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Q&A: Klinsmann Talks Copa America Centenario and Preps for Qualifiers Now that it’s officially confirmed, how beneficial will it be for the team to play in the Copa America Centenario and have it hosted in the United States?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “Copa America Centenario 2016 in the United States is huge. It’s almost like a World Cup.  The Copa America is similar to the European Championship, so it’s kind of just one step below the World Cup and having that hosted in the United States with big teams like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and our neighbors Mexico along with other CONCACAF nations joining in a 16-team tournament next summer is an unbelievable opportunity. For us, it’s a wonderful way to kind of test the players out, to see where we are at that point in time. Obviously, the big picture is always the World Cup 2018 in Russia, but a Copa America is something special so there will be packed stadiums, a lot of fans from all over the place and many exciting games to watch. So we are thrilled to host Copa America.” The U-23s are going to play two matches against Brazil in Brazil next month during the international window. In terms of getting ready for the playoff against Colombia, what ways does this help?
JK: “For our Under-23 Olympic team it is vital that they get games in now because they face Colombia in March in a [home and away] playoff to qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. We were able to arrange two friendly games with Brazil’s Under-23 team in the November fixture window, which is huge. It gives our players not only a chance to play against one of the best Under-23 teams in the world, but also to be in Brazil and get a little bit of a smell of what it could be then next summer at the Olympics. So this is a wonderful opportunity. We want to thank the Brazilian Federation for that invitation. For Andi Herzog and his team it’s a great opportunity to measure themselves.” As part of the progress of player development, how valuable is the new U-12 Development Academy program?
JK: “Initializing now the Under-12 Development Academy Program is another big step in the right direction because the earlier we can work with the kids and influence their development, the more effective it will be and the more quality we can give them. So going down now to the age level Under-12 is huge. It’s very, very important. Obviously, it needs to grow. It needs to spread out over the entire country over years to come. Having better coaching there, identifying the talent earlier, getting them into a 10-11 month rhythm with enough games and especially good training sessions, is vital. Therefore, this is a big step in the right direction from U.S. Soccer.” In looking toward putting the roster together for next month and the start of the Road to Russia, there are a lot of different considerations with the status of players and where they are at in individual situations.  From MLS, there are several guys who have now completed their seasons. How do you work with them to maintain their levels so they are ready for the first World Cup Qualifier on Nov. 13 in St. Louis?
JK: “Looking at our November World Cup Qualifiers, obviously we monitor all our players in the different leagues in the different environments, and one challenge for us certainly is that for some of them their MLS season is already over. Either they didn’t make the playoffs or they just lost now in the playoffs in the first round, so that makes it tricky for us to keep them going until we meet up on November 8 for the St. Louis game against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. To give them training plans, to make sure that they keep going for players like a Jermaine Jones, a Kyle Beckerman, a Chris Wondolowski, a Mix Diskerud, a Lee Nguyen, and others is now really, really crucial because they are not playing games anymore prior to the World Cup Qualifiers.” There are also several players with injury concerns. Can you update their status?
JK: “Obviously in our roster towards the World Cup Qualifiers there are players who are injured unfortunately right now. We have Geoff Cameron coming out in the last game of Stoke, but he should be okay. We had Brad Evans get a hamstring issue, so that will be tricky for him to catch up. Rubio Rubin, our youngest striker, is injured. Aron Johannsson is not playing because of injury right now. So we have all over the place some issues, and we need to find solutions for that. Hopefully they get back as quickly as possible, and if they can’t make it than other ones will have to step in and get the job done.” Obviously form is a key factor going into a World Cup qualifier. Are there other players in situations that you are keeping an eye on?
JK: “Well, on one side you have obviously the injured issue or players that are out of MLS competition, and then you have some players that are just not making their starting lineup right now. John Brooks is one of them and Ventura Alvarado is another one, so it’s tough for some of our players to get regular playing time and that influences our situation prior to the World Cup Qualifiers. That’s just normal, but it’s sad to see because you want the youngsters to come through and to put a stamp on the team but they cannot do it if they sit basically on the bench in their club teams.”

U.S. Soccer Development Academy Program to Launch Under-12 Age Group in Fall of 2016

CHICAGO (Oct. 16, 2015) – In its continual effort to improve player development, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program will be expanding to the Under-12 age group starting in the Fall of 2016. 

The expansion to U-12 will incorporate the same Academy philosophy as the older age groups, providing this critical younger age with an improved environment to enhance player and coach development. The players will train more often, while also playing fewer – but more meaningful – games every week, which will provide the American player with the opportunity to learn and develop to reach their full potential. 

