The number of kids who play on the field at once depends on the age of the kids and the philosophy of the league.
U6 – Six and Younger
For kids under 6, nearly all leagues now have 3v3 or 4v4 (three or four kids from each team on the field). These games are played on smaller fields with small goals and no goalies. This is a great opportunity for every player on the field to get a chance to play the ball, and no kid gets “stuck” playing goalie, which can be the most boring position on the field depending on how well your team is doing.
U8s and U10s
As the kids get older, the league philosophy has more of an impact. For U8 (under 8 years old) and U10 (under 10) teams, some leagues move up to a slightly larger field, seven players out on the field, one goalie with 6-foot tall goals. This is like the soccer game most people expect to see, when compared to 3v3 or 4v4.
This format is great for getting kids to play full-scale soccer,but it has some drawbacks:
- Inexperienced players get dominated by more experienced players and get fewer touches on (contact with) the ball.
- There are fewer opportunities to learn and use passing skills because the game tends to bunch up, with most of the players on the field around the ball all at once (beehive ball!).
- Some poor kid has to play goalie and twiddle his thumbs if the other team can’t get the ball past midfield.
Another philosophy is to keep the 4v4 format for the U8 and U10 teams to focus on individual ball control skills, get kids more touches on the ball, and encourage more passing.
U12s and Older
Kids will begin playing the full 11v11 we’re all used to seeing on television at either U12 or U14 depending on the league.