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Development Academy Finals Week Championship Matches To Be Broadcast Live on ESPN Classic


CHICAGO (July 10, 2009) — For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy season will finish on a high note during Finals Week with the championship match in both age groups being broadcast live on ESPN Classic.

Both matches will be played at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., with the U-17/18 championship taking place on Thursday, July 16 at 7 p.m. PT and the U-15/16 championship a day later on Friday, July 17 at 7 p.m. PT. Soccer America Magazine’s Senior Editor Ridge Mahoney will handle play-by-play duties and U.S. Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen will provide color during the two broadcasts.

“Having the championship matches featured on the ESPN Networks for the second straight year demonstrates the positive impact the Development Academy is making across the United States,” said Development Academy Technical Director John Hackworth. “It’s another opportunity to showcase the Academy’s high level of competition being played in an environment consistent with U.S. Soccer’s Best Practices.”

The top eight teams from each of the two Academy mixed-age groups have arrived in Los Angeles and the U-17/18 teams will kickoff Finals Week with games later today at The Home Depot Center. (Full U-15/16 Schedule | Full U-17/18 Schedule)

The eight teams have been divided into two groups of four and will play a round-robin format during the first six days of Finals Week. The teams will then crossover and play placement matches on Thursday, July 16 and Friday, July 17. All eight placement matches will be played during the two days, with the championship matches featured at the end of the day and aired live on ESPN Classic.

The top 32 teams from each age group competed to qualify for the eight Finals Week spots during the Development Academy’s inaugural Playoffs last month at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C.

Throughout Finals Week, ussoccer.com will provide in-depth coverage on everything happening in Carson, Calif. The Youth National Teams Blog will have complete coverage of the matches and the educational activities off the field, including the workshops the players are taking part in such as player development seminars, media training and nutrition training. The most up-to-date scoring information will also be available on U.S. Soccer’s official twitter page at twitter.com/ussoccer.

Also, less than 24 hours after the conclusion of every game, with the exception of the two championship matches on July 16 and July 17, will be streamed the following day on ussoccer.com

The Academy program was created to enhance the player development environment for elite youth players in the United States, according to U.S. Soccer Best Practices, with specific focus on increasing the number of training sessions, decreasing the total number of games while increasing the number of quality games and maintaining the highest level of coaching, refereeing and competition available in an everyday environment.

Aside from providing clubs with a soccer-centric environment, the Academy program also provides a platform to systematically improve the player identification and development processes. Over half of the Academy matches are attended by a national team scout, resulting in a comprehensive system to evaluate and develop player, coach and referee talent. Academy coaches and athletes also receive video analysis from ProZone and Interplay, a soccer-specific athletic training curriculum from SPARQ and Nutrition and Hydration recommendations from Gatorade’s Sports Science Institute. The physical capabilities of Academy athletes are measured using SPARQ’s soccer-specific tests and Gatorade’s fluid loss tests.

In its second year, the Academy program has already dramatically impacted the player development process in the United States. In 2008, more than 100 players from Academy clubs were included in U.S. Youth National Teams and almost 800 graduates from the inaugural Academy class participated in college soccer the following fall. Virtually all college programs use the Academy program as a scouting vehicle and the program has received increased attention from professional scouts representing domestic and international clubs.

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 third year of the Development Academy. A total of six more clubs will join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for the 2009-10 season after the most competitive application process in the young history of the Academy program. With the new additions, 77 total clubs are slated to participate in the national team training program next year.

Joining the Academy in 2009-10 will be California Development Academy (Sacramento, Calif.), Houston Dynamo (Houston, Texas), Kansas City Wizards Juniors (Kansas City, Mo.), McLean Youth Soccer (McLean, Va.), Weston Soccer Club (Weston, Fla.) and NJSA 04 (Holmdel, N.J.).

Launched in the fall of 2007 after a detailed review of player development systems in the U.S. and across the world, the Development Academy provides players, coaches and referees a nationally-coordinated program designed to enhance their development environment. The Academy has improved the training environment, provided relevant, high-level matches on a consistent basis, and increased the level and efficiency of scouting for the national teams and provided players, coaches and referees with structured programming. For more information on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, log on to ussoccer.com.

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