NATIONAL SHOWCASE EXPANDS: The success stories of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy are told through the progress of former Academy players that have excelled at the international level. But even Academy graduates and FIFA World Cup players like DeAndre Yedlin and Aron Johannsson did not have the exposure at such a young age like this year’s teams received at the U-13/14 National Showcase.
For the first time since the Development Academy launched eight years ago, U.S. Soccer hosted the 88 Development Academy teams from the Under-13/14 age group at the signature youth event held for the second straight year at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana.
"I think the level of competition has been great," said U-14 Boys National Team head coach Brian Johnson. "It's important to have all the U-14 teams throughout the country in one place. It allows the teams to see new competition and play teams that they haven't seen throughout the year, which gives them a chance to see how they play, how their style is, how you can compare yourself with them. With this age group it's all about development, and as this age group changes so much throughout the year at this time in their development, it’s really important for them to all be together and see where they're at and how they're improving."
Each U-13/14 team played three matches over four days in front of the large contingent of U.S. Soccer Youth National Team coaches, technical advisors and scouts. While there are no standings at the U-13/14 level, that doesn’t mean teams don’t want to be the best in their group.
“That's not our priority, but there's competition,” said Johnson. “The level of competition doesn't change with the age groups, so it's still important to learn how to compete, how to manage games, to win the right way. They've put a lot of work into the year - 10 months of training and matches. This is the time for it to all come together and showcase how they've developed."
U.S. Soccer expanded its Development Academy to include U-13/14 teams in the fall of 2013 and will add an Under-12 age group to the Development Academy program beginning in the fall of 2016.
SHOWCASE BEGINS: As the younger group wraps up their Showcase on Tuesday morning, the older aged Development Academy teams that did not qualify for the playoffs will begin their Showcase on Monday afternoon. Similar to the younger group, the 45 teams will also play three matches in front of the National Team scouts over the course of the week.
CRÈME-DE-LA-CRÈME KICKS OFF ON TUESDAY: The route to national titles kicks off on Tuesday for 32 teams in each the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups. The Academy Playoffs field was determined through 21 automatic qualification spots and 11 wild card berths. The automatic qualifiers included the top three teams from each division over the course of the 2014-2015 season.
Two featured playoff matches will be played on the stadium field and be streamed live on ussoccer.com:
- Tuesday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m. ET: Georgia United U-15/16 vs. PDA U-15/16
- Wednesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. ET: RSL-AZ U-17/18 vs. FC Dallas U-17/18
The annual end-of-year Development Academy Awards will be announced at halftime during Wednesday’s match.
The top team from each of the eight groups will advance to a single-game knockout round played at the higher seed’s home facility. The U-17/18s will play on July 7 followed by the U-15/16s on July 8. The four winners from the Knockouts will advance to the Academy Championships, which take place on July 16 in Carson, California. The Championship games for each age group will be played on July 18.
WHO’S WATCHING? The Showcase and Playoffs provide U.S. Soccer a one-stop event in which to observe the top youth players in the country together in a unique and competitive format. Among the technical staff at the event are: U-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos, U-18 MNT head coach Javier Perez, U-15 MNT head coach John Hackworth, and U-14 MNT head coach Brian Johnson. In addition, Director of Scouting Tony Lepore, and Technical Advisors Scott Donnelly, Cris da Silva, Clint Peay, Juan Carlos Michia, Arron Lujan, Dave Van den Bergh, Todd Saldaña and Hugo Perez lead a large group of U.S. Soccer scouts who are also attending every match.
THE WORLD-CLASS WALL: As players and coaches arrive at the center of the massive complex they are welcomed by an equally large circular wall draped in branded colors. The wall, which includes the names of each player in the Development Academy this season– over 6,000 in all – reminds the players that their participation in the Development Academy is the pathway to becoming world-class players.
On the inside, the ‘Dos a Cero’ story wall features the starting XI photo of the U.S. Men’s National Team that defeated Mexico on April 15, 2015 by the now famous 2-0 score line. The lineup that night was the first time four Academy alumni started a match for the U.S. MNT in Joe Corona (Nomads SC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders Academy), Deandre Yedlin (Crossfire Premier / Seattle Sounders Academy), and Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy Academy). Morris and second half substitute Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls Academy) scored the goals in the win that was played in front of over 64,000 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Players are given a chance to don the U.S. Men’s National Team jersey for photos, further providing a reminder that the goal of the Academy is to cultivate future world-class players for the National Team.
The wall can be found near the Merchandise Store in Lot E.
NEUROTRACKER: In addition to top-level training on the field, Academy players have the advantage of additional resources to help in their development. At the Showcase and Playoffs, each player will undergo Neurotracker training to measure and improve their cognitive performance. The session requires players wear 3-D glasses while following moving objects on a computer screen, and is designed to allow an athlete to improve mental focus, attention, response time and process complex movements.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON DONATE A PHOTO: Participants are encouraged to visit the Johnson & Johnson activation area located in Lot E and download the free ‘DONATE A PHOTO’ app. Every time someone donates a photo using the app (you can donate a new photo every day), Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to a non-profit cause of your choice from the curated list. Participants will also receive a free Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit!