New US Soccer Heading Laws and Who They Affect

By now most of you have heard about new heading laws in youth soccer. This all come out of a lawsuit that was filed in CA in 2014. You can read the US Soccer statement here.  Since this lawsuit was finalized,  U.S. Soccer has issued a mandate on heading the ball in training and competitions for several age groups.  The mandate applies to players 12 years of age and younger and became effective January 1, 2016.

According to the mandate, players 10 years old or younger cannot be taught the skill of heading and cannot intentionally head the ball in a competitive game.  Players who are 11 and 12 years old can receive heading instruction in training, but training the technique is limited to 30 minutes per week.  However, they are allowed to head the ball in competition.  In the event a U10 or below player deliberately heads the ball on the field, the opposing team will be awarded an indirect free kick at the spot of the foul. *If the header occurs in the goal box area, the ball will be placed outside the box.  Just to be clear, I’ve heard conflicting arguments on this rule and how it will play out, but now that it has been several years we are starting to see what is normal for youth soccer tournaments

Here is a rule update from the US Club Soccer Website,

  • In adherence to these new requirements, referees have been instructed by U.S. Soccer of the following rule addition: When a player deliberately heads the ball in a game, an indirect free kick (IFK) should be awarded to the opposing team from the spot of the offense. If the deliberate header occurs within the goal area, the indirect free kick should be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.
  • Modified substitution rules also took effect Jan. 1, 2016, as follows: Any player suspected of suffering a head injury may be substituted for evaluation without the substitution counting against the team’s total number of allowed substitutions during the game.

George Chiampas, U.S. Soccer’s chief medical officer, said, “What we’re establishing is creating parameters and guidelines with regards to the amount of exposure to potential head injuries.”  He also added that the science on concussions is evolving, and so will U.S. soccer’s policies.  This will allow for a more precise implementation of future guidelines.  The more we know about where the danger lies then we can adjust our approach and training methods accordingly so as to still be able to teach the technique, without the actual physical impact of heading the ball.
U.S. Soccer’s initiative seeks to bring about more education for players, parents, coaches and referees, and for more uniform practices for handling youth concussions.  This will prevent further cases that could prove to be potentially detrimental to the U.S. Soccer landscape.  The last thing any soccer governing body wants is to be accused of negligence on behalf of the all participants of the sport.

At this point we all must accept this is really happening and prepare our clubs to this new focus. We will be updating our site on this topic and the information becomes available to us.  

Resources to Check Out:

US Soccer FAQ:

US Club Soccer Update:

NY Times Article:

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