GotSoccer Insanity: Ranking 9-year-olds! Really?

By John O'Sullivan

America is obsessed with rankings. From NCAA football and basketball to top high school recruits across the sporting spectrum, the American sports fan has no shortage of statistics and ratings in every professional and college sport. Unfortunately, team rankings have leached into youth sports as well, where any benefit they bring is far outweighed by the negative consequences of rating young athletes and teams during their developmental years.

Unfortunately these rankings have now taken over the youth soccer world. On Oct. 14, the web site, the most well-known youth soccer ranking site, decided to expand its ratings and begin ranking 9- and 10-year-old soccer teams in both small-sided and full-sided game categories. In the words of CEO Gavin Owen-Thomas, "We've always received a tremendous number of requests to rank the younger ages and I believe the time is now right.”

Really? Right for what? Right for who? It’s certainly not right for the kids who are actually playing!

Any coach who has taken a USSF E License knows that the 9- to 12-year-old age group is known as the “Golden Age of Skill Development.” According to USSF best practices in Long Term Athletic Development, the years prior to the growth spurt for both male and female players are the time when their bodies are most sensitive to developing sport specific skill. It is a time when technical training is crucial, and games should be used as a training tool and a way to measure development.

This age is a time when players need ample game minutes to hone their new skills at a variety of positions. Players need to be encouraged to take risks. Defenders and goalkeepers should not be afraid of playing out of the back. Attacking players need to develop the confidence to beat opponents on the dribble, and possess the ball instead of launch it up the field. Any coach will tell you that these things usually go out the window if your sole focus is to win your games. Unfortunately, that is what the new GotSoccer rankings will do; hinder what little emphasis there already is on development and put all the onus on winning games.

In GotSoccer, you don’t get ranking points for style, or possession, or close games. You don’t get points for letting all your athletes have playing time, or putting your fast goalscorer in the back or midfield to develop his all around ability. You get points for beating teams, and for winning games and tournaments. You earn points and the higher rankings that go with them for focusing on winning at the exact ages when that should be the least of your worries as a coach and as a parent. It is a terrible message being sent by an influential voice.

I am not naive enough to think that this does not happen already. We all know that youth soccer has stopped focusing on children competing against other children. We all know it’s often focused on adults competing against other adults through their children. A hyper-competitive, win-at-all costs mentality has already taken over youth soccer down to the U9 age group in many places. It is causing many talented, developmentally focused coaches to quit rather than make sure their U10 team wins all its games.

It is causing many parents to have their 7-year-old specialize in only soccer so they can make the travel team at 9 and be a star, only to burn out by age 13. This environment is driving far too many kids to quit the most beautiful game in the world. It is causing them to hate soccer!

We all should know better!

Gavin Owen-Thomas states on his bio that he has a USSF and a UEFA A License. He states that they have had many requests for 9- and 10-year-old rankings. From whom? The USSF, U.S. Youth Soccer, or perhaps the NSCAA? Of course not. The requests come from mis-guided parents who are living out their unfulfilled athletic dreams through their children. The rankings serve these parents; they do not serve the best interests of the children!

I do not know Mr. Owen-Thomas, but hopefully this message will reach him. Sir, please reconsider your decision to start ranking 3rd and 4th grade soccer teams. If you are really a person who is concerned with the future and growth of the game in the United States, please do right by the kids, and stop this nonsense.

You have a choice. Your legacy can be one of a good soccer man who made a mistake and fixed it, or you can be the guy who enabled little Johnny’s dad to proudly proclaim “My son plays on the No. 1 ranked 3rd grade soccer team in the whole USA.”

Choose wisely Mr. Owen-Thomas, for our kids’ sake.

(John O'Sullivan is the author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High-Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids,”  is available on Kindle and in paperback. O'Sullivan's blogs at

39 comments about "GotSoccer Insanity: Ranking 9-year-olds! Really?".
  1. Joseph Pratt, October 16, 2013 at 4:39 p.m.

    Yes, yes, yes, Mr. O'Sullivan!!! Spot on throughout, I agree wholeheartedly. This move by GotSoccer is a travesty, and indefensible. It should be reversed and forgotten. What a terrible idea!

  2. william newsom, October 16, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.

    Thank GOD someone said it!!!!! As soon as i learned about this i was kissing soccer goodbye in the US.

