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- SECTION 1. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – TEAM SELECTION
- SECTION 2. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – STRUCTURE AND QUALIFICATION
- SECTION 3. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – TEAM ROSTERS
- SECTION 4. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – SCHEDULING AND MATCH MANAGEMENT
- SECTION 5. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – NATIONAL LEAGUE P.R.O. QUALIFICATION
- SECTION 6. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – RULES OF PLAY
- SECTION 7. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – REFEREES
- SECTION 8. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – MATCH DAY PROCEDURES
- SECTION 9. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – PROTESTS AND APPEALS
In accordance with the US Youth Soccer National League Rules (2.04), these Conference Playoff Operating Procedures shall be an extension of the National League Conference Playoff Rules. When National League Conference Playoff Rules are referenced or summarized in these Operating Procedures, they are meant to mirror the National League Conference Playoff Rules in every respect. These Operating Procedures are specific to the US Youth Soccer National League Conference Playoff.
SECTION 1. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – TEAM SELECTION
1.01 Team Eligibility
Any team selected for entry into the National League Conference Playoffs (Playoffs) must meet the eligibility requirements in accordance with the National League Rules.
1.02 Registration System / Application Process
GotSport shall be the official team registration system of the Playoffs. Any eligible team must register their team into the Playoffs using GotSport. No registration will be received or accepted in any other system.
Eligible teams must have a GotSport account in order to register into the Playoffs. Team accounts must have accurate information regarding the coach and manager at the time of submission. In completing any registration/application into the Playoffs, teams are required to submit accurate information on team accomplishments. Misrepresentation of team accomplishments may result in the team being disqualified from the Playoffs participation.
1.03 Registration Deadlines
Deadlines will be published on the Playoffs homepage on the US Youth Soccer National League website, found here: National League (usysnationalleague.com)
1.04 Registration Agreement
Any team registering to play in the Playoffs agrees to accept, abide by, and comply with all policies, rules, fines and decisions of the National League and further agrees to pay all fees and fines that are due to the National League for participation in the Playoffs by the registration deadlines.
1.05 USYS / State Association Registration
To be eligible for participation in the Playoffs, a team must be properly registered with USYS or USYS member State Association prior to acceptance into the Playoffs.
1.06 Fees and Other Expenses
The Team Entry Fee to participate in the Playoffs is $3,000 per team for 14U and $3500 per team for 15U and up (paid to US Youth Soccer) and is non-refundable if a team is accepted into the Playoffs and later drops out. The Team Entry Fee includes the cost of participation in the National League P.R.O. (NL P.R.O.) should a team qualify.
E–mail will be the primary means of communication within the Conference Playoffs. It is the responsibility of each team to ensure that accurate contact information is on file.
SECTION 2. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – STRUCTURE AND QUALIFICATION
The 2023-24 Playoffs will include the following Boys and Girls age groups:
- 14 and Under (14U) – for players born on January 1, 2010 or later
- 15 and Under (15U) – for players born on January 1, 2009 or later
- 16 and Under (16U) – for players born on January 1, 2008 or later
- 17 and Under (17U) – for players born on January 1, 2007 or later
- 19 and Under (19U) – for players born on January 1, 2005 or later
The Playoffs include up to forty (40) teams in each 14U-19U gender age group. Each team will be scheduled to play up to (3) games in the Playoffs. Structure and bracketing will be determined by the National League Management Group.
Each season, qualification for Playoffs criteria will be outlined on the National League website.
SECTION 3. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – TEAM ROSTERS
3.01 Team Rosters
The official Playoffs event roster shall be in GotSport. Teams are responsible for ensuring that their GotSport Playoffs event roster is accurate and updated ahead of the Playoffs event weekend. Each Playoff roster must maintain a nine (9) player continuity with the team’s 2023-24 National League Conference/Elite 64 roster.
Playoff teams may add Club Pass players to their roster in GotSport. Any club pass player should be added to the Playoff event roster no later than fourteen (14) days prior to the team’s Playoff event weekend in which the club pass players will participate. Any player, once added to a team’s Playoff event roster, cannot be removed from their event roster until the completion of the Playoff event.
