U.S. Soccer Changes Age Guidelines

Thirteen-year-old Alexis Sanders of Oxford has spent seven years on a soccer team.

Playing is her passion.

She turns 14 in the fall, which means as an 8th grader, she’ll age out of league soccer according to the new guidelines being handed down by the United States Soccer Federation.

“She was actually in tears when she found out she might not be able to play in September. It’s definitely affecting her a lot. It’s going to affect a lot of other kids as well," said her father Jim Sanders.

Sanders said he’s talked to local and state soccer officials, but their hands are tied. U.S. Soccer is mandating that youth soccer leagues use birth dates instead of grade-level to determine placement of players on their teams by 2017.

Much like the metric system, the US is one of the few countries in the world that currently uses the school year instead of birth year.

On its website U.S. Youth Soccer U.S. Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos says, “now it becomes easier to identify for U.S. National Teams and everything else when it comes to international soccer.”

“I like the uniformity of it. Right now, whenever a player comes up they don’t know which age group they’re going to be on. So now they say what year you were born. 2004. Ok, you’re going to be on the 2004 team," explained the Farmington Soccer Arena's Director of Coaching, Mick D'Arcy.

Now, any athlete born after August will be moved up in age group and have to change teams. D’Arcy says that also means hundreds of children in Connecticut will not be able to play competitively next season when the new rules are put into practice because most Connecticut youth soccer leagues end at age 13.

“It depends if the games are competitive or not. If they’re competitive and count toward league standings then you cannot play down," D'Arcy said.

U.S. Soccer allows athletes to play up to higher level teams. Not down. Which means, Alexis will either have to wait until she’s in high school to play again, or join a club league which is a considerable investment.

“Usually travel team might be $150 for the year, but club soccer might be $1,000, but then a lot of the tournaments may be out of state. You’re talking about travel, hotels, a lot of other things in play," said Sanders.

D’Arcy said Connecticut leagues could allow the players that have aged out but are not yet in high school to play scrimmage games on their teams, or ones that don’t count towards competitive standings. Sanders said he hasn't heard of any league willing to do that, yet.

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