  3. Aresenal Fan, October 16, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.

    Can't blame Gotsoccer, if the demand is there. More traffic for his website. Hoping the start ranking all the way down to U6, because my sons team can really bunch up with the best of them...

  4. P Hilton, October 16, 2013 at 5:12 p.m.

    Ranking nine year teams is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard.
    So the teams who have the tallest players,that can kick the ball farthest will rank at the top at this age. This is exactly the apposite direction that we should be going in to develop players.
    If you must rank these teams, they should be ranking the coaching staff for teaching technical skills and the ability to inspire children.

  5. Eric Schmitt, October 16, 2013 at 5:52 p.m.

    What's worse is that there doesn't seem to be a way to contact them via their website. I went there and all they offer is a form page that assumes you are part of an organization that is a "member". I guess they don't want to hear from anyone who isn't in the "inner circle".

  6. R2 Dad, October 16, 2013 at 5:53 p.m.

    Adults continue to stymie the sport at every turn. Specifically, parents can be numbskulls mostly because they don't know anything about the game yet control the purse strings--a dangerous combination. I think it should be mandatory for new U8 parents to spend some time with U18 parents. Not the parents of top U18 teams, but the Silver and Bronze teams that constitute the vast majority of older kids still playing. The parents of kids that play in high school but probably not college. Maybe these new U8 parents can learn how to behave, what to value, how to protect the health of their children. Because the club coaches might not know or may not tell them. This Gotsoccer development is just the next step in parental over-involvement that is taking all the fun out of the sport.

  7. Mark Mahnken, October 16, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

    Mr. O'Sullivan shows he does not understand the youth soccer marketplace. He's the "Kill the Messenger" type.

    If he thinks GotSoccer has created a competitive environment in youth soccer, he's uninformed. It's its players, parents and yes coaches that are at the core of the issue.

    The GotSoccer rankings are nothing more than a compilation of actual events that seed and declare champions and there are hundreds of them.

    For example, North Texas Youth Soccer has an event called "Tournament of Champions" The youngest age group is .... yes - U10. Almost 60 teams were accepted at U10 last year and SEEDED into Division 1 and 2. They held Quarter Finals, Semis and a Final.

    I can show you hundreds of other events all across the country with U10 and U11 age groups that are seeded and have playoffs.

    GotSoccer simply aggregates what is already happening in the market.

    Want this stopped? Get the tournaments, states, and leagues to stop competitive soccer for these age groups and

    GOOD LUCK with that!

    And good luck with getting people like Mr. O'Sullivan to understand this market is competitive and driven by parents. Want more proof? Just look at what clubs like Dallas Texans, Eclipse IL, Surf, are charging to train 9 year olds. They now push $1,000 per year, not including uniforms, events ...

  8. Ihor v Kutynsky, October 16, 2013 at 9:23 p.m.

    This guy needs a good pediatric SHRINK!!

  9. Winston Stewart, October 16, 2013 at 10:39 p.m.

    Why bother with any rankings period? Why lash out at U-9 and U-10 rankings only? Why are we ranking U-18 and Development Academy teams? Doesn't the same logic applies to the teams with older players as well? The fact of the matter is that sports in America, be it soccer or baseball, etc., is way too structured at the youth level; is generally elitist; enables pay to play situations; and adult coaches have made coaching the youths a career with sometimes 6-figure salaries, thereby driving up the cost to play. In soccer, young players are seen standing in a straight line with cones arranged in certain patterns around them; what for? There are no statues or zombies in a game of soccer, so why the static cones? We do not allow our kids to express themselves freely, and every move they make on a soccer field MUST be instructed by a coach. And we wonder why we lag behind most soccer-playing nations?

  10. Brendan Coyne, October 16, 2013 at 11:36 p.m.

    I think ranking these age groups rewards short-sighted coaches and clubs. At this age, winning does not equal development. Winning at this age is big feet, stealing the ball for a quick and easy score on a goal kick. It is about finding the one or two kids who can dribble past a couple other kids and score. It is about finding a way, any way, to score. GotSoccer is not to blame for the must win mentality in early years youth sports. But as an organization that has infiltrated youth soccer, their announcement adds fuel to this fire. I say the author is spot on with his assessment.

