2016 was the year of significant changes for the Portage Soccer Club (PSC).  The change in team formation from a calendar school year (August 1st - July 31st) to a birth year (January 1st - December 31st) was implemented with June 2016 tryouts.  US Soccer Federation, the governing body of all state soccer associations, US Youth Soccer, US Club Soccer, and AYSO is mandating this change effective August 2016.  Michigan State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA), our state association, implemented this change effective August 2016.

What is Calendar School Year (School Year August 1st-July 31st)?

Calendar year is the current soccer calendar that is based on the school year calendar that most leagues in the United States use to form teams.  The current “Calendar Year” runs from August 1st to July 31st.

What Does Birth Year Mean?

Birth year means a player will play in the age group of the year of their birth. The birth year calendar dates run from January 1st to December 31st.  For example, if you are born between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 1999, you will play in the 1999 birth year age group. If you are born between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 2002, you will play in the 2002 age group.

Why is US Soccer Going to Birth Year?

US Soccer is adopting this change to align with youth soccer across the world.  All countries but the U.S. and Canada and all international youth soccer competitions are birth year based.  The change also aligns with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) which forms teams based on birth year.  US Soccer’s goal is the development of players with greater skill, creativity, and confidence.  This focus on the development of the individual player versus the success of a particular team should result in developing better players faster.

Why did PSC Move to Birth Year?

We moved to birth year because the US Soccer Federation -- the governing body for all youth soccer in America -- mandated birth year for all leagues sanctioned under the US Soccer Association.  Also, the US Youth Soccer Association, our immediate governing bodies, implemented these changes effective Fall 2016.  Since PSC is a member of the Michigan State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA) and under the umbrella of US Soccer and US Youth Soccer Association, we must follow suit.

Why Can’t We “Phase In” the Birth Year Changes?  Why Does the Change Have to be All at Once?

PSC felt it was important to make the change as quickly as possible as this would cause less confusion moving forward and create uniformity across all of the age groups.

Are There Any Benefits to Playing Birth Year?

The main benefit of playing birth year is for developmental purposes.  At the local level throughout our state, it will allow for better development because it will push individual players, raise the competitive standards, improve team competition, and create more meaningful league games.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Playing Birth Year?

There are no disadvantages, as our current rules do not allow players to play “down.”

Can Players Play on a Younger Age Group?

No, players CANNOT “play down” with younger players.  For example, a player born in 1999 CANNOT play with the 2000 birth year age group.

Can Players Play in an Older Age Group?

Yes, as in the past, based on player ability and team need, a player may “play up” an age group. For example, a player born in 2000 can go play in the 1999 birth year age group.  “Playing up” is a RARE exception and will be considered by PSC on an individual basis, focusing on the player’s development as our first priority.

Will Other Area Clubs Be Making These Same Changes?

Yes, all clubs affiliated with US Youth Soccer are mandated to make these changes.

Closing Remarks:

This birth year change creates both challenges and opportunities.  The PSC Directors of Coaching have conducted research including discussions with other top clubs to develop a consensus on the implementation.  The PSC is one of the largest clubs in Southwest Michigan and a leader in player development.  Its goal is player development, first and foremost.

This transition in team formation will be challenging and change can be unsettling.  Parents and players are anxious about this change and how it affects their team, teammates, friendships, and success on the pitch.  That is understandable.  The PSC’s intent is to implement this mandate in a competent and caring way.

If you have any questions concerning the above changes, please email us at and the appropriate PSC Board member will be happy to assist you.