Players in the Under-8 Division are 6 or 7 years old by July 31, prior to the season start. Teams have about 8 players on the roster. Games are non-intensive and instructional in format.
Games are 5 players to a side ("5v5"). 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 U8 Laws page. Coaches must be certified with U8 Coach clinic instruction.
Game Format U8
Boys and Girls Under-8 (6 and 7 year olds) play their games 5 to a side, with 8 players on the roster. There are NO goalkeepers in U8.
Young children learn the essentials of the game better in small-sided games.
Teams should follow a substitution and rotation plan so that each player plays an approximately equal amount 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 substitute.
The field is 50 yards long, 25 yards wide, or less, depending on clear grass size. There is a half-way line for kickoffs with a 6 yard diameter center circle, and corner arcs of 1 yard radius. The goal area is 6 by 12 yards, and the goal is 6 ft high and 6 yds wide.
Coaches and teams should be on one side of the field and spectators on the other. Coaches should remain in the "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 teams is encouraged. If the teams have banners they should be placed at least 3 yards back from one touchline. All persons should remain at least one yard away from the touchlines.
Coaching at the Game
Coaching at the game should be restricted to helping players know their position, and only for players that are not on the ball. Do not shout 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 this is part of their learning experience.
Scoring And Record Keeping
The score, who wins and who loses, is important to downplay at this age. It is about having fun and learning. The referee must keep good records on the game card, and enter the data into the system after each game. The information includes the score, who scored, who sat out each quarter. This recorded information is to (a) ensure each player is getting their fair amount of playtime, (b) ranking teams to plan the game schedule and providing balanced play, (c) accumulating information about players to be used in future seasons when composing teams.
5v5 Basic Player Roles and System of Play
The beauty of 5v5 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
A key concept for the players to learn is space. Spreading out and passing to attack, covering the other team when they attack.
In your regular practices, we encourage you to play 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), CDC Concussion Awareness and have completed the online U-8 course and the U-8 clinic.
Each team should have two certified referees. Three is recommended. Games are "self-assigned", meaning the referees at the game will decide who will referee. Referees must attend a 3-hour clinic to be properly certified at this level (U8 Official). If already certified, a refresher clinic is required every year. 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 to not 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 5v5
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 followed.
"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 and the player they are covering.
Referees: It's much easier for the coaches if each team provides a referee who has been trained.
Slide tackles: Players in Under-8 are not permitted to slide-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 U8 and the referee should whistle heading as dangerous play. Do not train heading.