  11. Big Dad, October 16, 2013 at 11:39 p.m.

    As much as I hate to rankings expanded to the U10's and 11's, it is pretty much already happening.Or at least is happening in my part of the country it is basically just unpublished. 2 maybe 3 teams from the large clubs DOMINATE the age group in the state.
    they travel and play the other top teams from the region.

    Some parents are nuts, some are not. usually the parents with older kids that have been through it before are rational if not a bit underhanded at times.

    Honesty it all depends on the coach. If you want your kid to play direct soccer play at club X( or for Coach X) and probably win more. if you are willing to sacrifice a few ins, play at club Y where you will build attacks from the back but probably lose to the direct team 3 out of 4 times.

    Sad it is officially happening but honestly it has already happened where my kids play.

  12. andrew yaletsko, October 17, 2013 at 1:39 a.m.

    Excellent article, I agree 100%. We should not be putting that much pressure on kids at that age. I have 5 kids who play at various levels. To add the pressure on the coach and players of now needing points in the ridiculous web site standing (got soccer) make no sense at all. Let the kids be kids, let's not have them worrying about what mistakes their going to make that might cost them the game and points.

  13. Martha Diop, October 17, 2013 at 4:59 a.m.

    I believe the feelings expressed in the article and supported by many of the comments in this blog are explained by one thing:
    There are two separate, completely disjoint worlds: the world of soccer player development (World 1), resting on teaching, on patience, expertise about youth soccer, child psychology, etc. and then there is World 2, that we can call the world of mini English Premier Leagues, by the thousands. It is an exact mini-replica of EPL, with the rankings, end of season relegations, the recruiting of players from other teams, the transfer windows, etc. In short, all the drama and excitement of EPL and adult soccer, brought down to 11 year old, and now down to 9! Hopefully they will move down to toddlers in diapers. They will still be able to have rankings (sure some parents will ask for that). Their 4 year old son plays in a team ranked number 3 in USA. What an accomplishment!

    Obviously people who evolve in the first World 1 mistakenly see World 2 as a place to implement what they believe in. But they need to understand that World 2 is the wrong place to talk about player development, because it is irrelevant to the actors (either they do not care, or they are ignorant or do not even know what player development means in the first place).

    Let the two worlds leave happily together, side by side. Just do not mix them. Let the GotSoccer and its allies do their stuff. Why should they be interested in player development anyway? Why would one care about soccer player development, if you are not playing to become professional?

    For my part, I am a devote believer in World 1, and preach to it every day, when a chance is given to my little tiny voice

  14. Bruce Cochrane, October 17, 2013 at 7:03 a.m.

    ID10T is the best description of Mr. Owen-Thomas and GotSoccer. Guess he failed all the licensing exams he has said to have taken. Time to retake the courses, or better yet start coaching a U9 team and use what you supposedly have learned in the courses you alegedly attended.

  15. Soccer 2306, October 17, 2013 at 8:27 a.m.

    First, ranking 9 and 10 year old teams is ridiculous, but it should be viewed for what it is. A commercial enterprise by GOT to get brand loyalty over other ranking sites like SINC. That is all. The ranking sites have different formulas and methods and are both equally unaccountable and filled with errors and don't really care about the errors. They make money by convincing tournaments and players to use their sites and get "premium" subscriptions. Since the marketplace seems to demand the service, why are they the villains for filling that need. Second, the vilification comes from "purists" who keep denigrating the system we have and will always have by saying we need to be more like England and other countries, instead of trying to make the best of what we have. In every other sport in America, baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, the teams keep score, have winners and losers, have tournaments, and have a competitive environment and those sports thrive and excel. Parents pay for coaching in those sports and travel to play against better competition. Our pro leagues seem to be doing just fine with the same basic system. But for some reason soccer is not supposed to do this. It is only supposed to "develop" skills and players at this young age. What about developing a winning attitude? Developing the skills needed to handle a victory and a loss? Soccer purists believe that you cannot develop "winners" and good players at the same time. That is a false premise and what is wrong with the criticism. My son is going to play soccer at a good division 1 program. He has been on a team that has won since they were u9 and he has had coaches who played from the back, played possession and stressed skills. We have played teams from all over and the majority of teams have done it the same way. Sure there were teams that played kickball, and we lost to them sometimes because they were bigger and stronger earlier, then we caught up to them in size and beat them. It is a false argument that you cannot do both. I had choices for teams and coaches for my boys. Just like I have choices for other services I buy. If there are coaches who play the "wrong" way then it is because the parents are too lazy to demand better. It is easy for parents to blame the coaches and others for their own poor choices, but the "purists" need to stop blaming the system because they think you cannot develop a winning attitude and good skills.

