Youth Soccer in the USA – The Future On Display


Ever since I started following soccer closely, I’ve been intrigued by the varied opinions on how best to develop young talent. College or team academies? Better coaching. Everyone has their own ideas on the best methods. Fans of MLS, in particular, have been very vocal in their calls for academies like ‘they have in Europe’, as if something similar could be achieved with a snap of the fingers and be up and running in a year or two.

For five days, from Dec 4-8, the Third Annual Development Academy Winter Showcase is in Phoenix, bringing together over 150 club and academy teams from across the country. The event will also include referee and coaching education and assessment as well as provide an opportunity for over 200 college scouts to see some of the best players of the future up close and personal in a competitive atmosphere. Additionally, we’ll get a first look at Wilmer Cabrera’s new U-17 squad, who will compete against U-17 teams from Portugal, Brasil and the Netherlands. The US matches will be broadcast by Fox Soccer Channel.

  • US v Portugal – Friday Dec 4 – 9pm ET
  • US v Brasil – Saturday Dec 5 – 9pm ET
  • US v Netherlands – Monday Dec 7 – 9pm ET

    Now this topic is far too complex to address in a single post, but I thought I’d just put out a few basics when it comes to young player development and what MLS clubs are currently doing. Hopefully the information below will quiet the crowd that still write ignorant statements like ‘MLS teams need to have youth academies’. My ‘cringe’ level from similar statements is maxed out.

    Major League Soccer Youth Development

    2007 Homegrown Player Initiative

    Players registered for at least 24 months in the youth program become eligible to sign a professional contract with that team without entering the MLS SuperDraft.

    MLS youth academies have teams that participate in one or more of the following competitions …

  • U.S. Soccer Development Academy League
  • United Soccer League’s Super 20 Division
  • United Soccer League’s Premier Development League(PDL)
  • Olympic Development Program(ODP)

    MLS Team’s Youth Academy News

    Chicago youth academy news

    Chivas USA youth academy news

    Colorado USA youth academy news

    Columbus youth academy news

    DC United youth academy news

    FC Dallas youth academy news

    Houston youth academy news

    Kansas City youth academy news

    Los Angeles youth academy news

    New England youth academy news

    Red Bull youth academy news

    Philadelphia youth academy news

    Portland youth academy news

    Real Salt Lake youth academy news

    San Jose youth academy news

    Seattle youth academy news

    Toronto FC youth academy news

    Vancouver youth development

    Here are some background pieces you may find interesting.

    Youth Development in MLS: The Promise and the Problems – Tom Dunmore on 5/01/08

    U.S. Development Academy — The Future? – Tom Dunmore on 7/03/08

    Will MLS Youth Investment Pay Off? – Mike Woitalla July 2008

    MLS youth academy rules need tweaking – Ives Galarcep on 10/03/08

    the league’s rules regarding player signings as being too restrictive. Rules currently limit teams to signing one academy graduate to a Generation adidas contract every three years (unless the player graduates from the program sooner), and also prevents teams from signing players younger than 20 to developmental contracts. The first rule means that, theoretically, a team could be prevented from signing a high-level academy graduate because its Generation adidas slot is already occupied.

    The Sweeper: MLS Youth Development, on the Right Track? – Tom Dunmore on 9/17/09

    To add fuel to the argument, here’s a great pickup from Jason Davis

      “The Northwestern soccer team is excited to see the US qualify for the World Cup; unfortunately there’s a shot at MLS in there (accurate, perhaps, but still), with a player saying “There is American soccer, like the MLS, but for the real good stuff, you’ve got to watch European leagues to watch the highest quality soccer.” If MLS can’t get young college players to care about a league they might actually have a shot to play in, it’s time to address the issues.”

    Kartik’s posts on Looking Back at Project 2010 and The Future is Now: US Soccer’s Future Rests in the Hands of Peter Nowak’s Replacement.

    Speaking of young players, the Generation Adidas team remains on tour in South Africa and will be on hand for the World Cup draw.

    Having nothing to do with the rest of this post…

    Did you know????(from MLSNet) – Thanks to Fake Sigi for pointing this out

    MLS grants the expansion clubs an additional $1 million in allocation money to either acquire players or pare down the salary cap … the money does not expire until May 15

  • 8 thoughts on “Youth Soccer in the USA – The Future On Display”

    1. I live in Phoenix, and I look forward to trying to catch the Brazil and Holland matches. Hope they allow spectators…..

    2. I’m sorry if this question is only vaguely related to the post, but I’ve been wondering…

      How does the US’s abilty to generate soccer talent now — and the talent stream itself — compare to, say, 1996? 2000? 2004? I’d like to think we generate more players and more skilled players, but don’t know.

      I’m asking because there’s always a lot of consternation regarding MLS expansion, but no one seems to look at whether the US’s expanded(?) ability to generate talent helps offset the additional demand?

    3. You should forward this to Sean Wheelock; the misinformation he reports on the BBC World Football Phone-in about the youth structure in the USA is criminal.

    4. we need a youth culture that is similar to little league and pop-warner. Low fees and easy access with a central governing body. MLS clubs can choose to pick up young talent but how can you convince a parent that soccer is going to pay for their future? considering low wage rates, luck on getting selected, avoiding burn-out/injury and receiving a work permit in europe i would say that is a tall order to fulfill.

      1. How can we get a central governing body for youth soccer when we don’t even have one for professional soccer? The youth system here gets a lot of kids involved, but it is more recreational than competitive.

        Personally, I am wondering if the restrictions MLS places on youth talent development makes America a fertile place for private academies to develop youth talent and make money by selling them to clubs. I’m not sure about how economically viable developing youngsters and selling their rights is, but one would think that if it is at all possible, we will start to see these kinds of academies.

    5. I’m glad to see all the MLS youth academies. But I have a question. If one is brought into the youth academy of one the MLS clubs are they under the same restrictions as the senior players or would they have freedom of movement? Or would they be allowed to be sold to other clubs from MLS or any other league? Either way waiting for college graduation is too late.

    6. I’ve just been reading up on the Chicago Fire Academy. It’s not quite the footy boarding schools that exist elsewhere, but it sounds great! Eventually, when the rules change (i.e. they make it easier for clubs to sign more players they already have in their system) teams will have a really have the motivation to develop more talent.

      And it’s good for the fans too, home town heroes on the pitch = more fans. Exhibit A: Steven “I’ve never left Merseyside till I was 18” Gerrard.

      And then there’s high school and college teams! Good god! This may sound naive, but this seems like a massive unpolished gem for player development and discovery.

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