Futsal: a coach’s tool to help exploit space

Futsal. The mere mention of it and you will hear from some people what it is good for, from others what it is bad for, and a debate as to whether it is a warm-up for soccer or a sport in its own right.


Steve Scott has seen it from both sides of the fence. He has coached high-school soccer for almost 25 years and is the USA under-15s boys’ national futsal team coach.

Here, he talks to former Soccer Coach Weekly editor Dave Clarke about the growth of the game, the tactics and techniques involved and what futsal can do for players of, as he refers to it, ‘the outdoor game’.


SCW: In England, futsal is really beginning to grow. Is it happening over there?

SS: “It really is. The organization we have here, the USA Futsal Federation, is underneath the AMF, which is the Asociación Mundial de Futsal. It is to futsal what FIFA is to soccer.

“Underneath FIFA, there’s CONCACAF – under AMF it’s CONCACAF Futsal. So the structure is the same, from the top all the way down to the grassroots.

“Here, it’s growing and that’s wonderful.”


Argentina, seen here playing Egypt, are one of futsal’s leading nations, winning the Fifa Futsal World Cup in 2016


SCW: Can you take me through a practice that you would have at futsal. Is it similar to your soccer practice? But a lot more tactical?

SS: “Futsal is 4v4, so you can take a lot of your 4v4 principles. But the one thing I really like about it is the fact that you have to move.

“In terms of the transition from futsal to the outdoor game, one thing futsal does create is that innate ability, that we all want on the soccer pitch, to move off the ball.

“We all try to get our kids to move off the ball in the outdoor game. Well, in futsal, if you don’t move, you’re stuck – your team’s in trouble.

“So the things that we do to help create that space then puts every player in a mindset where they can take that to the outdoor game. It just makes it that much easier for them.”


SCW: Do you have a preferred way of playing, then?

SS: “There’s different ways, but the one I typically stick to is, offensively, like a 3-1 or morphs into a 2-2 at times, more like a diamond shape.

“You divide the court up into four quarters. It’s the principle of space – when a player moves, they’re looking for that open quadrant.

That open quadrant is always there and so somebody, when they make a run, is always looking to get into that other open quadrant. Then that puts us into a pretty smooth motion within the game.”


“One thing futsal does is create that innate ability to move off the ball…”


SCW: Two of the under-nines I coach play futsal as well. Put them one-on-one against a goalkeeper and they will chip the ball over – you know what it’s like at under-nine, usually they just shoot at the goal. But these two have some really clever skills. So do you do individual practices, where they are doing one-v-ones?

SS: “We incorporate all that in the small- sided stuff, where it’s technical-based, using all surfaces of the foot, getting them used to using the sole of the foot a lot.

“The other side of that is creating those opportunities for them not to be shy, to take those opportunities one-v-one when they are there.

“Then it helps the outdoor game, when you’re talking about developing each individual player, and the excitement and creativity it creates in these kids and the players that play.

“One of the things we really pride ourselves on is the fact that we’re in the game for the kids, for the players, for the athletes, for the coaches. It’s a chance to provide, through the game of futsal, opportunities that some kids may never get in the outdoor game.”


Futsal can teach skills and provides “opportunities that some kids may never get in the outdoor game”, says Steve Scott


SCW: Where are the USA, then, in comparison to countries in South America or Spain, the traditional powerhouses of futsal?

SS: “We’re getting there. It’s an everyday process. Obviously, you want to play against some of the best because then you know where you’re at, and you know where you need to go.

“You try to continue to develop a program. One way we’re doing that is that we’re actually hosting our first professional league now – AFL, the American Futsal League. And we get enquiries all the time, questions about what it is and how to get involved, so I can see it branching out even further.

“From the grassroots, all the way to the top, providing opportunities some kids normally wouldn’t get in the outdoor game, that’s what we’re all about.

“When they can see that there’s a pathway to get to a semi-pro or pro-level futsal league that is across the country, that is where we’re heading to right now. It’s in the southwest region right now, and it’s growing east as we go.”


SCW: That will take it to a different level, especially if more investment gets put into it.

SS: “Right. Any time you build something, you have to have a strong foundation. From there, piece by piece, you just keep building and building and building. And it’s a great opportunity for kids to have something to aspire to, alongside what they’re doing with their outdoor programs.”


“We’re in the game for the kids, for the players, for the coaches…”


SCW: I think maybe five years ago futsal was always pushed as a kind of development tool for soccer clubs to use…

SS: “Right, and that’s part of the message that we, as the USA Futsal Federation, want to get out. That message that futsal is a sport in and of itself, being under AMF. It’s a sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee, not as an Olympic competition, but as AMF and futsal as its own sport.”


SCW: Finally, Steve, what are your ambitions in the years ahead for yourself personally?

SS: “The whole plan is to stay with the Under-15s and then continue to help with all the other aspects of the national team program.

“We will end up having a staff of national coaches where we can all collaborate more together. We’ll have friendlies in a non-World Cup year, just like the outdoor game. We’ll schedule one or two a year, and keep a pool of players together.

“So there’s great progress and things just keep moving.”


“Ultimately, we are all about making sure that everybody feels a part, and that nobody gets left out…”


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