A lot has changed for U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team standout forward Josh Sargent in the past four years.
He’s played in not one, but two FIFA World Cups (U-17 and U-20).
He’s traveled the world playing soccer matches.
And he recently committed to a professional contract to play with German club Werder Bremen.
But John Boyer, his U-13 coach at the Development Academy’s St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri, sees one thing that’s stayed the same.
“He scored a lot of goals, even when he was little,” said Boyer. “It hasn't been a huge change for those of us that have seen him from a young age.”
The good thing for U.S. Soccer is Boyer and the other St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri coaches weren’t the only ones that were watching him four years ago.
As a 13-year-old, one of Sargent’s first opportunities to show his scoring prowess came at a Development Academy Regional Showcase, providing the budding talent a stage in front of a slew of U.S. Soccer scouts.
Sargent appeared in 2013’s inaugural round of Regional Showcases. The events provide players a chance to compete against some of the best players in the country and when players like Sargent can demonstrate their abilities, scouts take notice.
“We wanted to cast an earlier and wider net for all of our scouting,” said Tony Lepore, U.S. Soccer Director of Talent Identification. “When we started, it was really clear that these U-13/14 Showcases were valuable talent identification opportunities.”
Sargent became a National Team mainstay from the U-14 level, and four years later he has nearly scored the most career Youth World Cup goals of any U.S. player ever. This past May, he earned the Silver Boot at the U-20 FIFA World Cup with four goals and one assist in five matches and he has scored two goals after just four games at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, currently playing out in India.
And Sargent isn’t the only one.
Eighteen of the 21 players on the U-17 MNT roster competing in India come from Academy clubs and several got their first major exposure to U.S. Soccer at Regional Showcase events. This weekend marks the first of three events for the Development Academy’s three regions: Central, East and West. The current U-17s were the first age group to play in Regional Showcases.
“It was really the first group where we expanded all the scouting we were doing to a younger age group through the Development Academy,” Lepore said. “It’s no coincidence that we saw them early and they became the first group with a lot of depth in every position. We started scouting them in a consistent environment in the Academy, and it provided numerous identification opportunities for their pathway from their Academy Clubs to the Youth National Teams.”
Solar Soccer Club’s Greg Oglesby started coaching Blaine Ferri at age eight. It didn’t take long to tell that Blaine was special. As he progressed, the Showcase event provided an opportunity to demonstrate his talents to National Team scouts from across the region.
“From day one, he just had a different feel for the game. He sees the field so well. Most players, you’re thrilled if they’re a pass ahead. He’s two, three passes ahead,” Oglesby said. “I really truly believe he gets just as big a thrill out of an assist or the assist to an assist as he does scoring a goal.”
Ferri’s keen vision on-the-field saw him as the U-17s’ top assist man leading into the World Cup. Unselfish to a fault, Oglesby had to convince him to take charge on the field. He knew that Ferri could dominate a game, he just needed the encouragement to take over individually with his superb technical ability.
The Academy prides itself on play-up opportunities as another chance for individual development. From the very start with Weston FC, George Acosta was training two years above his age group. His former coach at Weston FC, current U.S. Soccer Technical Advisor Marcelo Neveleff, says it made him quicker on the ball and quicker-thinking. It also molded him into a leader with a competitive mindset. He brought that attitude to the inaugural East Region Showcase and the National Team call-ups that followed.
Acosta scored in the U-17s’ final group game against Colombia, a proud moment for Neveleff. After demonstrating his ability in the inaugural Regional Showcases and three years in the Academy, Neveleff says it’s just another step in Acosta’s individual development pathway, as he aspires to become a world-class player.
“Hopefully it’s just the beginning of his international career,” Neveleff said. “His goal is to play for the full National Team. Hopefully, he keeps working hard and he can fulfill his dream.”Read more
WHAT IS THE DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY?
Following a comprehensive review of the youth soccer landscape in the United States, U.S. Soccer launched the Development Academy in 2007 to create a more structured player development environment for elite players to develop to their highest potential. The review was based on extensive analysis of international soccer clubs, other sports training environments, education and other disciplines that require dedicated training and practice. From the onset, the program’s mission has been to impact everyday club environments in order to develop world-class players.