  16. Rick Figueiredo, October 17, 2013 at 9:32 a.m.

    I think that in spite of what we do and don't do eventually most of this will not matter. When the great athletes finally emerge in this country, in this sport, we will have competitive teams in the "a" level around the world. Until then you must be satisfied living in the "b" league. It's all about the caliber of players. It's about their innate intelligence in this sport. Even the FIFA rankings are extremely inaccurate. And have been for a long time. They are a PR convenience. If your team ranks high use it for publicity. It if ranks low claim it is inaccurate. It is there for the press and the amateurs.

  17. Karen Bush, October 17, 2013 at 9:46 a.m.

    Ranking the teams is ridiculous because it continues to feed a mentality -- one that permeates youth sports -- that has been snowballing for more than 20 years. I remember working a game as a linesman back in the mid-1980s on a State Cup game in New Jersey. The age of the girls? U9. I remember it because the game went to a shootout, and the losing team ended up with girls sobbing their hearts out.
    I agree, also, with the commenter who recommends that parents of U8 players should sit with the parents of a group of high school players, so they can see the reality of how many of those players are actually going on to a college soccer career. I served on the board of my local soccer club for a time, and it infuriated me when parents of 7-year-olds (yes, 7!) would push for their child to "play up" because their skills were "too advanced" for their age group. The number of children who are truly that advanced at that age is minimal, and if you have watched any youth sport and watched any group of players for any time, you know that puberty has a significant impact on their abilities -- and it's not always a positive one.
    I have taken heat as a coach from parents who were frustrated with losing, in part because I was (and am) that coach who plays all the kids because I always believed that the only way they grow as players is by playing the game. It's not easy to watch your team lose time after time. But I think if you ask the parents whose kids have played for me -- I coached a girls' team for four years and I am in my third year with my boys' team -- they will tell you there are intangible lessons the kids have learned. And now, the wins mean that much more to them. The girls I coached are in high school now, and their JV team is undefeated. The varsity has one loss. And I am proud to say that kids I coached -- who were rejected by other coaches at 9 years old because they "weren't skilled" or were beginners -- love the game enough that they are still playing. At an age where girls drop out of sports in record numbers, I can count five players (out of 22 on the high school team) who played for me. Several others are playing other sports -- but they're still in sports.
    As a parent, I can tell you I have invested in training for my daughter, who's a goalkeeper. But I made the investment primarily because having her learn to play the position correctly, to me, was a safety issue. And while she will tell you soccer is her primary sport, it has never been her only sport. She also plays basketball and softball, and while it requires a lot of juggling, I know is it better for her as a whole.

  18. Chris Hummer, October 17, 2013 at 10:06 a.m.

    Those of you excusing this move by GS by blaming the marketplace for demand are part of the problem - and exactly the market this move targets. But to me, that's like excusing bartenders for selling beer to 18 year olds, or drug dealers for selling pot. It's wrong. Ranking these ages is nothing more than a "gateway" for getting non-soccer-savvy parents addicted to winning as the measurement of success. Rankings are a necessary, marketplace evil, but a line needs to be drawn at u12 - and I wish it were at u14 - where the kids at least are playing 11v11. There is a moral line that was crossed a long time ago, but it doesn't mean we should keep walking right off the cliff.

    If you're a parent of a 9 year old who doesn't think there's anything wrong with ranking his/her team, then you need to sign a pledge that you will NOT remove your child from that team for at least 3 years and that you will never yell "KICK IT", "RUN", "DON'T PASS BACKWARDS" from the sidelines... EVER!

