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CUSA Game Model

Without structure, there can be no creativity

In the following paragraphs we will explain exactly what CUSA's Game Model is and why it is one of the most important, yet under used tools in youth soccer and player development.

The Game Model is not intended to be a 'play book' or a dogmatic guide of how to play like you might see in NFL.

Soccer is too fluid a game for play books to work or be effective, rather it is an overriding structure with principles that should be followed when trying to engrain an expansive, possession and position-based style of play upon a young team.

The coach will not lose himself or his identity in the Game Model, rather he will use the common structures provided in the Game Model as a platform from which to improve and explore potential and possibilities.

"Without first structure, there can be no creativity".

The Game Model is the starting point for clubs or coaches to plan their sessions for the season, and the next few seasons beyond that.

A coach must work backwards from the game of football itself when planning and forming tactics, "what does the big picture look like?" or "What are we trying to achieve here?".

The coach will have an idea of what kind of football he wants to coach and his players to play.
The Game Model codifies this into one document.

From this, the coach should plan his sessions and know how he is going to coach on game day.
Practices should be 100% related to the Game Model.

There is no point in having a Game Model and then running superfluous practices just because the coach on the next field is doing so, or because you saw a really great session on the internet.

If it doesn't apply to your Game Model directly then don't do it.

This is where CUSA differs from 99% of youth soccer clubs out there.

CUSA coaches are all on the same page when it comes to what is being taught, when and how. Other clubs might have their coaches wearing the same badge, but in reality they are just a bunch of random coaches doing whatever they want on the day, with no structure or theme. No rhyme or reason.

For example, if a coach has no players over 5 feet tall and only uses short corners in games, then there is no point spending time practicing attacking long corners during the week.

There are more directly-related practices the could be doing. Sessions that actually feedback in to your Game Model and style of play.
This is a crude example, but you get the principle.

Once the coach has a clear idea in his head of his Game Model, and a well-planned out, structured, organized and related set of session plans at his disposal, he is already way ahead of most coaches at the youth level.

Now, let's get into the preamble of the Game Model itself.

Summary of Macro & Sub Principles

All concepts start with a "Big Idea" - a Macro Principle.

The macro principle describes, in broad terms, what we're seeking to accomplish in our play.

Having a clear understanding of the macro principle is vital - without a clear "big picture", we have no way to answer the questions:

  • Is what I am teaching translating into the game?

  • Am I teaching the things that I want my players to be able to do in the game?


Once the macro principles are established, we consider the Sub Principles, to remain clear on how we should be coaching these "big ideas" in terms of specific positional roles and responsibilities which correspond to phases of the game.

Having a clear set of sub principles is also vital as without these we do not know how to teach and execute our "big ideas".

The Sub Principles then have 'Sub-Sub Principles' to flesh out the tiny details. Its not as complicated as it might sound.

A philosophy without a plan will go nowhere. And a plan without a supporting philosophy is confusing, conflicting and chaotic.

By way of an example; a Macro Principle might be "to play out of the back cleanly"

The Sub and Sub-Sub principles flesh this out and give this idea some more details, an example of the corresponding sub principle might be "ensure width and depth to be able to receive the ball free from pressure".

One last thing, the Macro Principles are specific to the Universal 4 Moments of the Game:

  • In Possession

  • Negative Transition

  • Out of Possession

  • Positive Transition


Each one of the 4 Moments of the Game has its own Macro Principles.

Game Model Examples

Moment of the Game: In Possession

Macro Principle: Dominate Positional Play to create and finish scoring opportunities.

Sub Principle 1: Create an offensive structure, using width & depth, to facilitate advancement of the ball.

  • Players use width & depth to stretch the field, spreading the defense as much as possible.

  • Players must dismark & stagger on diagonal angles to receive the ball with purpose.

  • #7, 8, 10, 11 & 9 start high and wide (width & depth), decongesting the midfield by preventing the defense from pushing up.

  • Provide constant and dynamic off-the-ball movement to support the play and maintain the offensive structure once the ball is played (do not remain static as this is predictable and easy to defend).

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Example of a Positionally Superior structure (depending on how the opposition line up).

  • Centre Backs split and are as high as possible to try to win the space from the nearest defender.

  • Ball circulation may need to occur to establish one of the Centre Backs as the Free Man.

  • Centre Back (Free Man) now dribbles into midfield to engage and provoke defenders, generatingnumerical and positional superiority in midfield.

  • The correct midfield players must now identify when and where to dismark to support the dribbling Centre Back.

  • The Fullbacks (#2/3) must try to remain high and support the attack ahead of the ball to provide width and numerical superiority in attack in midfield.

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The CB brining the ball out unopposed and cleanly against a 'zero' press.

These are two very small examples from CUSA's Game Model Document.

This document will serve to provide the entire club with direction with regards to an unmistakeable playing style made up of courageous, attacking and exciting soccer.

As the curriculum dictates on a weekly basis, players and parents will be emailed the relevent excerpt from the Game Model so that the players can go into their sessions aware of what they are being asked to do from a tactical perspective that week, meaning no time is wasted starting from scratch every session.

The power of a Game Model can not be overstated at the youth soccer level as it allows players to buy-in and 'cheat-up' their learning, development and understanding of the game at home much faster than three on-field sessions alone would allow.

Click here for an illustrated guide to the Game Model.