The program's philosophy is based on increased training and less total, but more meaningful games using international rules of competition. Individual development of elite players is prioritized over winning trophies and titles. The Academy is the highest level of youth soccer in the U.S. and the program works to ensure elite environments to maximize youth player development nationwide.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The 2017-18 season will feature 197 total clubs and 900 teams across six age groups: U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. Teams compete in three conferences: West, Central and East. The conferences are divided into geographic divisions of six to 15 teams. A full list of teams and their age group divisions can be found here, and Club maps can be found here.
The ten-month season goes from September and concludes with the Academy Championships in July. The campaign is highlighted by seasonal showcases, where teams from across the country gather to compete. Every Academy team plays between 25 and 30 total games throughout the season, broken up by a winter break and a futsal period. The teams that advance from the Summer Playoffs will play up to three additional games. Events are a hotbed for scouts, both from the U.S. Soccer National Team program as well as the collegiate and professional ranks (both domestic and abroad).
PATHWAY TO THE NATIONAL TEAM
A U.S. Soccer player development initiative, the Academy provides a clear pathway for individual players to reach their full potential and ultimately, the National Team programs. Ninety-two percent of Youth National Team players in the 2016-17 cycle came from Academy clubs.
Every game at seasonal Academy showcases are scouted, and over 50% of the season’s games are scouted by U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors. These 11 regional administrators connect Academy directors directly to U.S. Soccer and oversee the region’s talent identification network in order to bring players into the National Team fold.
With fewer total games in favor of more meaningful contests, training is the priority, as clubs are required to train at least four days a week during the season to further individual development.
These training environments are headed by professionalized coaches: all Academy coaches are required to hold a U.S. Soccer “B” coaching license and all Academy Directors must hold an “A” license. Training at Academy clubs also takes advantage of cutting-edge sports performance technology. Clubs use video analysis, performance-based player testing, perceptual-cognitive training and more to give players the best-possible developmental environment.
U.S. Soccer is also making efforts to reduce pay-to-play through the Academy program. Since 2008, the Federation has given over two million dollars in scholarship money to over 1,500 Academy players. This money has allowed more players than ever access to the nation’s highest-level of youth soccer. Twenty-three Academy clubs were fully-funded in 2016-17, meaning players don’t pay at all to train and develop in a world-class environment.
U-17 MNT: BUILT BY THE ACADEMY
The U-17 Men’s National Team competing at this fall’s U-17 World Cup in India is constructed from Academy products. Eighteen of the roster’s 21 players come from Academy clubs, and overall, the squad represents 20 clubs and 55 seasons of Academy experience.
After shining on the Academy stage, several players are now competing at the world’s highest level of youth soccer. Andrew Carleton won last season’s Development Academy U-15/16 Championship with Atlanta United FC. After scoring two goals to clinch the Academy title a few months ago, he has directly contributed to half of the team’s total goals in India. Bryan Reynolds also won an Academy championship with the FC Dallas U-15/16 squad in 2016.
D.C. United’s Chris Durkin and Sporting Kansas City’s Jaylin Lindsey were named to Academy Conference Best XI’s in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively, and are now key contributors for the U-17s. A third of the roster’s 18 Academy players – Carleton, Reynolds, Lindsey, Durkin, Chris Goslin and James Sands – have signed professional contracts as M.L.S. Homegrown players.Read more
The U.S. U-17 Men's National Team took to the training pitch one last time Friday in preparation for its big 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup Quarterfinal showdown vs. England on Saturday. The USA and England will kick things off at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS2 and Telemundo with a spot in the competition's final four on the line.Read more
The #USWNT secured a well-played 3-1 win against the Korea Republic at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in the Big Easy on Thursday. Check out all the photos from the match that saw Julie Ertz, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe notch the goals for the USA.
The U.S. WNT now heads to Cary, North Carolina for a second match against Korea Republic on Oct. 22 (2 p.m. ET; ESPN) at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.