“We are very excited to expand and introduce the Academy structure and philosophy to the U-12 age group when players are in their peak learning years,” said U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos. “That age represents a critical stage in a player’s growth, and this move represents another important step in our expanded efforts to improve elite player development."

The Development Academy has posted a narrated video presentation about the overall plan for the U-12 age group. Clubs interested in becoming a member of the Development Academy should view the video to learn about opportunities to apply for U-12 membership. 

Existing Development Academy clubs will add a U-12 age group, while a select number of new clubs will enter at the U-12 age group in key markets to help localize competition within the Academy. The addition of the youngest age group and the split to single age groups at U-13 and U-14, will also streamline and simplify the development pathway for the Academy clubs, creating a consistent environment from U-12 to U-18 and beyond for the elite player. 

“This will improve the overall environment at an earlier development stage and help clubs create a more consistent, step-by-step pathway for players to learn,” added U.S. Soccer Director of Scouting Tony Lepore. 

The U-12 Academy will adopt all aspects of the new Player Development Initiatives, which were recently announced by U.S. Soccer in another step of its commitment to long-term player development after being a best practice for the last 10 years. U.S. Soccer standardized small-sided games based on player age groups, while also aligning birth-year registration calendars with the start of the calendar year to run from January to December. The development initiatives, which will be a best practice in 2016 and a mandate by August of 2017, are focused on advancing youth players’ individual skill and intelligence, and providing players with the best opportunity to improve.

 “U.S. Soccer Development Academy Clubs have made a tremendous commitment to player development in the past 9 years and will serve as the example for clubs and leagues throughout the country to provide the best possible environment for young players” said U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director Jared Micklos. 

In addition, U.S. Soccer and the Academy will focus on improving the coaching environment through enhanced educational opportunities, license requirements and support from U.S. Soccer Technical Staff. In an effort to continue to increase the quality of coaching for younger players, Academy coaches will move away from a results-driven philosophy, apply consistent standards for training and games, and unify player development initiatives and standards across the county. 

“The opportunity to provide a simplified development environment for players will have a direct impact on their advancement as players, said Micklos. “U.S. Soccer will continue to invest resources and work together with our clubs to serve as the leaders in the community to collaborate with local clubs to provide players with an opportunity to grow.” 

To review the direction and format of the Academy U-12 program, please see the new Player Development Initiatives (released in early September). For more information on the Development Academy, please visit

Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy in 2007 for male players in the U-15 to U-18 age groups. In 2013, the Academy expanded to include the U-13/14 age group, which has continued to improve development by setting standards and improving the everyday environment for players and clubs. To date, the Academy has been the leader in developing players in the U.S. with the thousands of alumni moving on to play college soccer, 116 Academy graduates currently rostered in the MLS and 14 Academy players earning USMNT caps.

Atlanta United to Join U.S. Soccer Development Academy

CHICAGO (Oct. 12, 2015) – Atlanta United will join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in the fall of 2016. 

At a luncheon held for youth development leaders around the greater Atlanta area, Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra and club President Darren Eales announced the team’s plans and outlined the timeline for the club’s youth soccer development program. They shared their plans to partner closely with local and regional youth soccer clubs as they build their Academy structure, explaining that the club’s objective is to contribute to the advancement of youth soccer not only in Georgia but regionally and nationally. 

Launching in the fall of 2016, Atlanta United will join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy at all age groups. At that time, Georgia United Soccer Alliance (GUSA) will remain in the Academy at the U-13/14 age groups, and their two older teams will conclude. During the transition period and beyond, Atlanta United will work with GUSA to build upon GUSA’s successful organizational structure for developing elite level talent.  Concorde Fire Soccer Club will continue as an Academy member club in all age categories. 

“It’s fantastic that Atlanta United is making player development a priority even before the first team gets started,” said U.S. Soccer Technical Director Jürgen Klinsmann. “Atlanta is an important soccer market and having a first class training environment will be fantastic for elite players as well as help raise the bar in the area overall.” 

Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy, a program that provides education, resources, and support to impact everyday club environments in order to develop world-class players. The Academy was established in 2007 for male players in the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups.  

In 2013, the Academy expanded to include the U-13/14 age group, which has continued to improve development for younger players by setting standards and improving the everyday environment for players and clubs. 

According to Eales, GUSA’s approach in developing youth talent is superb and innovative.  Atlanta United will build upon the success of the GUSA model consisting of a structured alliance of six metro Atlanta clubs. The clubs joined together to share resources and player talent providing a high level training and competition environment for elite level players in the state of Georgia.  Atlanta United’s plan is to take this model to the next level by working with all clubs in the Atlanta area to bring the region’s top young talent to Atlanta United’s Academy, with the aim that they will one day represent the Club in MLS. 

