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U.S. Soccer Development Academy

Philadelphia Union Prepping for 2013-14 Academy Debut

New Academy Director Tommy Wilson Quickly Getting up to Speed as he Brings Rangers Youth Experience to Fold

New Academy Director Tommy Wilson Quickly Getting up to Speed as he Brings Rangers Youth Experience to Fold

Philadelphia Union Academy director and Scotland native Tommy Wilson arrived in the U.S. on April 29 to kick off his new position. Suffice to say, in this short time frame in the States after some delays with his work visa, Wilson is quickly trying to get up to speed with the Union’s youth system as the club gears up for its U.S. Soccer Development Academy debut for the 2013-14 season.

“I got in last Monday, but it seems like I’ve already been here for about six months,” Wilson said.

The Union represents the 18th club with Major League Soccer ties to join the Development Academy. In early April, U.S. Soccer announced the additions of the Union and Bethesda-Olney to the Academy starting in 2013-14.

At the helm of the Union’s Academy structure is Wilson, who was officially announced as the club’s Academy director in mid-March and had been longing for an opportunity in the U.S. after spending the better part of seven years in a similar role with Scottish side Rangers.

“I have always had a lot of contacts in the U.S. and had a keen interest in soccer here,” Wilson said. “Even during my playing days in the mid-’80s, I was interested in coaching and coming over to the U.S. to coach. I’ve been involved in Notre Dame’s camps with [Notre Dame men’s soccer coach] Bobby Clark, who is a former Scotland goalkeeper. The natural step after playing was to make that transition into coaching, and I was fortunate to do that.”

Wilson’s newest transition is in taking his youth involvement to the Development Academy environment, and he has a strong group in his corner with Peter Fuller, Chris Brewer and Jeff Cook handling Union Academy coaching duties. Brewer had served as a U.S. Soccer technical advisor starting in 2009 along with U.S. U-18 MNT assistant duties, Fuller previously headed the New England Revolution reserves and Cook is a former Dartmouth head coach.

“The guys have been absolutely great as I familiarize myself with all of the processes,” Wilson said. “Having been here for only 10 days, their knowledge is important. Now that I’m in an American market, our goal is to develop players both professionally and for the U.S. National Teams.”

Wilson said that the Development Academy’s approach closely meshes with his youth development experience overseas, from a focused long-term season (10 months), to greater emphasis in training and meaningful games, and the launch of the U-13/14 Academy season this fall.

“Those are all vitally important standards and necessary for new players to maximize their talent and make the games meaningful,” Wilson said. “I’m very pleased that U.S. Soccer is implementing the U-14 Academy season later this year. When you look at all of the clubs across the world – and I went to many countries’ Academies as I waited for my visa – you see them operating with teams as young as the U-10s, U-11s and U-12s.”

That support is felt throughout the Union organization, all the way to the first team and head coach John Hackworth.

“John Hackworth is really supportive and has been here since the inception of the team’s youth development and programs,” Wilson said. “The team is heavily involved in this process and I have been really taken in by the high level and standards.”

Wilson’s penchant for player development and coaching should pay dividends as the Union prepares for its Academy debut. He will be on hand during the 2012-13 Development Academy Playoffs in late June in Frisco, Texas, taking in as much as he can while learning about and contributing toward the budding Academy structure.

“I’m in the stage right now of watching a lot of games – five games over the course of last weekend,” Wilson said. “We’ll be a little behind the 8-ball in trying to get our squads together for next season, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”