By Kenny Skinner, Coaching Contributor
In August 2017, US Soccer did their latest shake-up of rules and regulations. One of the most significant things they changed about the game was the use of a Build Out Line for 7v7. This line serves two purposes: as an offsides line and a retreat line for the defensive team when the keeper is in possession of the ball, or for a goal kick. Now, the first reaction for this was very positive because logically, for a 7v7 coach, this allows us to focus on building the ball out of the back to move forward. My keeper will look to play a pass to one of my defenders that have checked down towards the corner flags, so ultimately we can avoid needless long balls from a goal kick.
Once I was able to implement this concept into my first few games, I noticed how I lacked training for it. Opposition coaches would stack three to four players at the build out line as if Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, and Yohan Blake were competing in a 100-meter dash. As my keeper would look to pass out of the back, he would instantly be pressured by these three to four players who would instantly steal the ball and go to goal. Of course, the American Jurgen Klopp has found out how to press in U9, oh joy! Maybe someone missed the point of the build out line? However, as games progressed and coaches began to focus on positional play and technical skill, I started to see some of these issues go away.
A pattern involved in the decision-making process was developed that allowed us to be successful through pressure, and things seemed to go well for the rest of 7v7. As we know, the next progression with US Soccer is 9v9. The build out line is gone, we’ve added assistant referees, and offsides is now in effect at the halfway line with the removal of the build out line.
Have you ever heard of how things (history in particular) tend to repeat themselves? Well, yes, the pressing that happened in the beginning of 7v7 still lives through 9v9, especially in U11. I’ll go ahead and say it here, I find 9v9 useless, but I’ll save that for another post (stay tuned). Coaches tend to send multiple players forward to pressure your fullbacks and other players close to the ball. I’ve had multiple games where a keeper who can’t play the 25-30 yard long ball off a goal kick results in multiple losses of possession. The only way I fix this is to have the keeper utilize a centerback for a wall pass to attempt to build out. This at least removes the sense of pressure on a dead ball that allows the defense to settle.
Overall, once education is implemented on how coaches should utilize the build out line, I would say the experience can be positive for players. My favorite thing to hear at a weekend is “Be brave. Look to play through the pressure.” It seems that playing through pressure is something many coaches don’t seem comfortable coaching their players on. The amount of needless clearances out of play with no pressure and targetless long balls still show the struggles we have in this country on dealing with high-stress situations.
Feel free to leave your thoughts below on how you’ve found the Build Out Line to affect the game in both 7v7 and 9v9.