Why Futsal is Great Training For Soccer Players
Sean Bowers, Former Captain of U.S. National Futsal Team explains why playing Futsal is great for player development.
Sean Bowers has pioneered the game Futsal in California for years and is the founder of 619 Futsal, the highly successful Futsal league in San Diego. Bowers is also a long time director with US Youth Futsal.
Bowers is also the General Manager of the San Diego Sockers and has coached soccer and Futsal at all levels in the United States from youth club soccer all the way up to professional men’s and women’s soccer.
As a professional player, Bowers was selected in the first round of the inaugural MLS Super Draft and played for four seasons with Sporting KC — back when it was called Kansas City Wizards. The 1992 NPSL Rookie of the Year, four-time Defender of the Year and a six-time All-Star in four different leagues, Bowers was a superstar pro player. As a Futsal player, he proudly served as captain of the U.S Futsal Team from 1996 to the 2004 Futsal World Cup.
Passionate on why youth soccer players should play futsal, Bowers has helped thousands of kids develop better soccer skills.
Here is Diane Scavuzzo’s interview with Sean Bowers on why Futsal is such great training for high-level youth soccer players.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the value of Futsal for youth players?
Sean Bowers: I would say there are tons of reasons why youth players should be playing Futsal. The number of touches, quick decisions making situations, technical skill needed to get out of small spaces, playing under pressure and speed of play to name a few.
Sean Bowers: The game of Futsal translates well to the outdoor game.
The dynamics of the outdoor are all prevalent in the game of Futsal: depth, width and penetration and are all done in a small space on a Futsal court. Since the game of Futsal is played in smaller dimensions than the outdoor game and with fewer players on the court (5 v 5), it requires players to have quick decision making, technical skill, creativity and constant movement and all this translates well to the outdoor game of soccer.
Diane Scavuzzo: How does Futsal help develop ball control? How important is accurate, pinpoint passing in Futsal?
Sean Bowers: Futsal builds confidence on the ball, receiving a pass under pressure, decision-making in 1v1 situations, and ball retention.
Playing Futsal naturally creates players who are faster at soccer because there is so little time in Futsal to react with the ball. Even reaction time without the ball is limited.
When you watch a youth Futsal game and compare it to an outdoor soccer match the benefits and differences crystalize clearly.
While watching soccer played on a big field, even quick passes look slow when contrasted with what happens on a Futsal court.
Every action is faster in Futsal. So, the speed of decision making is increased when playing Futsal and this helps train youth soccer players to think better when on the field.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many more touches do an average youth soccer player get on the ball playing Futsal than outdoor soccer?
Sean Bowers: A ton. There is extensive research which continues to show the importance of small-sided games for player development.
A Liverpool Study showed that players in Futsal touch the ball three times more often, and these touches are also not “casual, I’ve got time” touches, they are quick touches with quick decisions.
The majority of possessions in Futsal are quick 1 or 2 touch combinations with teammates. In Futsal, players who put their head down and try to dribble and add three or more touch combinations usually find themselves losing the ball.
The game of Futsal rewards players who keep their head up, control the ball, support their teammates with acurate passes.
Diane Scavuzzo: How does Futsal help increase a player’s speed of play and vision?
Sean Bowers: Futsal players have to think fast and understand the opportunities for passing the ball. Visual processing skills develop automatically.
Diane Scavuzzo: Futsal is so fast — How does Futsal help players develop both attacking and defensive skills?
Sean Bowers: Absolutely. The speed of the game demands that players are both attacking and defending — constantly changing directions. The fast breaks and offensive/defensive transitions happen quickly and players need to be ready to think on their feet and respond with precision, or else the ball goes out of bounds or the opponents get it.
When defending in Futsal, speed is critial to winning. Futsal is amazing training for soccer.
Diane Scavuzzo: U.S. Soccer scouts are looking for talented players — Futsal players are often asked to be attackers and defenders as the ball moves rapidly around the court — How does playing Futsal specifically help player development?
Sean Bowers: This is a great question especially since we, the United States, will not be represented in the 2018 World Cup.
I would say this is a wonderful time to implement Futsal in U.S. Soccer as a youth training tool to make our players more creative, more unique on the field.
The creative side of soccer is an element that we lack at all levels in the USA. Having a Futsal youth development program incorporated into our academies and all levels of youth soccer is lacking in our country and it is very evident that having a youth program part of the curriculum has only benefitted other countries such as Brazil, Spain, Argentina.
There is a reason these countries are the best in the world in outdoor soccer and I think Futsal is a key component to that success.
Diane Scavuzzo: Players are often smiling when they play Futsal — and get an incredible workout, leaving the court sweaty …
Sean Bowers: Yes, the small-sided Futsal games are fun to play, so there can actually be less emphasis on winning than in the 11v11 game. Players are happy they played because they actually ‘played’.
When a team loses in soccer, often the majority of the players on the field only touched the ball for a few moments, unlike in Futsal where everyone has been involved in the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who is your favorite professional Futsal player today?
Sean Bowers: Would have to still be Falcão, he has transcended the sport of Futsal and I had the privilege to play against him in the 2004 FIFA Futsal World Cup.
Diane Scavuzzo: When you think of all the pro soccer players who have benefited from Futsal training — Pele, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi — can you see their Futsal training when they play on the pitch?
Sean Bowers: All of those players not only played and trained in Futsal growing up but when you watch them play, you can clearly see many of their Futsal techniques. Quick decision making, technical skill, creative movement going forward, great 1 v 1 abilities in tight spaces are just a few of the skills these top players demonstrate — all of which can be traced back to Futsal.
Diane Scavuzzo: When did you first play Futsal?
Sean Bowers: I started playing Futsal in 1996.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you believe you were selected for the US Futsal National team?
Sean Bowers: Great question and still to this day not sure why — but it helped my outdoor career in the MLS with the Kansas City Wizards, now called Sporting Kansas City. Futsal helped me become a better player.
Diane Scavuzzo: What position did you play?
Sean Bowers: I was the Fixo for 10 years on the US National team. Fixo is the last man on the defense that organizes the team on the field.