    For more perspective I wrote about this topic here too (and linked back to this article too of course):

  19. Robert Robertson, October 17, 2013 at 1:45 p.m.

    Mr. O'Sullivan misses the point. Its not the ranking system companies that are the source of the problem. Its the dollars which drive youth soccer. Exclusive leagues, tournaments,etc. etc. are designed to maximize dollars. On the specific question whether Got Soccer should rank the youngest kids I don't have a strong opnion but I would tend to say no. But whether they are ranked officially or not - the teams are ranked by which clubs they are part of. Apply to any major tournament with a U10 or U11 team. The tournament directors must make a decision based on something. Is MR. O'Sullivan opposed to having teams this young play in tournaments? If not then Got Soccers ranking are at least laid out for all to see. Or does he belive in the good 'ole boy' system or the self appointed "elite clubs' system. Currently, the ECNL teams are crowing since they don't feel they receive enough points for their teams performance. Yet the tournaments are open to all to apply. Anyway, I am for developing players and some clubs do that and create competitive teams... It was a conscious decision on my part to seek such a club.

  20. Kent James, October 17, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.

    Soccer2306, while I agree with much of what you wrote, I do think that a focus on winning at an early age is counterproductive. Kids at that age will keep score, and there is nothing wrong with that, but the emphasis should be on being challenged (better to play against better players and lose than beat up on weak teams), trying hard, having fun and developing skill. And tracking team records, winner take all tournaments, etc., creates perverse incentives to stack teams and tactically focus on the score. I was coaching with a friend of mine, and he was concerned that a lack of emphasis on winning would not let them learn the tough lessons of life, to "learn how to be men" (he eventually agreed with me, but his concerns did make me think a lot about it). Since mental toughness is probably my greatest strength as an athlete, I respect that, but U6 (or U8, or even most U10) players are too young to be taught such lessons. As they mature emotionally, learning mental toughness becomes more significant. When they're young, fun and skill should be primary goals. As they get older (U14 and up; U12 is a gray area), then you have greater emphasis on tactics and psychology.

  21. Lee Dunne, October 17, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

  22. 0 M, October 17, 2013 at 3:21 p.m.

    I do not think it is a major problem to rank teams at any age. It happens in most rec and comp leagues. The solution is simple. Do not participate in leagues and tournaments if the teams don't like rankings.

  23. Scott Rosberg, October 17, 2013 at 4:25 p.m.

    Mr. O'Sullivan nailed it. No matter what the sport, why would we need rankings for such young ages? I agree somewhat with the person who said why have them for any age? However, I get why some sports have them as the ages get older (high school age) and competition takes on more of a focus. My son (12 yrs. old) just played competitive soccer for the first time last spring. The fact that we travel all around the state is one thing. But the fact that we then have a "state tournament" which is for all the way down to 6 year olds is ridiculous. I am sickened by Youth Soccer, AAU basketball, Club Volleyball, USA Wrestling, Junior Hockey, etc. for the impact they have had on the focus of our youth sports. Yes, I get that it is so often the parents who are behind it, but our governing bodies and organizations need to lead responsibly in instilling in our youth sports the right mix of fun, development, and competition, with fun & development being the main thrust, especially for the ages below high school.

    I highly recommend any parent of an athlete or coach pick up Mr. O'Sullivan's book, "Changing the Game," to get a great understanding of what is so wrong in youth sports today, and what are some ways we can make youth sports better for our kids. As a high school and middle school basketball coach, youth soccer coach, and former high school athletic director, I am recommending this book to all of the parents and coaches in our school district and our youth sports' leagues. What you saw in his short article/post is expounded upon in many ways in his book. He also speaks from experience - as a former player and coach at the highest levels and a director of a youth soccer league.

  24. Martha Diop, October 18, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.

    I agree with OM that the problem is not about ranking because we do rank kids all the time, everywhere on anything. Giving A and C and F at school is a form of ranking. So is giving a happy face sticker to a preschooler, etc. And nobody is saying that ranking students for academics should not be done before they reach high school!!!
    The real issue is this: are those who rank young kids actually hurting them, or punishing them? If not, and the kids find it exciting and it gives them something to aim at, and a goal to achieve (even if it has nothing to do with the real soccer game), there is probably nothing wrong. If you humiliate, scold, belittle or criticize 9 year old players (or anyone for that matter) because their team did not rank high, now that would be BAD. If you tell them to work harder so that they can move up the ladder and rank higher, there is really no harm, although the whole thing is total nonsense.

    A possible harm would be how introducing these ranking would stifle the kid’s soccer development. But if he does not want to become professional or have a college scholarship anyway, then who cares?