“The U.S. Soccer Development Academy looks forward to continuing to build upon the strong foundation built by Georgia United and Concorde Fire with the addition of the Atlanta United Academy,” said U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director Jared Micklos. “The club leaders are committed to providing the Atlanta community with a professional club dedicated to player development and creating an environment for young talent to grow.” 

Through their extensive experience in youth development both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as through visits to multiple academies around the globe, Eales and Bocanegra are looking to implement best practices at Atlanta United to ensure that its Academy will be recognized as a leading developer of youth talent. 

Developed as a player in the U.S., Bocanegra played in Major League Soccer as well as top leagues in France, England, Spain and Scotland enabling him to experience youth development operations first-hand. As former executive director for the Barclay’s Premier League Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC), Eales sat on the Technical Board of THFC’s Academy, known as a leading developer of youth talent. Considered to be one of the best academies in the Premier League, THFC produced five full England international players between 2012 and 2015 including Harry Kane and Ryan Mason. 

Both Eales and Bocanegra are confident that the U.S. youth development model is only getting stronger, and believe it is most efficient when clubs work together toward the common goal of producing top level talent.   Atlanta United will follow this approach and ensure that the development process is inclusive and collaborative.  

Atlanta United Academy players will train at a new, state-of-the-art training facility due to be completed prior to the club’s first match in 2017. The club considers it to be fundamental in the development of youth players to have the academy train at the same facility as the first team.  Sharing the training complex will allow an aspirational environment for Academy players as they observe and interact with Atlanta United’s first team and strive to follow in their footsteps.  A shared training facility also supports the club’s broader philosophy that the Academy should not only produce elite players, but serve as an environment that creates well-rounded, professional individuals.

Academy Alumni: Johannsson Nets First Bundesliga Goal

Recent Men’s National Team call-up and IMG Academy alum Aron Johannsson netted his first goal for Bundesliga side Werder Bremen on Sunday. Scoring a penalty kick in the 39th minute, Johannsson helped his side to a 2-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach. The American forward, who has made three appearances for Werder Bremen this season, will meet up with fellow Development Academy alums Joe Corona (Nomads SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Crossfire Premier & Seattle Sounders), and Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) in Washington D.C. when the U.S. MNT takes on Peru on Sept. 4 at RFK Stadium.

Youth National Teams

  • U-23 MNT Set for England, Qatar Friendlies: Thirteen players from this roster have ties to the Development Academy: Luis Gil (Pateadores), Ethan Horvath (Real Colorado), Emerson Hyndman (FC Dallas), Benji Joya (De Anza Force), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Minnesota Thunder Academy), Boyd Okwuonu (FC Dallas), Shane O'Neill (Colorado Rapids), Marc Pelosi (De Anza Force), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy & Pateadores), Zack Steffen (Continental FC DELCO), Wil Trapp (Crew SC Academy).
  • U-20 MNT Heads to Czech Republic Tournament: Twenty-two players from this roster have ties to the Development Academy: Amir Bashti (San Jose Earthquakes), Coy Craft (FC Dallas), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Collin Fernandez (Chicago Fire), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake-AZ), Christian Hererra (Real Salt Lake-AZ), Nicholas Hinds (Kendall SC), Cameron Lindley (Chicago Fire & Indiana Fire Academy), Andrew Lombard (New York Red Bulls), Christian Lucatero (Houston Dynamo), Victor Mansaray (Seattle Sounders FC),  Abuchi Obinwa (Chicago Magic PSG), Christian Onalfo (LA Galaxy), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City), Pablo Palaez (San Diego Surf), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Nash Popovic (Vardar), Emmanuel Sabbi (Chicago Magic PSG), Martin Salas (FC Dallas), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake-AZ), Ben Swanson (Crew SC Academy), Justin Vom Steeg (Real So Cal)

Across Major League Soccer

  • Tim Parker (Albertson SC) helped the Vancouver Whitecaps earn a new piece of silverware with with a goal in the 53rd minute of a 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship final last Wednesday.
  • Conor Doyle (Dallas Texans) scored a 90th minute goal to punctuate a 3-0 victory for D.C. United over Montego Bay and all but secure passage to the knockout rounds of the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League last Tuesday.
  • Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids) assisted Kevin Doyle’s game-winning goal in the 79th minute for the Colorado Rapids’ 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
  • Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution) scored the game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The 20-year-old Fagundez became the youngest player in MLS history to score 25 career goals.
  • Wil Trapp (Crew SC Academy) assisted Federico Higuain in the 10th minute off a corner kick in Columbus Crew SC’s 2-1 victory over New York City FC on Saturday.
  • Sheanon Williams (FC Bolts Celtic) assisted Ricardo Clark in the 34th minute to help Houston Dynamo in a 2-0 league win over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.