FA advice on youth football

Playing time and ball sizes

Since the introduction of mini-soccer in the late 1990’s organised football has been opened up and made accessible to many more younger children, who can now enjoy playing football in a structured way.

Mini-soccer has brought with it a lot of modified rules to make the game more enjoyable and allow young players as many touches of the ball as possible. The rules encompass every aspect of the game including the size of the pitches, number of players, length of the matches and size of the ball.

The table below shows a list of ages and a suggested allowable length of matches for each age group and the size of the ball used. To avoid over playing children and to stop them being burned out at an early age, guidelines and recommendations have been produced, which specifies maximum playing times in any one day – these recommendations apply not only to league matches, but also to friendlies and tournaments.

From 2015/16, child-friendly competition only at U7, U8, U9, U10 and U11.

The FA recommend that children should not play two full games in one day, and although they may appear capable of doing it, this may well have unseen long term health implications for the child.

2015/16 Player Age, Format, Game Length, Maximum Playing Time In Any One Day & Ball Size:

Age Format League Game Length Maximum Playing Time In Any One Day Ball Size
Under 7 5-a-side Development 40 mins 40 mins Size 3
Under 8 5-a-side Development 40 mins 40 mins Size 3
Under 9 7-a-side Development 50 mins 60 mins Size 3
Under 10 7-a-side Development 50 mins 60 mins Size 4
Under 11 9-a-side Development 60 mins 100 mins Size 4
Under 12 9-a-side Competitive 60 mins 100 mins Size 4
Under 13 11-a-side Competitive 70 mins N/A Size 4
Under 14 11-a-side Competitive 70 mins N/A Size 4
Under 15 11-a-side Competitive 80 mins N/A Size 5
Under 16 11-a-side Competitive 80 mins N/A Size 5
Under 17/Adult 11-a-side Competitive 90 mins N/A Size 5

Age ranges relating to players under 16 years of age

4 (A) CHILDREN NOT REGISTERED AS ACADEMY PLAYERS.
The following provisions apply to any child not registered as an Academy Player. All matches must be played in accordance with the correct version of the Laws of the Game appropriate for the format specified:
(i) Children Under 6 Years Old
A child who has not attained the age of six shall not play, and shall not be permitted or encouraged to play, in a match of any kind.
(ii) Children 6 Years Old and Over – Age Groups, Formats and Related Provisions
For the purposes of (a) and (b) below,
(a) The relevant age for each player is determined by his or her age as at midnight on 31 August of the relevant playing season.
i.e. Children who are aged 6 as at midnight on 31 August in a playing season (together with those who attain the age of 6 during the playing season) will be classed as Under 7 players for that playing season. Children who are aged 7 as at midnight on 31 August in a playing season will be classed as Under 8 players for that playing season, and so on.
(b) Notwithstanding the above, a child is permitted to “play up” in the age group above his or her chronological age group, irrespective of any difference in format or competition structure, save that a child who attains the age of 6 after 31 August is permitted to play only in the Under 7 age group, and may not play in the Under 8 age group for that playing season.

The age groups that children are eligible to play in are set out in the table below, along with the permitted football formats for each of those age groups. Children shall not play, and shall not be permitted or encouraged to play, in a match between sides of more than the stated number of players, according to their age group:

Age on 31 August of the relevant playing season Eligible Age Groups Maximum Permitted Format
6 Under 7 / Under 8 5-a-side
7 Under 8 / Under 9 5-a-side / 7-a-side
8 Under 9 / Under 10 7-a-side
9 Under 10 / Under 11 7-a-side / 9-a-side
10 Under 11 / Under 12 9-a-side
11 Under 12 / Under 13 9-a-side / 11-a-side
12 Under 13 / Under 14 11-a-side
13 Under 14 / Under 15 11-a-side
14 Under 15 / Under 16 11-a-side
15 Under 16 / Under 17 / Under 18 11-a-side
16 Under 17 / Under 18 / Open Age 11-a-side

A child under the age of 15 as at midnight on 31 August in a playing season, shall not be permitted to play in a match during that playing season where any other player is older or younger than that child by two years or more.

To play in an Under 18 competition, a child must have attained the age of 15 as at midnight on 31 August of the relevant playing season.

To play in an open age competition a child must have attained the age of 16.