  25. Mike Hix, October 18, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.

    What is wrong with you people? Mr O'Sullivan you should stick to writing about things you know. Are we not living in a competitive world any longer? If Got Soccer wants to have rankings at U9 and U10 so be it. Do you really think coaches are looking to see how many ranking points they have to get to be the #1 ranked U9 team in the country?? C'mon get a clue.

    Rankings give players and teams somthing to strive for (if they choose). We call that Motivation! If you dont like it, then don't pay attention to it!

    The article Mr. O'Sullivan writes is ridiculous, and the points he makes to bash the rankings dont make any sense. How does having a ranking system at U9 affect what other sports my kids play and drive me not to play other sports? How does a ranking system take the game away from the kids, or say that the kids arent learning the game the way they should? Really??

    Mr. O'Sullivan, you should be ashamed of your negative comments toward parents, and your stereotype of the comptitive nature of the game. Not everyone wins, but those that do, should be rewarded!! If you are looking to have a game where everything is equal and kids do not understand the value of having to earn achievement, you have no clue.

  26. Chris Hummer, October 18, 2013 at 5:14 p.m.

    OM/Marhta/Mike - It is absolutely not wrong to measure or rank kids in many things, and yes it happens in school. But you are RANKING THE WRONG THING when it comes to soccer. If it were possible to have a national ranking of consecutive juggling with the left foot for 7 year olds, I'd be all for it. That would be healthy competition reinforcing the right fundamental learning habits. What would you do if your child got a D on a test even though they had all the answers correct? And worse, what if that D was because the school didn't use one particular software package to manage their report cards? That is what measuring team results in a tournament is like here. If your kids never take advanced math in school, they aren't going to be a rocket scientist, so don't rank them on a calculus test when their 11 and then tell them they have to change schools if they want to get an A next time. In soccer, there are so many fundamental skills that you MUST have at the advanced level in order to succeed, but you ABSOLUTELY DON'T need to have to win at the younger ages. Experienced coaches who work with players dreaming of at least playing in college one day are already fighting a tidal wave of parents with the same arguments you have hear about how to value winning, and now GotSoccer just gave you a double espresso. It scares the daylights out of us!

  27. Martha Diop, October 18, 2013 at 11:14 p.m.

    Chris, I agree with you because we are saying the same thing, and probably share the same views.
    You are correct that they are ranking the WRONG thing, but it is the wrong thing ONLY if the mission is about PLAYER DEVELOPMENT.
    All GotSoccer is ranking and all these parents are concerned about is who can put more balls in the net. That is all. And the frustration is that most youth soccer professional (certainly not the parents) know that just scoring more goals does not mean you are a good soccer team.
    If you notice, all the people who are against this ranking stuff seem to be people genuinely concerned about player development, and teaching the real game, with patience and over time. I call that World 1.
    It seems to me that GotSoccer and its followers, do not care about or do not understand what soccer player development is (otherwise they would not embark in this ranking stuff).
    My point and my question is: if players and parents do not envision a career in soccer or scholarship, etc., what does it matter if they follow a system like GotSoccer that just ranks how many goals are scored, if that is all they are interested in?

    The irony though is that most of the people who condemn this GotSoccer ranking today, are flirting daily with NCSL, WAGS, etc who too have outrageous and gruesome ranking systems for younger ages (with Divisions and relegations). Is not it true?

  28. Mike Brown, October 19, 2013 at 8:15 a.m.

    Why not rank intramural teams?

  29. Chris Hummer, October 20, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

    Martha, Well said. I agree with your assessment of how these are valued differently based on the teachers in the game versus the winning matters group. The problem for me is still that this system that should be harmless to us teachers has a dramatic influence on the market demand. It literally feels like a drug war, where the teachers are trying to educate our way out of bad, addictive habits of the masses, yet the drugs keep pouring in with no one at the gate. We have learned to deal with U12 rankings and up, but this just feels like a huge breach in the wall that is only going to make things twice as hard. It's already hard enough to explain to u12 parents how their leading goal scoring darling daughter still can't lock her ankles. The silver lining is I think this move just alienates many DoCs and Tourney Directors even more, and the Got Soccer Cup tournament thing will do the same. GS's business will not be sustainable if they continue to make jobs harder for people who run the sport. It seems like a classic move of over confidence, which is why I used "jumped the shark" in my blog post.

