The US Youth National Futsal Championships that are held every year at the New Century Fieldhouse in Kansas are a really fun event to watch. This year we recorded parts of the last championship game of the tournament held on Monday afternoon between the Sporting Kansas City Academy U-19 team and Ambassadors 1999.
Looks like the SKC Academy splits their full roster into two futsal teams and both qualified for Nationals. They went by team names SKC Indigo and SKC Argyle and they tied each other 8-8 in pool play. Both SKC teams finished the first two days of the tournament 1-1-2 but the SKC Indigo advanced to the final game because they had a better goal differential. The SKC Indigo squad had lost to Ambassadors 1999 by 3-2 in their first meeting so it was an exciting win when they finished the championship game on top 6-2. Here is some footage of some of the goals.
If you have a chance to visit the event you’ll see some really exiciting futsal games with teams coming from all over the country. Last we we noted the license plates as we walked through the parking lot and saw cars there from 18 states (Indiana, Kansas, Texas, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia, California, Maryland, Florida)
The age brackets range from U9-U19 for both girls and boys. Teams have to qualify by winning their regional events and the 2nd place teams in those regions can petition for an at large spot. In addition, if there are other high level teams that play in a particularly competitive region and don’t finish in the top 2 they can also submit an application as an at large team.
The games are played at the Olathe SportsPlex and the New Century Fieldhouse in New Century, Kansas.
You get an interesting mix of teams playing in the tournament. Many of the teams that make it to Nationals are part of clubs that have a full futsal curriculum and fully embrace the game.
We had a United Soccer Coaches event on the day of the championships on the topic of the role of futsal in Player Development. One of the points that came out of the panel was that there’s a difference between teams who “play soccer on an indoor court” and teams that understand and use the fundamentals of futsal.
For a good primer on futsal specific training check out this podcast called “Futsal techniques and tactics” by Tom Mura.
Sole of the Foot
One of the main coaching points that panelist Henrique Pinto of Fountain City Futsal brought up was using the sole of the foot to control the ball. Space is very limited on a busy futsal court so being able to protect and manipulate the ball with the bottom of the foot, rather than receiving it out in front of you, is key in the game of futsal. After hearing Pinto talk we created a DribbleUp playlist called “Futsal King” that runs the player through 10 drills that help build control with the sole of the foot, here’s a video preview.
Another aspect of the game of futsal that the panel brought up is that the tight spaces encourages use of all different parts of the foot to manipulate the ball. Players get creative trying to break down a defense in that smaller area.
Off the Ball Movement
One way that Pinto describes futsal to folks who aren’t familiar with it is like basketball but with your feet. The off the ball movement that is necessary to create opportunities and pull defenders is really important. In the video of the U-19 futsal final above you can see some good examples of off the ball movement. In the video below Pinto talks about how making those runs being creative is such a big part of futsal
Aaron Weissenfluh of KC Courage futsal brought up the importance of eveyone defending in futsal. In outdoor you might have strikers who can get away with not putting pressure on the ball but on a futsal court the whole team has to get up and down the floor and play defense.
Playing goalie in futsal is great for a goalie’s footwork. Again, if you watch the video of the U-19 match at the top of the page you’ll see how involved the goalie is in the game. Keepers that have played futsal are much more comfortable with the ball at their feet.