Champions League or The Dutch Ladder

“Competition is key to developing players. The only practice environment in which you truly develop a player is a competitive arena. . . Competitive drive is not governed by innate ability, but by self-discipline and desire.” – Anson Dorrance

As a High School Soccer Coach, the one event every soccer player looks forward to each week is our Champions League competition.  Why?  It is fun.  It is competitive.  It’s rewarding for everyone.

Here is how the game works.

Players are divided into 5 teams (or 3 teams depending on the numbers).  Teams may consist of anywhere from 4 to 8 players and play on fields sized appropriately.

On the first day of play, players are divided into teams by the coach.  Try and make the teams as competitively even as possible.

Each team will play in 4 games (for 5 teams), playing each team once.  The length of the games is determined by the length of the class.  5 minutes is a good length of time.  Or you could play King of the field.  Field one is designated as the First field, field two is designated as the Second field.  The first round is played.  The winning teams then play on the “First” field, the losing team on the “First” field moves to play on the “Second” field.  The losing team from the “Second” field sits out.  The team on the sidelined comes in to play on the “Second” field.  You see the rotation that takes place.

Points are accumulated by the team according to how they do in each game.  I like to use the 7-point max system:  3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, 1 point for every goal up to 3, and 1 point for a shutout.  If your team wins 8-0, your team would get 7 points for that game (3 for the win, 3 for goals scored and 1 for the shutout) and the other team would get 0.  If your team wins 4-2, your team would get 6 points (3 for the win and 3 for goals scored) and the team you beat would get 2 points (2 for goals scored).  If your team ties 2-2, each team would get 3 points.

After all the games have been played, each team adds up its total points for the day.  Those points become the points for each individual player on the team.

Here is where it takes a little work for the coach.  You will need to record the points for each player.  I start a little spreadsheet with the names of each student.  I organize them according to the team they played on.  Then I record their individual total points for the day.

The next day we play the Champions League, I sort the list of students by the total number of points they have.  I then go down the list and assign new teams to them according to their total points.  In that way the 5 highest point totals are all on different teams, then the next 5, etc.  It is a good way to mix up teams.

I do look at the makeup of the new teams.  I want the teams to be competitive, so I may adjust a player or two around.  I also make sure each team has a keeper.

Everyone plays a lot, everyone plays with other players in the tea, and the competition is amazing.  I like to call out the time when we get down to the last minute and then again as we get closer to the end of time.  It’s amazing how the kids will push to get that last goal 🙂

Here is what I find amazing.  Seldom if ever is the best player on the team the Champion of Champion’s League.  It is usually that very unassuming player who plays well with teammates, has enough skill and touch to be effective, and defends well.

I LOVE THIS GAME!  So do the kids.  It’s the best 30 minutes of the day.

Read another article about coaching – How simple can a practice be? How effective?

By Brad Carlson

Brad has coached a variety of sports in the community, middle school, and high school for 40 years including coaching the MN 2021 Class A State High School Champion.  He has coached soccer from U6 at the recreational level to U19 at the club level and all age groups at the high school level, including 11 years as a head coach.  He holds a USSF "B" coaching license and USC diplomas.