Players in the Under-7 Division are 6 years old by July 31, and in the Under-8 Division are 7 years old by July 31. Teams have about 10 players on the roster. Games are low-key and instructional in format.
Games are 4 players to a side ("4v4"). For a game, the team divides up into two groups, in different combinations each week. The two sub-teams play simultaneous games against the two sub-teams of another team on fields set up for side-by-side games.
Games are refereed by parent volunteers from the teams playing. Refereeing for this age group is described in more detail in the Referee section, on the U7/U8/U9 Laws page. Coaches must be certified with U8 Coach clinic instruction.
In the Fall Instructional Program we use the alternating team format, Olympic and World Cup (see below). In the Spring Instructional Program we do not alternate our team structure.
Game Format in U7 and U8
Boys and Girls Under-7 and Under-8 (6 and 7 year olds) play their games 4 to a side, with 10 players on the roster. For the Saturday games, each team divides into two "mini-teams" and plays the other team's "mini-teams". This format was piloted in 1998 and 1999 and has been a regular part of the program since 2000. There are NO goalkeepers in U7 and U8.
Why? To match the game format to the age and development level of the children. Our region has emphasized the small-sided game as a teaching system in the coaching clinics. Coaches who have used the system at practices have reported great success and an enthusiastic response from the kids. The following observations motivate this format.
Young children learn the essentials of the game better in small-sided games.
Game Organization - Olympic and World Cup
Teams should follow a substitution and rotation plan so that each player plays an approximately equal amount and, in U9, also has the opportunity to play in goal regularly (if the player wishes to play goal). If a team is short of players and the opposing team has extra players, consider loaning players to allow the children present more playing time on the field, rather than having children waiting as a substitution.
The field is 30 yards long, 20 yards wide. There is a half-way line for kickoffs with a 6 yard diameter center circle. The fields are arranged in pairs with at 3-5 yard separation between them. Coaches and spectators may stand near either touch line, including in between the two fields, but must stand back 1 yard from the touch line. If the between-field separation is too narrow to permit this, spectators should stand on the outer touch lines. Coaches should remain in "technical area", which is along the touch line approximately 10 years on either side of the center. Neither coaches nor spectators are permitted behind the goal lines. Coaches should "manage" their parents to know the correct observing area and to remain in that area. Mingling of the coaches and spectators from the two full teams is encouraged. If the teams have banners they should be placed 3 yards back from one touchline.
Coaching at the Game
Coaching at the game should be restricted to players that are not on the ball, or substitutes. We strongly discourage the shouting of instructions to players with the ball - it's their game and their decision. This applies equally to spectators. Frantic cries of "Kick it out!" or "Get it out of there!", while well-meaning, create an atmosphere of tension and put unreasonable pressure on young players. They are going to make lots of mistakes and there is essentially nothing that you can do at the game to change that.
4v4 Basic Player Roles and System of Play
The beauty of 4v4 is that at any given time each player has a simple and understandable role to play, and players should generally be in a diamond or rectangular arrangement on the field
In your regular practices, we encourage you to play 4v4 (with goalkeepers) or 3v3 (without goalkeepers) for 30 minutes of your normal practice hour. You will find it much easier to teach skills to the 2, 3 or 4 kids who are not playing than to the whole group. You will need either an assistant coach or a parent to monitor the game, as this age group is usually not self-organizing.
All coaches, head coaches and assistant coaches, must be currently registered as a volunteer (an annual requirement), have completed Safe Haven (a one-time requirement for all AYSO volunteers) and have completed the U-8 coaches course.
Each of the two mini-games needs one referee. Each team should have two certified referees. Only one from each team is needed each week, but it is good to have two trained referees in case one is absent. Games are "self-assigned", meaning the referees at the game will decide who will referee each mini-game. Referees must attend a 3-hour clinic to be properly certified at this level (U8 Official). If you are already certified, a refresher clinic is strongly recommended. Clinic information can be found on the Referee Classes page.
As mandated in the FIFA Laws of the Game used worldwide, no player may wear anything considered dangerous to themselves or any other player. This includes all jewelry. We run into problems every year with players with newly pierced ears who do not want to remove the studs. Referees are instructed not to let them play unless they remove them; covering them with tape is not an option. The best solution: wait until the end of the season to get piercings.
COMMENTS about 4v4
Coach on the field: Coaches should try to avoid stepping onto the field during the game. Referee "owns" the field and all referee directions must be adhered to.
"Goal Guarding": although the U8 game does not include goalkeepers, some players will want to protect the goal, even when play is at the other end of the field. Encourage them to move away from the goal and get closer to play.
Referees: It's much easier for the coaches if each team provides a referee who has been trained. One referee for two games means one game will have either an untrained parent or a coach as referee. This often leads to a less enjoyable day for the coach or parent who is the stand-in referee, and also for the players who may be given an inconsistent set of rules to play by.
Slide tackles: Players in Under-7 and Under-8 are not permitted to side-tackle. They are highly unlikely to be able to correctly execute a safe sliding tackle. The kids need to understand that they may hurt the other player, or even themselves. Coaches are expected to explain that staying on your feet gives you the best chance of winning the ball in a challenge. Referees should whistle attempted slide tackles as dangerous play.
Heading: Heading is prohibited at U7/U8 and the referee should whistle heading as dangerous play.