The first futsal-specific facility on Long Island is alive and kicking in Massapequa, N.Y.
"When the U.S. failed in the World Cup, everybody starts looking and you look under every rock to see what happened," he said. "Some believe we use too much technology. Some people say we don't use enough. Some will say we don't have the players. Some will say it's the culture. Some will say it's lack of futsal. We heard futsal brought up a lot. We don't do it enough in our development plans. Brazil does it, Spain does it. Why don't we do it? I said, 'Long Island doesn't have a futsal facility. Let's do futsal.'"
Futsal is a sport that is a derivative of soccer and played with five-man teams on a basketball style court with no walls and a smaller, low-bouncing ball. Great soccer superstars such as Pele, Zico, Ronaldo and Neymar grew up playing the game and credit futsal with developing their skills.
The first FIFA World Cup was held in the Netherlands in 1989. In 1992, the U.S. Futsal Team set the mark for highest finish for a U.S. Men’s National Team with a second-place finish behind legendary indoor goalkeeper Victor Nogueira and stars from the indoor leagues such as Ted Eck, Jim Gabarra and Dale Ervine. The 1992 team also included Jeff Agoos and Fernando Clavijo who later appeared in World Cups for the full Men’s National Team.
MISL and the other indoor soccer leagues have been providing the Futsal Team with its player pool since the first games played in 1986. Current U.S. head coach Keith Tozer, an indoor coaching legend in his own right, was a part of the inaugural team.
In the past few years, futsal has experienced a massive growth in popularity and in 2008, the World Cup was expanded to 20 teams for the first time. Once seen as an amateur sport, which players would use to hone their skills before transitioning to the outdoor game, many of the participating nations in the World Cup now sport their own professional futsal leagues and play dozens of full internationals each year.
Futsal is the only indoor game sanctioned by FIFA. If skills development is important, Futsal is recognized as clearly the best form of indoor soccer. But that’s not the only reason.
Futsal is the new rage in American soccer. However, as is often the case, the US is just catching on to what the world already knows. Superior soccer skill is built by simulating the outdoor game indoors with small sided games and a smaller ball. World famous clubs such as Ajax have used this approach for years. Futsal has been around for over fifty years but US interest in soccer skill development has only recently focused it’s attention on the training techniques used in successful soccer powerhouses such as Brazil, Holland, Germany, France, and Italy. So, Futsal has been around for many years but interest is just starting to explode in the United States.
Eliminating walls makes soccer safer but there are other aspects of Futsal which make it safer as well. Besides fewer broken bones and concussions (which too often occur in hockey-rink walled soccer), there are fewer high speed collisions because the field is shorter. You don’t develop the same full head of steam running for the ball in Futsal and consequently have less of those related injuries. Finally, a game which emphasizes control under pressure versus kick and run inevitably leads to more heads-up play. In general, it is safer by virtue of the fewer injuries due to the nature of the arena and the game.
Futsal improves player soccer skills better than walled soccer for both offensive and defensive skills training.
As an offensive Futsal player, there are no walls to save errant passes. There are no walls to stop long balls. There are no walls to rebound errant shots. There are no walls against which to pin the ball or your opponent. There are no walls to help you if you lack the feinting skills to beat a defender. There are no walls to save you if your teammates are not moving into space to support you. In general, you must control the ball, use proper touch and technique, use correct pace, send accurate service, and truly work dynamic combinations.
As a Futsal defender, you can ‘face up’ on an oncoming player just like in outdoor soccer (there is no wall pass to beat you). You can let errant passes go out of bounds to win the ball (the proper result of your opponent’s faux-pas). Goalies and defenders can concentrate on proper shot blocking angles. You do not need to worry about long overhead balls which should go out of bounds. You can drive an oncoming player into the side to break up break-aways or outnumbered breaks. In general, you can practice and perfect the defensive techniques which apply to outdoor soccer. You don’t waste time working on defending against phantom players (i.e. walls).
Just watch Futsal players fight to keep the ball from crossing the touch line and you’ll immediately begin to see how Futsal develops skill, control, and technique. A small field with lines puts players constantly under pressure from other players and out-of-play boundaries. Players must learn to settle the ball rapidly, chop sharply, shield effectively, pass quickly and move into space.
Compared to walled soccer or large indoor field soccer, Futsal places a greater premium on ball control. There is no reward for errant passes because the other team gets the ball. There is no reward for errant shots because the other team gets the ball. There is no incentive to ‘kick and run’ because the field is too small and packed with players. Players with the ball must use proper technique to maintain control and must seek out other players in space. Players without the ball must move to ‘real’ space and must truly support their teammates.
With Futsal, the emphasis is clearly on control and technique. Without control and technique you cannot expect to succeed in Futsal. And, if US players are to be more successful in the international arena, it is clear that we must better train and prepare our youth on proper technique. Playing indoor soccer in a hockey rink just does not make sense to any serious development program. If you are serious about skills and technique development, Futsal is the superior activity. Futsal promotes better technique and develops skills more rapidly. And if you are serious about the quality of the time you spend playing or watching soccer games, Futsal is clearly better.