Development Academy Finals Week to Be Broadcast Live on ESPN Networks
CHICAGO (June 26, 2008) – U.S. Soccer’s inaugural Development Academy season will finish on a high note during Finals Week with all eight placement matches being broadcast on ESPN Networks in an unprecedented 20 hours of coverage over two days. All eight Conference winners from each of the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups will advance to the Finals Week, which will be held from July 12-19 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The eight Conference winners from each age group will be divided into two groups of four and participate in a round-robin format during the first six days of Finals Week. The teams will then crossover and play placement matches on Friday, July 18, and Saturday, July 19. All eight placement matches will be broadcast live during the two days, highlighted by the U-17/18 championship match that will be live on ESPN 2 on Friday, July 18, at 8 p.m. PT. The seven other matches, including the U-15/16 championship match, will be broadcast on ESPNU.
The majority of the 16 conference winners (eight from each age group) will be determined this weekend during the Academy Summer Showcase in Greensboro, N.C. The only two teams that have already secured a spot in the Finals are the U-17/18 Baltimore Bays, which won the Mid-Atlantic Conference, and U-17/18 CASL, which finished atop the Atlantic Conference.
The tournament schedule will be determined during the Finals Week Draw, which will be held during the Summer Showcase on Friday, June 27, at 12 p.m. ET, inside the Athletes’ Lounge at Bryan Park. With only two teams determined, conferences will be drawn and placed into position. As teams clinch the top spot in their conference during the Showcase, they will be placed into the corresponding position determined by the draw.
“Having these matches on the world-wide leader in sports broadcasting demonstrates the immediate and positive impact the Development Academy has had on soccer in the United States during the past nine months,” said Development Academy Technical Director John Hackworth. “The high-level competition that we’ll get to see during the entire week at The Home Depot Center will be a fantastic way to close out what has been an incredibly successful inaugural season.”
The Development Academy was started in the fall of 2007 to improve the development environment for youth players throughout the country, and by all measures has been an overwhelming success. During the past nine months, the Academy has provided more than 3,000 players, 400 coaches and 500 referees with a nationally-coordinated program that has enhanced their development environment. Focusing on all aspects of player development, the Academy has improved the training environment, provided relevant, high-level matches on a consistent basis, increased the level and efficiency of scouting for the national teams and provided players, coaches and referees with structured programming.
The Academy has connected national team resources to clubs in order to educate coaches and players on enhancing performance. Gatorade Hydration Testing, ProZone video and statistical analysis and SPARQ testing are all initiatives U.S. Soccer has provided to every club in the Academy.
The Development Academy and its showcase events have provided an environment for U.S. National Team coaches to review the overall play of each team and provide feedback directly to the teams on an ongoing basis, all in the name of development. At the same time, the increased exposure to the players has helped the national team scouts identify and evaluate young talent to build the player pool through the U.S. U-17 Residency Program and other Youth National Team programming. Numerous Academy players have already been invited into National Team training camps, including the Under-18 MNT which had 14 players on the roster that competed at the Lisbon International Tournament in Portugal last May.
“The full-time scouts have been able to provide every team feedback during the season, which has been extremely beneficial,” said the Development Academy Director of Scouting Dave Sarachan. “There has been marked improvement during the season which is the whole goal of the Academy.”
As the number of initiatives continues to grow, the number of clubs and players provided the opportunity to benefit from the Academy will also increase in the second year of the Development Academy. Three Major League Soccer teams and a total of eight programs from Texas, which will be represented for the first time in the Academy, will bring the Academy field to 74 clubs. The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team will also return for the second year.
FC Dallas, the Los Angeles Galaxy and the New England Revolution were added to the Academy, bringing the number of MLS teams to nine overall. The other nine new clubs come from Texas and California, including FC Dallas (Frisco, Texas), Andromeda SC (Plano, Texas), the Dallas Texans (Dallas, Texas), Solar SC (Dallas, Texas), Texas Soccer Club (Spring, Texas), Texas RUSH – AHFC (Houston, Texas), Santa Cruz County Breakers (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and Danville Mustangs (Danville, Calif.).