The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an every day environment designed to produce the next generation of National Team players. The Academy’s programming philosophy of increased training, less total games and more competitive games is based on U.S. Soccer’s Best Practices utilized by the U-17 U.S. National Team Residency program.
The Academy has approximately 96 total clubs, comprised of teams in three age groups: 14, U-15/16, and U-17/18. The Academy recently expanded its programming to include approximately 56 new clubs at the U-12 and U-13 age groups and is in the process of develop a Girls’ Development Academy that will begin in Fall 2017.
The Academy also connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy team is evaluated by a National Team coach at least ten times each year and each Academy club receives two formal evaluations in over 100 categories each year from Nation Team staff.
The Academy Program focuses on positively impacting everyday club environments to assist in maximizing youth player development across the country. The Academy values individual development of elite players over winning trophies and titles. The Academy sets the standard for elite environments for youth soccer clubs nationwide and is a part of U.S. Soccer’s global leadership position in youth soccer that will impact thousands of players.
The Development Academy is also focused on identifying and developing the next generation of elite referees. U.S. Soccer assigns up-and-coming officials to participate in Academy games at the local level and at national events.
The Development Academy Program is a full-time, 10-month program. The season begins in September and concludes with Championships in July. Clubs will break from league play for periods of inactivity due to weather and the end of the season.
Each of the older Academy teams play between 25 and 30 league games per season, including 6-9 games played at Showcases. Teams that advance from the Academy Playoffs could expect to play up to three (3) additional games.
Academy clubs can expect 15-20 away matches in a given season, some of which will require overnight travel. Exact travel distances will vary between clubs depending on their geographic proximity to their conference opponents and Academy events. The younger U12-U13 teams will have reduced travel.
Each team’s calendar will vary depending on their conference and climate. The Development Academy will provide the framework for the league structure of the program (assigning match-ups on given weekends); however, it is the club’s responsibility to secure and communicate game times and field locations with Academy staff.
Academy players and teams cannot play in any outside competitions without written permission from the Development Academy staff. This includes any other leagues, high school season, tournaments, State Cup competitions, ODP or All-Star events. There are two potential exceptions to this rule, provided they are approved by Development Academy staff: