Early in Coach Ken's coaching experience, he did not think very much of indoor soccer.  The same reasons Coach Ken did not fully embrace indoor soccer are the same reasons what makes indoor soccer (futsal) the world's most popular off-season soccer training ground: Little space to play and little time to think.  As Dr. Miranda, Professor of Soccer at the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil, says:

futsal doctor

To best understand why futsal is important, let's start local: The PEI Soccer Association Provincial All-Star Player Development Program identifies four keys in evaluating players during their Assessment Phase:

  1. Technical Ability (soccer skills)
  2. Intelligence (decision making and reading the game)
  3. Personality (attitude and effort to learn)
  4. Speed (ability and decision making at pace)

These four primary assessment categories are the necessary ingredients for player development; each of these four areas can be  significantly improved by playing futsal.

Let's look at a Winter 2016 iCanSoccer 1 on 1 Challenge to see if you see the benefit of indoor soccer:

Many of the top world class soccer players played Futsal in their youth and credit it with supporting their development. Players of the calibre of Pele, Zico, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Lionel Messi, to name but a few:

futsal messi

futsal ronaldinho

Futsal is Accelerated Learning

More Player Involvement

Coach Ken says if you remember nothing else about what futsal is, it is accelerated learning because the environment facilitates all players being involved much more in the play.  First, and foremost, Futsal is a small-sided game.  It is five-a-side (4 players and 1 keeper) and a growing amount of research continues to show the importance of small-sided games for player development.  

Coach Ken is a strong proponent of small sided games (SSG) and is happy to share the following research on SSGs and their role in youth player development.

However, before discussing the research, small sided games are recommended by Soccer Canada to be a central tenet in each training session for the U8 - U12 age range.  In fact, Soccer Canada is recommending that 40% of the training session is devoted to SSGs.

ssg canada recommendations

So, if Soccer Canada is recommending 40% of each session on SSGs, why?  Let's look at some of the research. 

Liverpool Study 2012 (Sheffield Academy U9 - U14)

The Liverpool John Moores University Study found players had three times the amount of touches than in a traditional full field soccer match; three times more often your child will touch the ball; three times quicker your child will learn what works for her / him in a specific situation; three times more often quick decisions will need to be made with the ball because in futsal, these touches are also not "casual, I've got time" touches, they are quick touches with quick decisions:

The majority of possessions in Futsal are quick 1 or 2 touch combinations with teammates. In Futsal, players who put their head down and try three or more touch combinations usually find themselves double teamed and losing the ball. The game rewards players who keep their head up, control the ball, support their teammates and use one and two touch combination plays to work with teammates. (Washington Youth Soccer)

For some detail on this study, the authors looked at the touches per player based on the type of format.  As can be seen in Table 1, the 5v5 format (4 plus a keeper) resulted a significant increase in real touhes (three times more touches than in 11v11).

ssg mean no actions

Now, for those keeners, the type of touch was also studied.  We can see that the number of one and two touch soccer increases with 5v5 play as does the frequency of dribbling (table 2).

ssg type of touch

The final chart illustrates the frequency of passing, turning, and shooting.  All areas occur more often in the small-sided game.

ssg quality of touch


The Scotland Study 2006 (Falkirk Football Club, Motherwell Football Club, U12)

The goal of this study was to research the outcome of Scotland using SSG as the preferred training method for young people for the last 15 years.

The research found the following:

  • youth will have 400% more touches in the 4v4 format than in a 11v11 format.
  • touches across all positions are pretty consistent (so, a midfielder will touch the ball as much as a defender, etc.)
  • youth touch ball only 50% more time if comparing 7v7 with 11v11
  • goalkeepers receive between 200% to 400% more touches

Noteworthy, this study examined the concept of attacking soccer.  Without question or doubt, 4v4 offers the best training ground to teach attacking soccer:

  • 300 % more attacking defenders 1 on 1 than playing 11v11
  • 200% more attacking defenders 1 on 1 than playing 7v7

Researchers are agreed that the small-sided game is advantageous to coaches in a number of ways:

  • There is less space required to play
  • A chance for more individual coaching
  • A better standard of play as the children will be more successful performing in the small sided format
  • The coach can have more children playing at the same time (smaller fields on a larger field)
  • The coach is following the accepted developmental pathway for children and can be confident that he/she is given their players the best chance at success
  • Players are more likely to stay in the game if they feel successful, therefore the coach will have less player retention issues
  • Less pressure on the coach to win when playing trophy free development football

The end result: The use of the 4 and 7-a-side games are the best means of teaching the technical and tactical [decision making] parts of the game in preparation for the adult game.

The Manchester United Study 2003 (Manchester United Academy, U9)

The goal of this study was to recreate (as much as possible) the same playing environments in which the world's greatest players first learned and then developed the skill required for top-level performance.  In short, kids play differently today, and the goal of this study was to turn back time a little and focus on creating an environment that:

  • plenty of individual possession
  • trying new skills without fear or ridicule
  • taking players on and challenging defenders
  • little or no pressure from significant others
  • a vibrant, creative, and fun atmosphere

So, in May 2002, Les Kershaw, the Academy Director of Manchester United Football Club, was granted permission to play an alternative under 9s format for the 2002/2003 season.  Instead of the 8v8 format, a format of 4v4 was used. The results of this study were based on observations and feedback from coaches, directors, parents, observers, and the players.

In comparing 4v4 (plus a keeper) versus 8v8 (plus a keeper), a Manchester United study found the 4v4 format to have had:

  • 135% more passes
  • 260% more scoring attempts
  • 500% more goals scored
  • 225% more 1 on 1 encounters
  • 280% more dribbling skills and attempts at moves

Additionally, this study found that in small sided games, there was less emphasis on winning than in the 8v8 game, but more emphasis on improving technique and players having more chances to "express themselves." For this reason, the study is strongly advocating and being supported by Premier Clubs as the top method to develop youth soccer in their country. Noteworthy is the fact that parents had the least positive comments regarding 4 v 4 play compared with coaches, club directors, fans, and even the players themselves.  Let's say that again.  The players were more positive about the 4v4 games than their parents.  Perhaps if the parents were explained the value of SSGs, their positive feedback would mirror their children.

There are many studies on Small Sided Games.  This just gently touches the surface of some of the research out there. Coach Ken if always interested in learning more; so, if you find another resource, please let Coach Ken know.




So, in short, futsal builds confidence on the ball, receiving a pass under pressure, decision-making in 1v1 situations, and ball retention.  Futsal naturally creates players who will be faster in the following ways:

  • futsal headofAcademySpeed of sprinting
  • Speed of action / reaction with the ball
  • Speed of action / reaction without the ball
  • Speed of decision-making
  • Speed of perceptional and visual processing
  • Speed of performing soccer specific skills
  • Speed in changing directions
  • Speed at which defense is played
  • Speed of fast breaks
  • Speed of offensive / defensive transitions
  • Speed of goalkeeper's reactions
  • Speed of team combination play


Why is Coach Ken Not Correcting that?!?

As a parent, Coach Ken knows what you are thinking.  Often you may be sitting on the sidelines, see a player do something different than what you think they should, but the coach is not "correcting" this possible mistake.  Maybe this study by Liverpool John Moores University will help understand how during same sided games (SSG), it is not the coach who should be big and bold, but the players who use the repetition of the game to learn:

Coaches of young players could use small sided games to facilitate the amount of time spent in playful activities by allowing the children to ‘teach themselves’. This does not mean to say there should be no coach involvement, rather, that they should use a guided discovery method by allowing the children to try out skills within the small sided game and then offer occasional help and coaching points when required.  (Liverpool John Moores Univeristy)


futsal pele




Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Manchester Metropolitan University ("The Manchester United 4v4 Pilot Scheme")

FIFA: The Benefits of Futsal

Liverpool John Moores Unviersity ("‘Small sided games: Can they aid skill learning and development in youth players? The technical effects of altering pitch size and player numbers’") By Adam Panter, Keith Johnston, Chris Mullins, and Yasuyuki Sato.

PEI Soccer Association: Provincial All-Star Player Development Program

University of Abertay Dundee: The Scotland Study: Small-Sided Games Study of Young Football Players in Scotland

UEFA.COM Futsal: Master the Ball! Brochure

Washington Youth Soccer: Benefits of Playing Futsal