Eight-player soccer is officially coming to Maine.
The proposal was among the changes to high school sports that passed on Thursday at the Maine Principals’ Association’s spring conference.
The reclassifications for Maine high school sports, which take place every two years, were all passed as proposed at the conference. The regular reclassification of sports teams is an attempt to keep teams competitive with other teams in their division as defined by school enrollment size and teams’ prior success. The changes will take effect this fall and be in place for two years.
An additional change to the high school sports season, the use of video replay during the basketball tournament, awaits a final vote on May 11 by the Interscholastic Management Committee. As proposed, video replay would only be used to determine if a shot was taken before the end-of-game buzzer, as well as if a shot at the end of the game was a 2-pointer or 3-pointer.
Due to dwindling enrollment at some schools, eight-player soccer was proposed in December 2022 and was approved at the spring conference. There will be a North and South region.
Katahdin, Schenck/Stearns, Shead and East Grand have joined the North region in both boys and girls soccer. Dexter, Maine School of Science and Math, Ashland, Van Buren, Wisdom and Southern Aroostook are also joining on the boys side, while Penquis Valley, Piscataquis and Lee are joining in girls soccer.
Dirigo, Telstar, Carrabec, Wiscasset, Searsport, Greenville, Rangeley, Valley, Vinalhaven and Greater Portland are joining the South region in both boys and girls soccer. Spruce Mountain boys and Lisbon girls are also joining.
There is a deadline of July 1 for teams to decide to join eight-player soccer, but it may be fluid depending on how many players come out for a team in the preseason.
Teams need a minimum of seven players to compete. Teams can play up to four games against traditional 11-player soccer teams, and in those games the two teams can come to an agreement on how many players each team will field.
Highlighting the other reclassification changes, football’s Class A was split into two regions, North and South. Windham and Portland both jumped from Class B to Class A North.
Brewer and Hampden both applied down to Class C in football due to competitiveness, which was approved.
In Class B, legacy programs Cony, Gardiner and Lawrence applied to stay in Class B instead of dropping to Class C due to enrollment.
Reclassifications in high school basketball were the most heavily debated among all of the sports.
Ultimately, the biggest change is a new rule that allows any team with a winning percentage below 25 percent over the past four seasons to drop down a class, unless they decline to do so. This also permits boys and girls teams at the same school to compete in different classes. Enrollment limits were also adjusted for each class.
Hampden Academy dropped from Class AA North to Class A North in both boys and girls basketball due to enrollment size.
In boys basketball, Gardiner stayed in A North and declined to drop down due to winning percentage, as did both Erskine and Belfast in B North. Maranacook moved to B North from B South, while John Bapst dropped to C North due to winning percentage.
Orono and Bucksport girls basketball dropped from B North to C North because of their winning percentages. Deering girls basketball dropped classes from AA South to A South due to winning percentage.
In earlier proposals, more radical changes to the basketball classification structure included eliminating Class AA entirely and adding a statewide small school division, and later keeping Class AA but converting it to a single statewide region.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated that video replay was approved for the 2023-24 Maine high school basketball season. The story has been updated to reflect that video replay awaits a final vote on May 11.