3.02 Player Eligibility and Limitations
All players must be current US Youth Soccer members and have member passes that have been approved by USYS or USYS member State Association.
A player in the Playoff may only play for one (1) team in an age group. For example, if a club has two (2) teams in one age group, primary and club pass players may only play on one (1) of those teams during the Playoff event, not both.
A player may play for only one (1) Playoff team during any single day. Once a player is on the roster of a team in the Playoffs in a gender age group and such team has played one (1) match in Playoff competition, such player may not appear on another team’s roster in such gender age group during the remainder of Playoffs. See Playoff Rules for goalkeeper exception.
3.03 Team Match Day Line-Ups
Up to eighteen (18) players (inclusive of both primary players and club pass players) are eligible to play in each Playoff match. Eligible players must be listed on the Team Match Day Line-Up (i.e. GotSport Game Card). The GotSport Game Card will be used as the official Team Match Day Line-Up prior to each Playoff match, and the official Match Report following each Playoff match. The process, timing, and verification of the Team Match Day Line-Up must be done in accordance with Section 8 (Match Day Procedures) of this document.
Players on the Playoff event roster but who are not participating in a Playoff match are allowed in the team bench area but must not be in uniform.
No more than four (4) team bench persons (being only team coaches, team administrators, and team medical staff) shall be permitted at the team bench area during a match. Also, those players listed on the match lineup card are permitted at the team bench area during a match.
3.04 Playing of Ineligible Player
In accordance with Playoff Rules, a team that plays an ineligible player may be subject to disciplinary action including but not limited to: (a) forfeiture of the match; and (b) suspension of the team’s coach from the Playoff and NL P.R.O. competitions. Additional disciplinary action could include (a) expulsion of the team from the Playoff and NL P.R.O.; and/or (b) any further action(s) as determined by the National League Commissioner.
Accusations from teams of an ineligible player must be extensively substantiated and is incumbent on the accuser to provide concrete evidence of ineligibility.
3.05 Player/Team Promotion
The Playoff requires participating teams to support USYS and the National League in promoting the Playoffs through the sharing and distributing of information provided through the official National League website and social media channels.
Additionally, players, teams and clubs are encouraged to maintain up-to-date information to aid in promoting players to college coaches, as well as to share event information with their database of college coaches and professional scouts.
SECTION 4. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – SCHEDULING AND MATCH MANAGEMENT
4.01 Number of Matches
Each team will be scheduled to play a maximum of three (3) matches during the Playoffs, which follows a single round-robin format. The round-robin format may be updated by the NL Commissioner due to extraordinary circumstances.
To ensure the quality of service provided at the Playoff event, Anthony Travel has been appointed the Official Housing Provider for the Playoff event. Teams located 100+ miles beyond the USYS designated field location of the event are required to book their hotel accommodations through Anthony Travel. Teams competing at the event are required to secure a minimum of six (6) rooms per team per night or pay a buyout that allows a team to book lodging outside of Anthony Travel. Any teams that do not comply with the National League housing requirements are at risk of penalty. Penalties may include but may not be limited to: a) removal from the Playoffs, b) paying of a fine, c) forfeiture of game(s), and d) any other penalties deemed appropriate by the NL Management Group.
For the purpose of Playoff competition, Permission to Host/Travel Forms are not required.
4.03 Match Schedule and Rest Periods
It is the intent of the Playoff to play only one (1) match per day; however, when circumstances dictate, no more than two (2) matches a day may be scheduled. Every effort will be made to provide a minimum of three (3) hours rest between matches.
4.04 Inclement Weather and Unplayable Field Conditions Prior to Match
If matches on scheduled fields are unable to be played due to field closings or inclement weather, the NL Commissioner/Event Manager, in consultation with the host complex, will make every effort to determine the status of matches as soon as possible ahead of the Playoff event.
4.05 Referee Jurisdiction
Once the referee has jurisdiction of a match, the match may be stopped, suspended, or terminated as provided in the “IFAB Laws of the Game.”
4.06 Emergency Match Management Procedures
On an emergency basis, the NL Commissioner/Event Manager reserves the right to impose emergency Match Management Procedures. These procedures shall be limited to those items that are necessary, in the sole opinion of the NL Commissioner/Event Manager, in order for a match to be played. Such procedures could include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Shortening match lengths or half time due to inclement weather, lack of light, or other extraordinary circumstances.
- Moving a match to earlier or later in a day.
- Establishing additional match day(s) due to excessive rain-outs.
- Approving the use of less than a 3-man referee crew or approving use of a “club” linesman.
- Approving an alternate method to validate eligible players.
4.07 Coaching Conflicts
Teams should understand that due to the nature of scheduling games at the Playoff event, scheduling games for the benefit of a single coach who coaches multiple teams should not be expected. Time conflicts may occur for those coaches that coach multiple teams in the Playoffs, and the Playoffs is under no obligation to assist these coaches with their conflicts.
SECTION 5. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – NATIONAL LEAGUE P.R.O. QUALIFICATION
5.01 Advancement to National League P.R.O.
The Playoffs will qualify teams into NL P.R.O. in each gender age group according to the below criteria:
- In gender age groups with ten (10) groups of four (4) teams (40 total teams), the Playoffs will qualify up to thirty (30) teams into NL P.R.O.
- Of the five (5) groups that qualify teams into the NL P.R.O. Oceanside event (i.e. BLUE pathway), the top three (3) teams from each group will qualify for NL P.R.O. Oceanside.
- Of the five (5) groups that qualify teams into the NL P.R.O. Tampa event (i.e. RED pathway), the top three (3) teams from each group will qualify for NL P.R.O. Tampa.
- In gender age groups with eight (8) groups of four (4) teams (32 total teams), the Playoffs will qualify up to twenty-two (22) teams into NL P.R.O.
- Of the four (4) groups that qualify teams into the NL P.R.O. Oceanside event (i.e. BLUE pathway), the top two (2) teams from each group, plus the next highest three (3) teams by points/tiebreakers, will qualify for NL P.R.O. Oceanside.
- Of the four (4) groups that qualify teams into the NL P.R.O. Tampa event (i.e. RED pathway), the top two (2) teams from each group, plus the next highest three (3) teams by points/tiebreakers, will qualify for NL P.R.O. Tampa.
- In gender age groups with six (6) groups of four (4) teams (24 total teams), the Playoffs will qualify up to fourteen (14) teams into NL P.R.O.
- Of the three (3) groups that qualify teams into the NL P.R.O. Oceanside event (i.e. BLUE pathway), the top two (2) teams from each group, plus the next highest (1) team by points/tiebreakers, will qualify for NL P.R.O. Oceanside.
- Of the three (3) groups that qualify teams into the NL P.R.O. Tampa event (i.e. RED pathway), the top two (2) teams from each group, plus the next highest (1) team by points/tiebreakers, will qualify for NL P.R.O. Tampa.
5.02 Qualification to USYS National Championships
The NL Management Group shall determine the format and structure of NL P.R.O. to qualify up to twelve (12) positions in the USYS National Championships designated for 14U, 15U, 16U, 17U, and 19U National League teams. Such a process will be outlined in the NL P.R.O. Rules and Operating Procedures.
A team that achieves a qualification slot from NL P.R.O. into the USYS National Championships is expected to honor the commitment to participate in the National Championships competition. Failure to field a team in such National competition may result in fines as determined by the NL Commissioner.
To be eligible for qualification into the USYS National Championships from NL P.R.O., a team must have participated in their State Association’s State Cup competition within the same seasonal year. Teams may apply for a State Cup participation waiver (with their State Association) in accordance with the National Championship Series (NCS) Policy.
5.03 Acceptance of Qualification Slot to National Championships
An eligible team that achieves a qualification slot from NL P.R.O. is expected to honor the commitment to participate in the National Championships competition. Failure to field a team in such National Championships competition may result in fines as determined by the NL Commissioner.
SECTION 6. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – RULES OF PLAY
6.01 Playoff Rules
See Section 7 of Playoff Rules.
SECTION 7. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – REFEREES
7.01 Four-Person System
Matches should be officiated by the four-person FIFA/USSF Referee System, but some may be officiated by a three-person FIFA/USSF Referee System. In the event the assigned officials fail to appear, an attempt to secure certified officials should be made to officiate the match. In the event certified USSF officials are not available, the Referee may appoint Club Assistant Referees. Club Assistant Referees shall be limited to decisions only on touchlines and possession as specified by FIFA/USSF Referee Guidelines.
7.02 Referee Assignor
The NL Commissioner will determine which referee assignor will assign each Playoff event. Referee assignors must be a certified U.S. Soccer assignor.
7.03 Filing of Referee Match Report
Prior to each Playoff match, the referee will be provided with a GotSport “Game Card,” which shall serve as the Official Match Line-Up Card prior to the game and the official Match Report following the completion of the game. The Referee shall use the Game Card to check-in the players from both teams.
Following the completion of each Playoff match, the Referee shall accurately report all scores, goal scorers, and cards issued onto the Match Report. Once the match data is completed on the Match Report, it should be presented to both coaches for their signature. Each team is required to take a picture of the final Match Report for their own records. The Referee shall then submit the Match Report to the on-site Event Manager.
If a player is sent off for Violent Conduct, Spitting, or Abusive Language, a US Soccer Supplemental Report must be filled out and submitted to the on-site Event Manager with the Match Report. Additionally, a US Soccer Supplemental Report must be filled out and submitted to the on-site Event Manager for situations involving Referee Abuse or Referee Assault. The on-site Event Manager shall submit all Match Reports and US Soccer Supplemental Reports to the NL Commissioner.
SECTION 8. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – MATCH DAY PROCEDURES
8.01 Match Day Procedures
The Playoff Match Day Procedures apply to all matches, unless otherwise instructed by the National League Commissioner.
8.02 Team Match Day Game Card
The GotSport generated Game Card shall be the official Team Line Up Card.
8.03 Match Day Game Card Players
The Game Card will include the eighteen (18) eligible players (including both primary and club pass players) a team will use in a match. Should more than eighteen (18) players appear on the card, the Referee must manually strike through the players that will not participate (during game check-in by the referee) for a maximum of eighteen (18) eligible players.
8.04 Club Pass Players
For details on Club Pass players, see Section 4 of the Playoff Rules.
8.05 Team/Player Check-In
Prior to each match, the NL Staff will provide the referee with a Game Card from GotSport. which will serve as the Official Match Report following the completion of the game. The Referee will use the Game Card to check-in the players from both teams.
Following the completion of each match, a coach from each team must provide a signature on the completed Match Report to acknowledge the accuracy of all scores, goal scorers, and cards issued onto the Match Report. Each team is required to take a picture of the final Match Report for their own records. The Referee will then submit the Match Report to the on-site Event Manager.
8.06 Team Bench and Supervision
For Team Bench information, see Rule 7.10 of the Playoff Rules.
8.07 Spectator Areas
Spectators are to only occupy the opposite side of the field from the teams on the same end of the field as their team bench area. Coaches/Managers are required to maintain control of their players and their team’s fans on the sideline.
8.08 Reporting of Scores (GotSport)
The Event Manager or their designee will input scores after collecting the Match Reports.
To be valid and eligible for consideration, a protest must be written on the Game Card and orally lodged by a team official with the match referee and the opposing coach at the game site before leaving the field of play. All protests must be submitted in writing and filed by the Director of the Club or the Director of Coaching of the Club that the team is a member with the appropriate fee to the NL Commissioner/Event Manager. The protest must be submitted no later than three (3) hours after match completion in accordance with the Filing Procedures listed in Operating Procedure 9.06. The referee is the final authority on the field of play. All decisions of the referees with respect to matters of fact, including judgment matters, are final and may not be protested.
8.10 Final Authority
The NL Commissioner/Event Manager shall have final authority to act in the best interest of the Playoffs, which may include but not limited to adjusting Match Day Procedures for specific matches or making decisions to address situations not covered in the Playoff Operating Procedures.
