (Tactical development)

3. Because we want our young soccer players to be more physically efficient in the field space they are playing in! (Reduced field size)

4. Because we want our young soccer players to have more individual teaching time with the coach! Fewer players on the field and fewer players on the team will guarantee this! (Need to feel worthy and need to feel important)

5. Because we want our young soccer players to have more, involved playing time in the game! (More opportunity to solve problems that only the game presents)

6. Because we want our young soccer players to have more opportunity to play on both sides of the ball! (More exposure to attacking and defending situations)

7. Because we want our young soccer players to have more opportunities to score goals! (Pure excitement)

8. Because we want to include children of all temperaments, assertive to shy, to have more opportunities to interact with others and the game! (Socialization)

These are the reasons why we adults must foster "Small-Sided Games" in our youth soccer programs. The "Small-Sided" environment is a developmentally appropriate environment for our young soccer players. It’s a FUN environment that focuses on the young soccer player.

It just makes sense doesn’t it?

Small Sided Game Study

Manchester United youth players have been introduced at a young age to small-sided training as part of the curriculum in their training. This included the uses of a 4 v. 4 model with no goalkeepers and matches lasting eight minutes. The formats of the matches are also altered “to reflect upon soccer environments where the young players were free to learn, practice and develop their soccer skills without being shackled by the imposed structures, expectations, attentions and scrutiny of significant others.

Following the completion of the Manchester United study, it was determined that increases in soccer-critical situations increased exponentially.

• Increased passing by 135%
• Increased scoring attempts by 260%
• Increased the number of goals scored by 500%
• Increased the number of 1 v. 1 encounters by 225%
• Increased the number of dribbling skills (tricks) by 280%


"Over the years, we (the U.S.) have relied on athleticism and fitness, but times are changing, and we can’t rely on that any more. In small-sided games, you can’t take plays off. The girls we saw training were all totally engaged. You can’t start to do that at age 25. It has to begin at under-8, under-9."
- Carli Lloyd

“As a kid you need to touch the ball as much as you can. You should always be with the ball. You should have a feeling that wherever the ball is, you can do anything with it. No matter where it is, where it is on your body, how it’s spinning, how it’s coming at you, the speed it’s coming at you, anything……….”
- Landon Donovan

"Kids football is all about the individual loving the game: dribbling and shooting, playing games and scoring goals, experimenting and copying. It is very simple and lots of fun. Adult football is all about the team and results. It is physical, tactical, complicated and very serious."
- Tom Statham, Manchester United Academy

“You can learn the tactical side of the game later. It’s amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn’t matter when you’re 12 years old. We’re going to have big, strong, fast players. We’re Americans, we’re athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it’s just useless.”
- Landon Donovan

“Imagine if parents gave their children a toy – a doll, puzzle, or train - and started yelling at them while they played with it. Do you think it would become a favorite toy?”
- Claudio Reyna, US World Cup Captain

“We won,” but so what, when (s)he touched the ball three times today. Our responsibility is DEVELOPMENT. So we must play 4 v 4 and 7 v 7 with plenty of time and space – to learn combinations, skills, awareness, and “smartness.”
- Rinus Michels, Dutch Master Coach


Lake Wylie Athletic Association
President - Chris Touchstone, PO BOX 5299
Lake Wylie, South Carolina 29710

Email: [email protected]

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