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U.S. Soccer Awards 144 Scholarships To Development Academy Athletes For The 2008-09 Season

CHICAGO (March 25, 2009) – After an overwhelming response, U.S. Soccer, in conjunction with NIKE and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, has awarded 144 scholarships for Development Academy athletes to participate in the 2008-09 season. The objective of the scholarships is to provide as many opportunities as possible for athletes to participate in the groundbreaking national team training program. Funds will be distributed to each athlete’s club to offset the cost of travel and other expenses related to participating in the Development Academy.

“First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate the first recipients of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy scholarships,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “We feel the scholarship program provides us with a useful tool which can provide more players the opportunity to become part of the Academy. We’ve already seen how Academy teams have taken a step forward in terms of development, and as more clubs find a way to make the Academy accessible to more athletes, the quality of the players exposed to the national team training program will increase significantly.”

Every Academy club has made efforts to reduce the expenses for their players and many clubs have eliminated costs altogether to participate in the program. By minimizing the financial barriers to participate at an elite level, more quality players will be exposed to the Academy’s focus on elite training and competition. The Academy Scholarship Program supplements longstanding efforts by Academy clubs to eliminate fees for their elite players and is another step towards reducing the costs required of youth soccer players to train and compete in an elite youth environment. Scholarships were awarded to players demonstrating financial need to participate in the Development Academy program.

“The U.S. Soccer Foundation is proud to be involved with U.S. Soccer in the Academy scholarship program,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “The Academy scholarships will provide more players demonstrating financial need with an opportunity to advance their development as soccer players and individuals.”

Aside from providing the clubs with a soccer-centric environment, the Academy program also provides a platform to systematically improve player identification and development processes. More than half of the Academy matches are attended by a national team scout, resulting in a comprehensive system to evaluate player, coach and referee talent. Academy coaches and athletes also receive video analysis from ProZone, 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.

“Nike is proud to partner with U.S. Soccer on providing unique opportunities to help further the development of players who aspire to be part of our U.S. National Team,” said Joe Elsmore, Nike’s Director of U.S. Soccer Sports Marketing.

The 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.

Entering 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.