Build Up Line Going National
The build up line was introduced to Florida this Fall season by Greater Central Florida League (GCF) for the U10 and below age groups but has not been implemented too well and shows that a lot of information needs to go out with a new rule to make sure that it is universally understood from players, coaches, parents and referees. GCF jumped the gun to use the new rule while US Soccer are not making it go nationwide until the Fall season of 2016. The actual written rule of where the build up line should be is on a 7v7 sized field, that is why you have seen inconsistencies in where the actual line has been placed. Hopefully US Soccer will have plenty of videos for everyone to watch and share that fully explains the rule to make sure that it will be used correctly.
The build up line is a good rule in youth soccer and has been implemented to improve the players ability to pass out from the back from goal kicks or when the goalkeeper gains possession of the ball. Long term player development (LTPD) best practice helps players be more comfortable on the ball, better movement off the ball and more accurate passes. This is much better in terms of player development than chasing down punts and big kicks. At the core of this new rule is developing better soccer players.
Studies at the highest level show that you have 51% chance of retaining the ball in the opposition half following a punt or big kick goal kick whereas the chances of retaining possession in the opposition half by passing out from the back jumps to 78%. This is at the highest level, obviously not comparable to youth soccer. If you want to win a U9, U10 game then punt away and chase the ball down hoping for a mistake from the opposition defenders. If you want to win a U9, U10 game then don't pass the ball near your goal in case someone makes a mistake and the other team score. However, if you want to win at the older age groups the players must become comfortable passing and dealing the ball in all areas of the field. As the statistic above shows, it becomes much easier to defend the big kick down the field as the players become bigger, more technically gifted and more aware of their surroundings.
The build up line is a good rule. The essence of it is a good rule. However, depending on how US Soccer mandate the implementation will be the key. They must explain all scenarios before mandating it. They must say whether a goalkeeper can throw the ball over the build up line, does the goalkeeper have to wait for players to move back to the build up line before starting a counter attack and if the keeper messes up a roll out can the opposition team take advantage?
This rule also prohibits punting but I am not convinced about this if I am splitting hairs. I understand why they are prohibiting punting because this will also take away the heading opportunities for players and heading will also be outlawed at this age group to help prevent concussions. I personally believe that this rule should be to encourage teams from playing out from the back rather than forcing them to play out of the back. This way coaches who do not teach their players the best practice are easily identified as doing a disservice to the kids and hounded out of youth soccer or at least pressured to change. I believe that US Soccer have included no punting for two reasons, firstly, the avoidance of heading chances that I mentioned before and secondly, a mistrust of coaches losing the win at all costs attitude at the youth levels.
The video below shows the build up line implemented in Spain to great effect. This is how US Soccer should look to mandate this rule.