The Development Academy’s U-13/14 Showcase will wrap up the inaugural 2013-14 season at this age group as 96 teams will converge at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis.
The season-ending competition runs from Friday, June 13, through Monday, June 16, and it is expected to be a highly competitive event for the nation’s top talent.
“We are very excited about the upcoming culminating event,” said Tony Lepore, the Development Academy’s Director of Scouting. “It is a great opportunity for the players to learn how to travel and measure themselves against new competition from different parts of the nation, after 10 months of hard work and commitment to improve. And we plan to take advantage of having all of our clubs, coaches and directors in the same place to share some national-level messaging and coaching development.”
The Development Academy is in the midst of its seventh season overall since launching in 2007, but this is the first season for the important U-13/14 age group. The Academy envisioned the launch of this age division many years earlier, and the Academy’s technical advisors and Youth National Team coaches are seeing the benefits across the board.
“All of the rationale and development-first philosophy behind the U-13/14s has been very clear this year,” Lepore said. “The academies are an extension of our youth national teams, so we have seen the benefits during the U-14 Boys’ National Team 2000 cycle and U-15 Boys’ National Team ’99 cycle. It has also helped tremendously with our scouting and talent identification. We have scouted about 500 U-13/14 matches this season and have seen a difference compared to previous cycles because the players are training more and playing in more meaningful games with international rules. The clubs are more focused on playing style and performance over the results.”
U-13/14 Showcase Format and Manchester United Premier Cup
For the 96 teams competing in Westfield, they will have three competitive matches on June 13, 14 and 16. Following the event, one club will be rewarded as the U.S. representative for the Manchester United Premier Cup in August.
“We’ve tiered all the showcase matchups, based on geography, talent pool and birth year distribution on rosters and performed evaluations from our scouts and technical advisors,” Lepore said. “We tried to find the right match for every team. The technical advisors all worked closely with each other to set up these matchups to create the most meaningful competition for the players.”
June 15 will serve as a Coaching Development Day, which will include a Season 1 review and presentations from the Youth National Team program.
“We will focus on some of the things that went well, share some of the evolution of the Academy program and data from the past season that helps illustrate some of the nice progress our clubs have made while also recognizing that we still have a long way to go with this mission,” Lepore said. “Additionally, the U-14 and U-15 Boys’ National Team staffs, which are made up of technical advisors, will conduct a presentation to the whole group regarding training environment and how it translates to style of play the U.S. Soccer way. The presentations will be heavily based on video from training and recent international competition so it will be great for our club coaches and directors to take away and apply within their own environments.”
Continuity Among National Teams
A heavy emphasis within U.S. Soccer has been on continuity from the senior U.S. Men’s National Team through the Youth National Team system and the Development Academy. With the 2013-14 launch of the U-13/14 Academy season, that element is already making a heavy impact directly for the U.S. U-14 Boys’ National Team.
“Coach BJ (Brian Johnson) and I communicate regularly and we worked together with this age group at our last domestic camp in March,” Lepore said. “He was just with the U-14s in Croatia, and after having a chance to watch those matches, we think this U-14 cycle is way ahead of any previous cycles because of their time in the Development Academy environment with their clubs. Twenty out of 22 players on this trip were from Academy clubs.”
Enhanced Scout and Evaluation Process
For the U-13/14 Academy Showcase, technical advisors will have a perfect forum to continue their evaluation of the talent pool.
“It’s a huge scouting opportunity, like all our showcases,” Lepore said. “We have 14 scouts coming in to help us cover the U-13/14 event, so we will be at every game. At this point of the season, we have a list of talents who were identified and tracked throughout the year that we can track even more closely and also look for any new talents for training centers. We go into the Showcase knowing the clubs and the player pool really well. The most talented players have all migrated to the Academy clubs – 90 percent of the players currently on the 2000 depth chart come from Academy clubs, so there are very few players who we will not be able to scout at this culminating event. This will be very helpful as we evaluate players and make difficult selections for the U-14 Boys’ National Team 48-player camp in August.”
Even with this extensive scouting process, there will be some new competition to keep an eye on as some younger players for their respective clubs will be moved up to play in the U-13/14 Showcase, or players from the U-13/14 Academy teams competing in the Academy Playoffs from June 23-27.
“There are always new talents coming through the clubs and many of the top players will be moved up for postseason competition,” Lepore said. “Some of the ’99s – which is the older age group for the U-13/14s – will bump up to play for the U-15/16s as teams are looking ahead to next year. Many younger players are just ready now to compete at that level, and this will accelerate their development path. This opens the door on rosters for new 2000s or even 2001s to play at the U-13/14 Showcase.”