  30. Mike Hix, October 22, 2013 at 1:56 p.m.

    Look people, here is the deal. If you thnk that ranking 9 and 10 yo soccer teams is going to drive coaches/teams/clubs to win more, you've lost your marbles. This has been happening for years now, and ranking 9 and 10 yo for a job well done will NOT affect them or the game. If you are teaching the appropriate topics at the appropriate ages the teams will win, and that is NOT a bad thing!! I guess we should tell the kids "dont try to win the game because your team will be ranked too high in Got Soccer, and people will be offended." Competition in sport is great for the game, and it is crazy people thinking everyone should be on a level playing field and we live in a bubble of fairness that will ruin the game. To the earlier point of "parents only care about putting the ball in the net", well, that is the object of the game isn't it? Having a ranking system does not in any way, shape or form dictate to any club, coach, DOC or anyone else what or how to teach the players the game. The game is/can/will be taught in many different styles and this will never change, so stop complaining about Got Soccer's ranking 9 and 10 yo as a platform to complain, and vent about other agendas you have. The negative feedback on this topic is just one more example of what is wrong with people who don't have a clue about teaching soccer, understand kids or strive for achievement. If we really want to make a difference in the youth game of soccer and have our voice heard, let's put our time toward something that really, really matters, like reaching out to the less privileged players in low income communities to offer assistance, so we continue to grow the love of the game.

  31. John O'sullivan, October 23, 2013 at 12:03 a.m.

    Thank you all for taking the time to share and comment on this article, as well as reach out to me through my website I have been amazed at the strong feelings it has led to on both sides of the issue. As a player, coach, and coaching educator for nearly three decades, at all levels from college to the pro level, I have to say my biggest surprise has been the comments from people who think that somehow I am implying that competitiveness is a bad thing, and I certainly am not. Young athletes are naturally competitive; they do not need rankings to play hard, play to win, etc. They should do all these things, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a team winning or losing a game. Trust me, no one dislikes participation awards more than me. The problem with rankings is not their effect upon players; it is the effect upon the adults on both sidelines. It is not very difficult to set up your 9 year old soccer team to win. Put out an athletic keeper, athletic centerback, and fast forward, and knock every ball over the top. Forget asking your GK to throw instead of kick, playing out of the back, possession, trying to play in tight spaces, and all the other things that actually develop players. Knock it long, chase it down, keep your weaker players on the bench, and you will eventually score a few and win a lot. Some comments claim that if you teach these appropriate topics at the appropriate ages you will win; anyone who has actually coached these ages the right way knows that often you will also lose. Again, nothing wrong with winning or losing, except when coaches and parents are focused on only on setting their team up to win, and rankings, instead of actually concerning themselves with developing all the kids they have selected. There is not an expert coach in the world who can look at a 9 year old and say with certainty 'that kid is going to the next level,' nor can they be sure that a kid won't make it either. There are far too many factors that determine those things. Yet each and every weekend many full time attorneys, doctors, realtors, and accountants who have taken on the title of coach (and that is a great thing) decide that some players will make it and others won't make it in the quest for wins, and now rankings. Because they want to win, they cut players from town clubs in 2nd and 3rd grade, taking them out of a proper player development system at far too young an age, and before even the experts can judge whether a kid will be a good player or not. That is a bad thing, and extending rankings down to these every younger ages only exacerbates this issue.

  32. Jennifer Leone, October 23, 2013 at 4:12 a.m.

    Everyone...chill out...the U10 rankings are gone (have been since the 18th or so).

    The U11s are still there. And stop freaking out - cause they originally ranked the U11s when they started their rankings (2002 or 2003 I think). They stopped around 2006 or 2007...people were they're back - and yet still...people are pissed...

  33. Rick Figueiredo, October 23, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.

    Good morning oh great fellow soccer debaters. Wow. Yeah let's all just freak out over "rankings." Nothing on TV right now. Kids are off to school. House is clean. Everybody in my home is healthy. Why not? Hey guys. We rank girls don't we. We rank chicken wings at Hooters. We rank restaurants. We rank our own achievements. We rank the people in our corporations: Pres., Vice Pres., CEO, File Room Clerk. We rank TV programs. We rank books. We rank professional teams. We rank everything. Americans are statistically obsessive. It is a sport in itself. Whether you rank an 18 year old team or a 5 year old team. It is all the same. It is opinion blended with some fact. We feel more comfortable when we can categorize things and people. We are profilers. We like to rank race and color. Sadly so, but in America and throughout the world nationalities do. It is part fun part just liking to see things in some sort of order, part just being a FANATIC. It is not gospel and if you think so you are naïve. Enjoy it and stop putting so much weight on all this. Or else I will have to start ranking YOU!!!

