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Third Year of U.S. Soccer Development Academy Program Kicks Off on Sept. 5

  • Program Demonstrates Player Development Improvement in Short Two Year History
  • Academy Increases Focus on Improving the Everyday Environment for Players, Coaches and Referees
  • Six Southeast Division Clubs Begin Campaigns During Labor Day Weekend

CHICAGO (Sept. 3, 2009) – U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy program will kick off the third year of the program this weekend with an increased focus on improving the everyday environment of youth soccer in the United States and improving the overall development of the more than 4,000 players, 600 coaches and 900 referees participating in the program.

Since the launch of the Development Academy in the fall of 2007, the program has dramatically changed the elite youth soccer environment over the last two years. Providing more than just a competitive league for the nation’s top 77 clubs, the program is focused on improving the every day training environment for elite players, so they can fulfill their potential as international, professional or collegiate soccer players.

"We saw a lot of growth in the program the first two years, and on many levels it has exceeded our expectations,” said Development Academy Director of Scouting Tony Lepore. “Still, we are constantly evaluating our progress and identifying areas where we need to get better. We want to take the opportunity this year to implement more market training centers, build an increased focus on everyday training environments, strengthening our scouting network even more and increase its value and connection to our national teams programs."

Lepore’s observations are supported by ProZone and SPARQ data from the first two years of the Academy program. ProZone video analysis has demonstrated that the level of play has improved since the first year of the program, as analysis of footage from the Winter Showcases in 2007-08 and 2008-09 has recorded improved passing efficiency, more one touch passes, more sophisticated passing tactics and improved shooting accuracy. Additionally, SPARQ analysis has demonstrated that player athleticism is improving over the course of an Academy season as average scores in all four of the soccer-specific athletic tests conducted by SPARQ increased from the Winter to the Spring Showcases in 2008-09.

The Academy program has also proven to be a successful platform to identify players for national team and collegiate teams. Each Academy team was observed at least 20 times by a National Team scout in 2008-09, resulting in more 250 players from 59 different Academy clubs being selected for a youth national team camp since the program’s launch in 2007. Additionally, Academy Showcases have attracted 200-300 college coaches and over 85% of graduates from the inaugural Academy class participated on college soccer teams in the following season.

The Academy program will provide increased resources in 2009-10 to improve the training environment at Academy clubs by providing more educational opportunities for Academy coaches and increasing the amount of Academy training evaluations performed by National Team coaches. Training sessions will be evaluated by National Team staff based on the quality of the training session, effectiveness of the coaching, mentality of the players, training facility and overall training environment.

While many Academy clubs have already begun training for the 2009-10 season, six Southeast Division clubs will begin their 2009-10 Academy seasons this weekend. Weston FC, one of the Development Academy’s newest members, will play the first official game of the 2009-10 Academy season on Saturday, Sept. 5, at home against Birmingham United. Miami FC Kendall and Atlanta Fire United also open their seasons on Saturday afternoon, while AFC Lightning and Concorde Fire will play on Monday, Sept. 7.

Highlighting the third year of the Development Academy will be the Winter Showcase, Dec. 2-5 at the Reach 11 complex in Phoenix, Ariz., and the Spring Showcase from May 28-June 1 at a location to be determined. Academy Playoffs will once again be held at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C., from June 25-29 and Finals Week at The Home Depot Center is set for July 10-18. U.S. Soccer will continue to provide extensive coverage of the 2009-10 Development Academy season at