The eighth season of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy kicks off over the Sept. 6-7 weekend at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 levels. For the U-13/14 age group, this will be the second season after a successful inaugural campaign.
At the older age groups, FC Golden State and Juventus Sport Club will make their Academy debuts, with FC Golden State hosting Nomads SC this Saturday. Juventus will kick off its season on Saturday, Sept. 13 at the San Jose Earthquakes. Both clubs fielded U-13/14 teams during the 2013-14 season.
Four new clubs have been added to the U-13/14 level this season: Cedar Stars Academy, Lehigh Valley United, Prince William Courage and EBU Bay Oaks.
“It’s always good to have new clubs come in, so we are excited for that,” said U.S. Soccer Director of Scouting Tony Lepore. “We want to continue to raise the bar and provide more meaningful games in our structure.”
The U-15/16 and U-17/18 Academy field includes 77 clubs and the U-13/14 group features 88 clubs.
Along with last season’s addition of the U-13/14 age group, a widely praised change was the postseason format for the U-15/16s and U-17/18s. Last season featured a knockout round format that included eight quarterfinalists with the higher-seeded team hosting, followed by the Academy Championship event for the semifinals, third-place and championship games at U.S. Soccer’s National Training Center. This format will continue for the 2014-15 season.
“We thought it was a huge success,” Lepore said. “It was everything we were hoping for in terms of the change in structure. It showed us that it was the right decision. It was great to be at the NTC, have the finals at the stadium and streamed – those were big plusses. You go back a week prior to that with all the clubs hosting their quarterfinals, and they did an excellent job. Some games had a couple thousand fans on hand, so it was a good atmosphere.”
The LA Galaxy earned the 2013-14 national title at the U-15/16s, defeating defending champion Real Salt Lake AZ 2-0 on July 19 in front of a strong fan base at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Approximately half of that LA Galaxy team will now represent this season’s U-17/18 squad .
Players Development Academy won last season’s U-17/18 championship, posting two second-half goals and shutting out Bethesda-Olney’s attack for a 2-0 victory. It will be a vastly different U-17/18 PDA group for 2014-15, with James Murphy representing the lone PDA player to see the field during last season’s title game.
U-15/16 ACADEMY CHAMPIONS:
2007-08: Carmel United (now Indiana Fire Academy)
2008-09: Derby County Wolves (now Crew Soccer Academy Wolves)
2009-10: Chicago Fire
2010-11: LA Galaxy
2011-12: New York Red Bulls
2012-13: Real Salt Lake AZ
2013-14: LA Galaxy
U-17/18 ACADEMY CHAMPIONS:
2007-08: Baltimore Bays (now Baltimore Bays Chelsea)
2008-09: Carmel United (now Indiana United)
2009-10: Vardar SC (now Vardar SC Freiburg)
2011-12: FC Dallas
2012-13: New York Red Bulls
2013-14: Players Development Academy