SECTION 9. CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS – PROTESTS AND APPEALS
9.01 Definition of a Protest
A protest is a formal written objection of any violation of established policies, rules, or procedures related to a specific match and can only be filed by the Club Director of the Club or the Director of Coaching for the Club that the team is a member. Only those teams involved are permitted to protest a match result based on information/situations not involving referring decision. Third parties, i.e., coaches from other teams, state administrators, cannot file protests on a specific match.
9.02 Protests of Match Played
All referee related decisions are final and exempt from protest. The referee is the final authority on the field of play. All decisions of the referees with respect to matters of fact, including judgment matters, are final.
Should a team head coach deem a situation outside of the referee jurisdiction to be subject to protest, the protest must be recorded as follows.
A protest must be recorded on the Game Card, and orally lodged by a team official with the match referee and the opposing coach at the game site before leaving the field of play. All protests must be submitted in writing and filed by the Director of the Club or the Director of Coaching of the Club that the team is a member with the appropriate fee to the NL Commissioner/Event Manager. The formal written protest must be logged no later than three (3) hours after match completion in accordance with the Filing Procedures listed in section 9.06 of this document.
9.03 Hearing of Protest
The National League Management Group shall hear all protests by no later than seven (7) business days following the receipt of the protest fee.
9.04 Definition of an Appeal
An Appeal is a request to transfer the matter from one jurisdiction to another for re-examination of the decision made by the lower body. Appeals arise as the result of an adverse decision from an administrative action or disciplinary action at a lower level. Only those parties to the original action, who are adversely impacted by such decisions, shall be allowed to appeal. An Appeal may only be filed by the Director of the Club or the Director of Coaching for the Club that the team is a member. An appeal must be filed in accordance with Section 9.06 within five (5) days after a decision is rendered by the National League Management Group.
9.05 Appeals Committee
The National League shall have a National League Appeals Committee. The National League Appeals Committee shall have jurisdiction of appeals as provided in the rules of this Section 9. The NL Commissioner shall appoint members to the Committee for each appeal that is filed. Members of the National League Appeals Committee shall have no conflict of interest in the matters being appealed and shall not be associated with any of the principals involved. The National League Appeals Committee shall be chaired by one of the members designated by the NL Commissioner. The Appeals Committee shall be composed of no fewer than three (3) and no more than five (5) members.
Decisions of the National League Appeals Committee shall be final.
9.06 Filing Procedures
A protest or appeal must be filed in writing and must include:
- The nature and specifics of the complaint.
- A listing of the policies, rules, and/or procedures that have been violated.
- A statement of the desired resolution.
- Copies of all documents relevant to the protest or appeal.
- The filing fee for a protest or appeal is $500 (certified check or money order – made payable to US Youth Soccer).
All protests and appeals that involve a team’s participation while attending a Playoff game must be filed with the NL Commissioner or Event Manager while on-site. The original document of the protest or appeal, along with all supporting documents, must be sent by Registered or Certified U.S. Mail – Return Receipt Requested, or by a reputable overnight courier service, to:
US Youth Soccer
Attn: National League
9220 World Cup Way
Frisco, TX 75033
9.07 Hearing of Appeal
An appeal of a Playoff decision shall be heard by the National League Management Group. An appeal of a National League Management Group decision shall be heard by the National League Appeals Committee.
9.08 Notification of Parties
The NL Commissioner/Event Manager when dealing with appeals arising from Playoff games shall notify all parties involved, no later than three (3) hours after receipt of an appeal or protest, that an appeal or protest has been filed.
9.09 Disputes, Discipline & Appeals
The NL Commissioner/Event Manager is authorized to settle disputes which arise during the Playoffs event. The NL Commissioner/Event Manager, in accordance with the disciplinary policies and procedures of USYS and US Soccer, will investigate and adjudicate all allegations of misconduct by teams, coaches, players, or others involved in National League operations and will impose an appropriate sanction for any violation found that is subject to the approval of the NL Commissioner.