  34. Kent James, October 23, 2013 at 3:08 p.m.

    John O., your comment highlighted one of the key points of the debate; an emphasis on winning and an emphasis on competition are not the same! For example, if you focus on winning, people who set up the teams may set them up so they win (stacking the teams), so they look good (yes, I coached in a league where they did this; 2 yr age brackets, where my team had all kids of the younger age, the winning team (the director's) were all of the older!). In contrast, I ran a skills program for kids under 10, and on game day, we kept no scores, and switched kids between fields and even between teams on the same field to make sure the games were all competitive. And about half the time we put all the best players on one field, the weakest on another, and the middle players on others. This enabled us to keep every game competitive (so the players always had a chance to win, and tried very hard), and helped us challenge the best players (as well as giving the weak players a chance to take more major roles). The kids loved it, and the atmosphere was great because no one cared what the score was, but everyone applauded good plays. It was very competitive, but once the game was over, no one cared who had won.

  35. Kent James, October 23, 2013 at 3:16 p.m.

    The other problem this ranking of younger teams represents is the professionalization of soccer at earlier and earlier ages. Paid coaches, fancy uniforms, long trips, hotels, and expense. These things may be necessary at the higher levels, but bringing them down to the youngest levels is worse than a waste of money, it can be a waste of talent. Kids (and their parents) can get burned out (or tapped out!) before they hit 14. And by increasing the cost (and the time expense), some kids may never start or give up quickly (so we lose out on potential players). Good professional coaches can certainly accelerate skill development, but they don't have to coach a U9 team to do so. Weekly clinics are a cost effective way to let a coach's skill be spread among a whole group of players. Travel to find suitable competition may be necessary (and fun), but at U9? I think you need to stay local until the kids really need new faces to play, to save on time and expense. Pretending a U9 team is the same as a U18 team (and has the same needs for competition) is counterproductive.

  36. javan odhiambo, October 23, 2013 at 7:37 p.m.

    I think this gentleman is going to far children are not even ranked in school so how do you rank them in a team I think that is a serious subject that will create chaos he needs to address the matter agently even the Brazilians don't do that so where is he going with this and what is he rating is it skill,behavior,r what exactly does he base his rating criteria on

  37. Martha Diop, October 24, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.

    @ Rick Figueiredo
    Rick, you are correct that we rank everything, everywhere, every time. You are also correct that there is really nothing wrong with it. But what these gentlemen (Sullivan and James) are trying to explain to you (maybe you missed it), is that the insane practice of introducing these rankings to youth soccer at these very young ages, completely undermines the work of those professional who know and understand youth soccer, and are trying, over decades to give America a decent chance to be at least honorable at the world stage of soccer. These are continuous deadly blows to the work they are trying to accomplish.
    If this continues, don’t be surprised once MLS becomes something big, to see that only 10 or 15% of the players would be american, the rest being foreigners, who were taught the game the correct way in their countries (with no insane ranking practices). Look at England Premier League to convince yourself (less than 30% are nationals)
    I hope you now see the topic in a different light
    Sullivan and James, thanks for your contributions

  38. Mark Lewis, November 28, 2013 at 11:30 p.m.

    I am coming late to this discussion, but I want to point out the important value of rankings. They are used to flight teams in out-of-state tournaments. If you have ever spent $1,000 to take your kid to a tournament where you are the 2nd best team but are knocked out by the best team in pool play, then you know how important good rankings are. That said, GOT Soccer's rankings are pretty weak for all age groups. They are biased towards teams that play a lot of tournaments (i.e. CA teams). You can find much more accurate rankings at:

  39. Billy Wallace, July 8, 2015 at 4:46 p.m.

    Mark Lewis is correct. The GotSoccer rankings are not accurate at all. has much more accurate rankings from U11 up. These are important as Mark mentions to seed teams in tournaments. The teams and parents need to know where they stand and if they are making progress...that's why they keep score.

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