Division Structure FAQ's

Division Structure

Question: This email request is nice, but do you feel like publishing the process would help the community understand how placements are determined?  NCSL does this, not everyone like it but at least everyone understands it.  There have been so many unorthodox decisions made regarding divisional placement over the years with little or no explanations from WAGS that it’s understandable that the membership is perplexed.

Why not promote and relegate like NCSL so teams know where they will play the following season, and save you guys from getting involved in tough decisions when it’s impossible to please everybody?
 
Answer: “The structure committee on a case-by-case basis will review all special requests and situations not specifically covered in the above listed general principles.  The overriding guiding principle of structure is to insure maximum competitiveness for each age group and division.” (from Section VII, NCSL R&P Manual February 2010).
 
As with NCSL, the WAGS BOD’s intentions when managing division structure is to insure “maximum competitiveness in each age group and division”.  Sometimes this will mean a clear two up, two down process.  In other cases, such as with teams sitting out, playing in Region I, etc., WAGS must review all information available to do what is best for the teams and for the league.  And unfortunately, we cannot predict nor possibly explain every exception to the “rule”.
 
Question: Why are there so many Div 5 groupings for U13?  It wasn’t this way a few years ago. What will happen at U13 at the end of the Spring 10 season in regards to Div 5 teams?
 
Question: Why not have division 1-8 in each age group rather than skipping some divisions or have multiple of the same divisions? Is there any benefit doing it the way it is now? It hurts WAGS teams trying to get into tournaments when everyone could be classified as a higher divisions when divisions are skipped.
 
Most of all, why not try to have the WAGS BOD do less rather than more?!?! It seems most coaches/parents get frustrated when the BOD imposes themselves, and everyone would be a lot happier if the kids were put first. In other words, let the kids be seeded in divisions 1-8 early and know what it takes to be promoted/relegated. Opinion is always biased, its human nature to be biased, so it should be eliminated wherever possible. 
 
The rumors are, of course, that "WAGS knows" how teams are doing even at the U10-U11 level and is already tracking their progress and placing them in "easier" or "harder" divisions based on this. As a team manager, this is stated to me by parents or I am often asked if Division "N" is better than "S".
 
Answer: The explanation as to why there are so many U-13 Division 5 groupings now as opposed to several years ago is because we no longer relegate to 50 teams in U-12 as we did in the past. Relegation does not occur now until the completion of the U-13 Spring season. That means a lot more teams in the age group.
 
If we were to set up the U-13 age group (which is comprised of 74 teams this season) in a 1 - 7 or 8 division structure, divisions 6-8 would be predestined for relegation. The sub-division allows all 24 teams the opportunity to play through and remain in WAGS.
 
The Board believes that is the only equitable way to determine the top 50 teams.
 
Question: Why wait until u-12 to let teams play other teams of a similar ability (seeding divisions)? Surly players develop when they are challenged and not blown out in the score line...If they aren’t seeded in league play, why do all tournaments seed them starting at u-9?
 
Answer: In cases where there appears to be an inequity, the Club reps are encouraged to let us know so that we can adjust if the situation warrants it.
 
There are many who would say that U-12 is still too early. 
 
With regards to tournaments, we have always offered to write a letter of explanation to the organizers explaining our philosophy. That offer still holds.
 
Question: Could you please provide some insight into how division placement works for teams?  For the upcoming spring season in the U14 age group, the bottom four teams from Division 3 were moved to Division 4 and the top 4 teams from Division 4 were moved to Division 3.  Typically we have seen the top or top two teams in a Division move up and bottom one or two teams move down.  Since there are teams in Division 1 sitting out and the rest of those Division 1 teams now playing Division 1 U15, it seems that the lower Divisions are penalized by reorganizing the division structure. 
 
Answer: Each age group and division is truly unique when it comes to determining structure. If we see a situation where several of the teams seem to be struggling (less than 8 points in a 10 game season,1 win or less combined with a negative goal differential sent up the red flags in this particular age group), we oftentimes will give those teams the chance to regroup in a less competitive division. Occasionally, there are more than just two teams who seem to be having difficulties. Again, we may deem it necessary to move down a number of teams in order to achieve a competitive balance within a division. It appears that was the case you are inquiring about.
 
At the other end of the spectrum, there are sometimes two or more teams that demonstrate the ability for the challenge of a higher division. I believe that would also apply to the situation you have outlined.
 
