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U.S. Soccer Development Academy Kicks Off Inaugural Season This Saturday in Birmingham

CHICAGO (September 28, 2007) – U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, the innovative new program designed to revolutionize elite youth player development, is set to kick off the inaugural season on Saturday, Sept. 29, when Southeast Conference action begins with Birmingham United hosting the Atlanta Fire. The U16's have the honor of playing the debut match at 3 p.m. at the Rathmell Sports Park in Birmingham, Ala., with the U18's squaring off at 5 p.m.

The weekend’s matches are the start of a nine-month campaign in which 122 teams will compete in over 1,800 matches in conference play. With 2,440 players, 244 coaches and over 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.

The Atlanta Fire, led by National Instructional Staff coach Jay Miller, has a history of developing elite youth players. The Fire have had four players selected to participate in the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, with several more joining top NCAA Division I soccer programs. Birmingham United, under the direction of former Dallas Burn defender Eric Dade, is the largest soccer club in Alabama with approximately 2,500 youth players.

The following weekend, U.S. Soccer the Academy hosts the first Academy Fall Showcase from Oct. 6-8 at the National Training Center in Carson, Calif. Thirty-six teams from 18 elite clubs will join two U.S. Youth National Teams in the three-day event, which includes teams at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups. The premier match takes place the evening of Saturday, Oct. 6, when the U.S. Youth National Team takes on the Chivas USA U-18 Academy Team on the Mooch Myernick Field at The Home Depot Center. A full schedule of matches will be available later this week.

A total of 38 matches will be played during the weekend showcase, which is expected to draw college coaches and scouts from around the country. Additionally, national staff coaches will use the Fall Showcase to identify players for places in upcoming national team camps. In attendance will be U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley, U.S. U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen, U-17 head coach John Hackworth and U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching Bob Jenkins.

U.S. Soccer Development Academy Fall Showcase Clubs
AFC Lightning (Fayetteville, Ga.)                   Miami FC Kendall (Miami, Fla.)
Atlanta Fire United (Duluth, Ga.)                   Nomads SC (San Diego, Calif.)
Birmingham United (Birmingham, Ala.)      Richmond Strikers (Glen Allen, Va.)
Bridge FA (Charleston, S.C.)                         Richmond Kickers (Richmond, Va.)
Chivas USA (Carson, Calif.)                          Schulz Academy (Boca Raton, Fla.)
Clearwater Chargers (Clearwater, Fla.)     Surf SC (Carlsbad, Calif.)
Concorde Fire SC (Marietta, Ga.)                 U.S. YNT (Bradenton, Fla.)
Crossfire Premier (Redmond, Wash.)        Virginia Rush (Virginia Beach, Va.)
De Anza SC (Sunnyvale, Calif.)                     Washington Premier (Tacoma, Wash.)
IMG Soccer Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

Referee training will be another key component to the Showcase Weekend, with top members of the U.S. Soccer Referee Department overseeing the matches. 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) will be in Los Angeles to perform referee evaluation and instruction.

In a broad move designed to improve the development environment for players throughout the country, the U.S. Soccer Federation has taken the initiative in formalizing a nationwide development academy. Created to provide players with the best possible opportunity to develop, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy is being initiated after a comprehensive review of player development systems in the United States and around the world. For more information on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, log on to