First U.S. Soccer Development Academy Fall Showcase Weekend in the History Books
With more than 700 players representing 38 of the nation’s best youth teams all in one place, the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. was the perfect backdrop for the first-ever U.S. Soccer Development Academy Fall Showcase.
“It’s amazing. For how new all of this is, I was surprised how much stuff they had going on. It’s incredible,” said Concorde Fire U-16 player Alex Sullivan. “We’ve gone and watched our other team play, but we’ve also come to the lounge. We played some Xbox and had some food. The dinner last night was good; it was really healthy.”
Though 38 high-level matches were played over the span of three days, there was far more involved with the weekend than just playing soccer. U.S. Soccer provided a players’ lounge complete with Xbox 360 and FIFA 2008, computers with internet access provided by Nike and exclusive online content from Song Whale. On Saturday afternoon, players were treated to a concert by Minnesota rock band Seymour Saves the World before moving inside the main stadium of the Home Depot Center for a dinner put together by U.S. National Team nutritionists.
On the field, teams from both the Under-15/16 and Under-17/18 age groups competed in two games each in front of some of the key decision makers in U.S. Soccer player development. In additional to a full complement of national staff coaches, including U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley, U.S. U-20 MNT head coach Thomas Rongen, U-17 MNT head coach John Hackworth and U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching Bob Jenkins, more than 50 college coaches from across the country were on hand to scout the elite talent.
“It was amazing that every national team coach was here this weekend,” according to Concorde Fire coach Gregg Blasingame. “You couldn’t ask for more. The pressure of playing in front of college and national team coaches when you want to be a college and national team player will make these kids better and better.”
The games were highlighted by Saturday night’s affair between the U.S. Under-17 ’91 National Team and the U-17/18 Chivas USA squad. The U.S. came away with a 3-0 victory under the lights on Mooch Myernick Field in front of hundreds of spectators.
Prior to the start of the game, Hackworth and Bradley addressed the crowd. “This program is essential to our country, Hackworth told the hundreds of Academy athletes in attendance. “These players are the reason that soccer in our country is going to be elevated in the years to come.”
In addition, referees from across the nation, including full-time U.S. Soccer and FIFA referee Terry Vaughn, were officiating matches over the weekend under the eyes of top members of the U.S. Soccer Referee Department Esse Baharmast (Director of International and Professional Referee Development), Alfred Kleinaitis (Manager of Referee Training and Development) and Paul Tamberino (Manager of Professional Assignment and Assessment) conducted referee assessment and training of the 40 officials who are participating in this weekend's action. Baharmast spoke with ussoccer.com about the importance of the Academy in the identification and development of referees in the United States.
Ussoccer.com was on hand all weekend, providing up to date results and opportunities to get to know teams and athletes from the elite clubs. Studio 90 was at the Home Depot Center talking to coaches, showing fans around the complex and providing exclusive highlights of the weekend’s matches. Fans can also get to know players in ussoccer.com’s Meet an Academy Athlete features, and by listening to post-game audio podcasts.
“It’s a connection between the Men’s National Team and all of these great clubs. The ability to connect the dots and make sure that the vision that we have with our Men’s program on the highest level is shared with our clubs, the idea is going to make a difference,” said Bradley about the importance of the Development Academy. “The Bradenton model has been an incredible success, and the ability now to broaden that base, have more ‘Bradentons,’ is key.”
The showcase matches are the second weekend of a nine-month campaign in which 124 teams will compete in over 1,800 matches in conference play. With 2,440 players, 244 coaches and more than 200 referees participating in individual conference games, travel partner weekends and showcase weekends, the Academy boasts the most comprehensive platform for youth competition in U.S. Soccer history.