Question: Why doesn’t the WAGS rules fully show how teams will be relegated/promoted, especially at the end of the U-13 season?
Last Spring (2009), WAGS had 2 division 4’s and 3 division 5’s. Nowhere in WAGS literature does it show how they will handle the relegation of (at the time) 23 teams. Why wasn’t there (and still isn’t there) specific rules and regulations in place to ensure all teams know where they stand and what they have to do in order to stay in WAGS?
 
Answer: The rules regarding relegation can be found in WAGS Rule G., Division Size & Structure. Within that section, you will find that WAGS does not relegate until the end of the U-13 seasonal year. It also states that after that time, the maximum size of an age group is 50 teams. Those teams are relegated based on points within the sub division they played in. If there is a tie, the same system used to determine champion and runner up is applied.
 
Last year, the 23 teams with the lowest points were dropped from the league. The same procedure is followed after each Spring season, with the number of teams relegated dependant upon the number of teams in the U13 age group.
 
Question: There are some 12 team divisions in non-developmental age groups this year (aka U13’s).  When a club rep contacted WAGS for an explanation the answer was, "teams will only play 9 or 10 matches based on the computer tie patterns".  If this is true, how can WAGS accurately determine divisional finish when not all teams play each other and may not even have identitical opponents in league play?  If this isn’t true and all teams will play each other, how is it fair to expect these teams to play more matches than other WAGS teams especially during a State Cup spring season?  In the case of D2, a 3rd place MCLN team was promoted from D3 yet only 2 teams were demoted from D2 to D3.  It would seem to have made more sense to drop REST from D2 to D3 given WAGS jumped them from D5 to D2 and they only won 2 matches in the Fall?    A similar case can be made in U13 D4 where once again MCLN was promoted forming a 12 team division?
 
Question: Why did WAGS choose to form 12 team divisions in U13 this Spring when according to the WAGS administrator not all teams will play each other.  This move directly benefited one particular club in both D2 and D4 that seems to receive a lot of preference from WAGS.  Why the break in tradition to form such a large division?  Why a 12 team D2 and only a 9 team D1?  And what is the purpose of forming a division if not all team’s will play one another?  All other things being equal, it’s not fair to rank teams at the end of the Spring if they didn’t all have common opponents?  What if the 3rd place team didn’t play the last place team and both of the teams ranked 1st and 2nd did?  How is that fair?
 
Answer: In some cases, there are more than 10 teams that the Board believes are part of a competitively balanced division. It seems that we would be doing the teams a greater disservice not to allow them to play in the most competitive division as determined by the Board of Directors simply because there are too many of them. To play teams who are either too advanced or not competitive enough serves no good purpose .As you stated , rather than trying to figure out how to fit 11 games in a 9-10 game season with State Cup and President’s Day conflicts, we will let the computer determine the schedule. Although it is not a perfect solution, we believe it is much better than the alternative.
 
(For informational purposes, the Board has never demoted a team with 11 points)
 
Question: Why does an age group with teams on the waiting list have fewer than 50 teams playing in any given season?  I understand that some teams may sit out due to the high school season, but even in consideration of that it sometimes happens.  Why aren’t additional teams pulled off the wait list to fill the spot(s) up to 50?
                                                                                                             
Answer: Age group slots are reserved for teams that are returning from sit-out the following season; teams on the waitlist are offered slots that become available when teams are relegated. There are occasions when a team that has been offered a slot declines to accept; when that occurs, the next team in line on the waitlist is invited to enter the league. Because of the division structure and scheduling process, there must be a cut-off date after which we can no longer offer teams a slot for the upcoming season; if not enough teams have accepted positions in the league to bring the age group to 50 (including sit-out teams), an age group with fewer teams can result.
 
Question: How are the teams set up in divisions in the young age groups?  Several teams seem to be paired up almost each season.  Even if the records aren’t shown, it would be nice to at least show the Goals For and the Goals Against.  Aside from tourneys its hard to know where your team sits. 

I would like to know if the team we are playing are really strong or really weak.  As a coach, I wish I had a better way to judge performance, besides word of mouth.
 
Answer: In ages U-9/U-11 the teams are placed regionally (VA teams play in VA and MD teams play in MD). We try and move teams around as to not have them play the same team in the same seasonal year.  Because these age groups are developmental, the referees do not record the scores on the Game Report Card and there are no scores/goals for/against kept or posted.

It is our hope that the clubs utilize the developmental program and that there no weak or strong teams at this level.
 
Question: What was the thought process behind moving five U14 Division 1 teams into U15 Division 1, rather than just keeping them in U14 Division 1 and moving the one team remaining in U15 Division 1 down to D2 for the spring season?
 
Answer:  As with most responses to questions posed about Division Structure, the answer to this question must begin with the reminder that the primary goal of Division Structure is to create the most competitive divisions possible for WAGS teams.  In order to achieve that goal, the Board must be able to accommodate the needs of our teams to sit out when necessary for High School Seasons and to support them for Region I play.
 
These Sit Outs impact Division Structure beginning at U15.  This past season was no exception as we were presented with a situation in which there was only one true U15 team that qualified for Division 1.  Therefore, the Board created a combination U14/15 D1.  Unfortunately, our current computer program does not allow divisions combining two ages to be listed as such on our website.  This is a limitation, however, we hope to be able to correct in the future.
 
A combination age group gives the league the flexibility we need to place teams returning from Sit Outs into their appropriate divisions. It also provides us with the ability to create a credible Division.  Other alternatives to this approach, which were considered, would not be acceptable.  To move one D1 team to D2 would be punitive, the team earned the right to a D1 slot.  Further, to move all the D2 teams to D1 would be an unearned promotion.
 
A U14/15 division such as the one created provides the most competitive and credible division.  If U14 teams are concerned that the label of their division will be confusing when applying to tournaments, please contact the WAGS office.  We will be happy to provide a letter of explanation for their use.
 
Question: Why relegate at all?  Why not just add more divisions and keep all the teams that wish to play.  It seems we are sending a negative message to young girls at a critical age.
 
Question: In 2009, and now in 2010, WAGS will end up relegating almost 25 teams from WAGS per year.  Is there a consideration to cut a percentage, or raise the number of teams in WAGS for booming age groups?

It does not seem particularly fair to relegate over 400 players, when the process could be either more gradual, or accommodate more players.
 
Answer: Relegation and promotion do serve an important purpose, despite the sometimes negative connotations of each.  Relegation and promotion both help to ensure that each division is competitive.  Top players/top teams will move to the top divisions and developing teams and players will settle to a level that is commensurate with their skills.  Adding more divisions on the lower end would only expand the size of the league, but would not remove the issue of relegation and promotion.
 
Leagues like WAGS and NCSL and other travel leagues offer the most the competitive soccer available.  At this level, however, teams and players and families must be prepared for a high level of commitment; commitment of time, travel, and money.  For some teams and players, this level of commitment can be stressful and more than what was expected and/or desired.
 
A team that is relegated isn’t necessarily a negative event.  Such a team might not have been ready for the level of competitiveness that occurs in a travel league.  But because other options are available such as classic leagues, a relegated team has the opportunity to still be competitive and successful, but in an appropriate setting.
 
Finally, adding more divisions to the league would be a rules change.  A club would need to submit this proposal to the league for a discussion and vote by the entire membership.
 
Question: Why would there be 12 teams placed in U15 - Div 4, but only 7 teams in Div 3?
 
Answer: This question or a variation of it has been asked numerous times and it is a valid question, the answer of which goes to the heart of Division Structure.   Basically, what is being asked is why does the Board create divisions with unequal numbers of teams when they could just divide the team into equal divisions of ten teams. That would certainly be an easy solution to the problems of division structure. Our goal, however, is not to create divisions with equal numbers. Our goal is to create the most competitive divisions possible and to place the teams based on merit. We must also be flexible in allowing teams to Sit Out when needed and to return to the Divisions warranted by their previous League Play. Further, and this impacts particularly on D5 teams, we must accommodate teams entering the Age Group from the Wait List. Finally, we do our best to be consistent with  movement of teams in both the Age Group and League.
 
Question: I think WAGS is in danger of becoming irrelevant. You don’t seed teams by ability and count records until U-12 and you don’t go 11 v 11 until U-13. And then by U-15, everyone is playing high school and/or region play and WAGS becomes a one-season league and the competition goes down b/c Maryland and Virginia teams aren’t playing at the same time due to high school schedules.
 
Strong teams aren’t helped by beating up on C teams and C teams aren’t developing by getting waxed by powerful A teams. Strong teams will get frustrated and start to look for other opportunities to play better competition.
 
At some point it seems clubs will figure WAGS is more of a drag than a boost to their programs.
 
Why not try and pool teams a little better at U-11 and go to 11 v. 11 by U-12 (as in the past)?  I have yet to run into a coach who thinks waiting to play 11 v. 11 is a benefit from a player development stand point.
 
Answer: You have just run into that coach that believes that waiting to play 11 V 11 is very beneficial for young players under U13. Besides being a WAGS Board member I presently coach a U10 team and a U13 team in WAGS. I have been coaching for over 25 years and have coached girl’s soccer for 23 years at the high school and travel level. Please do not take me for the expert on this although I faithfully believe in this system. I will direct you to the USYSA’s slide show on small sided games and a link to the Heart Of Texas site on their change over to the small sided game.
 
 
 
I have been fortunate to be on three International coaching tours in England, Scotland and the Netherlands and have watched their Academy Development System, which features the small sided game. WAGS adopted this system from our national Youth soccer Organization (USYSA). The English clubs do not even keep official score until they are U15.
 
Prior to U12 the teams are playing on their respective sides of the river. The fall of U12 will allow WAGS to take the data from the previous seasons and seed the divisions. The experts believe that this will allow development of the player prior to going to the 11 V 11 format.
 
Question: I have wondered for a while what/if anything the letters mean after the U13 Division 5 teams.  Are they random letters, or do the B, E, and M represent something.  Also, why doesn’t WAGS just make divisions 5, 6, and 7.  I have asked many other families over the years that my daughter has been on a WAGS team, and no one seems to know the answer.  I would really appreciate knowing what the letters mean. 
 
Also, once the girls move up to the next age group (U14) how many teams will be in the U14 division.  I have heard many numbers, but the number I hear the most is 50 - 5 divisions each with 10 teams each. Can you tell me how the teams that move up will be chosen, or how you choose which teams will not move up?
 
Answer: The letters following the U13 Division 5 groupings have no significance whatsoever; they are simply letters that are randomly chosen to differentiate between the divisions.
 
For U14 and above, age group size is governed by WAGS Rule G., “Division Size and Structure.” This rule establishes a maximum age group size of 50 teams.
 
Please take a look at our previously published Ask the Board questions for answers regarding the use of Divisions 5, 6 and 7, as well as how teams are placed in divisions/relegated.
 
Question: Ok another U13 follow up question.  There are 44 teams in divisions 1-4 and 29 teams in the division 5 subgroups.  Seems that to stay in WAGS a division 5 team must finish in the top 6 of the overall division 5 groupings to stay in WAGS.  In other words in you are in division 1-4 you are safe from relegation.  This assumes none of the team in division 1-4 leave the league.
 
Answer: Yes, that is correct. Teams in Divisions 1-4 are not relegated.
 
Question: Last spring the board was asked about why all teams in large divisions were not scheduled to play each other, with a response regarding use of a computer-generated schedule in a 9-10 game season.  However, this fall the 12 team division at U14 all teams were scheduled to play each other (11 games).  So what will the case be this coming spring, when State Cup comes back into play, if there are 11-12 team divisions?   Why the inconsistency in scheduling/rationale from one season to the very next? 
 
Answer:  Every season is unique in determining the number of teams placed in a division. The Board will review the age group when discussing the possibility of creating a 12 team division. It is easier in the fall to create a 12 team division and play 11 games in the U-09 through U-14 age group; there are few conflicts for these ages. The Board will take into consideration all of the conflicts for each age group when determining division structure for the spring season. They will determine if the 12 team division should play an 11 game schedule or a 9-10 game schedule.

How will the new U12 divisions be determined for the Spring given that the U12 teams were divided into groupings of stronger and weaker divisions during the Fall.  How much overlap will there be between weaker teams in the stronger divisions and stronger teams in the weaker divisions? 

Answer: Division structure is determined by the WAGS BOD in February.  They will review the standings of the entire U-12 age group as well as the strength of the divisions and place the teams accordingly. 

 

Sorry U13 question again. What will spring 2011 look like for U13, still 2 Div 4s and 4 Div 5 groups?  Will the Div 5 groups be shuffled as to see other teams?  How many teams do you see moving up from Div 5 to Div 4 for this spring 2011?

 

Answer: Each season is unique as are the divisions; the spring 2011 structure will be determined by the WAGS Board in February. The Board may decide to place D5 teams in a different sub-division. WAGS has no rule regarding promoting teams or relegating teams to a lower division; that decision will be made in February at the division structure meeting.

 

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