Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy in 2007 to improve the everyday environment for the elite youth player.
The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an every day environment designed to produce the next generation of National Team players. The Academy’s programming philosophy is based on increased training, less total games and more competitive games.
The Academy also connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy team is evaluated by a member of the Men’s Scouting Network at least 10 times each year and each Academy club receives two formal evaluations in over 100 categories each year from U.S. Soccer Technical Staff.
The Development Academy is also focused on identifying and developing the next generation of elite referees. U.S. Soccer assigns up-and-coming officials to participate in Academy games at the local level and at national events.
|Objective:||The Development Academy's primary focus is player development. Academy players are provided with the best opportunity to achieve their potential as elite soccer players.|
|Standards:||Academy teams are required to train at least three days per week and rest one day per week during the Academy season. Academy teams will play approximately 30 games per year.|
|Member Clubs:||88 U-13/14 clubs and 79 U-15/16 and U-17/18 clubs will participate in the program in 2013-14.|
|Selection:||All current clubs applied for membership. Any club is welcome to apply, but admission is very selective.|
|Teams:||Academy clubs participating in the older age levels must field one team in each of the two Academy mixed-age groups at U-15/16 and U-17/18.|
U-15/16: Players born on or after 1/1/1997
U-17/18: Players born on or after 1/1/1995
Players are encouraged to "play up" when appropriate.
|Rosters:||Each club must have a minimum roster of 36 full-time players. All players register directly with U.S. Soccer.|
|Format:||In 2012-13, the Academy league contained seven geographically based divisions. Each team played home and away matches against the other teams in their division, plus games against non-division opponents from across the country during the 10-month season. The top 32 teams in each age group advanced to the Playoffs, where they competed for one of eight spots in the Academy Finals Week in Houston. In the 2013-14 season, there are seven divisions where each team will play a combination of a home and away schedule against each of the teams in its division. In the West Conference, the teams play cross-division either home or away.|
|Cost:||There are no fees for club to participate in program, aside from $8 per player and $25 per coach registration fee (2013-14 figures). Clubs are responsible for all of their travel and administrative expenses.|
To maintain a focus on training, Academy teams do not play in any other leagues, tournaments, State Cup competitions, ODP or All-Star events without written permission from Academy staff. Full-time Academy players can only participate on their designated Academy team, with only one exception: National Team duty. For the 2013-14 season, full-time Academy players for all teams must choose to participate in the Academy full-time and forgo playing for his high school team. Please see the FAQ on the 10-month season for more information.
Academy Club Evaluations
U.S. Soccer provides two yearly evaluations to clubs participating in the Development Academy to provide feedback on quality of the club's developmental environment for elite players. Clubs are graded on a five-star system in comparison to the top international developmental environments. The 2011-12 evaluation criteria consists of eight key components necessary for a club to provide elite everyday environments for player development with technical components based on the U.S. Soccer Curriculum.
How should this information best be used?
The information has a few different purposes. First and foremost, this feedback is necessary to help clubs improve and sharing this information increases the accountability for Academy clubs to reach the high standards and expectations set by U.S. Soccer. Second, the information empowers individuals to make the most informed decisions to help choose the right long term fit for an elite player. U.S. Soccer encourages families, players and clubs to use all the information available as the current holistic view of each Academy club. Third, the evaluation system helps U.S. Soccer to evaluate the progress and deficiencies in order to continue improving the impact of Academy Program on elite player development. One purpose this evaluation is not useful for is to draw comparisons between Academy club programs and other domestic programs or teams associated with other organizations.
How often are clubs evaluated?
Clubs are graded twice a year; once during the midpoint of the Academy season and once at the end of the season. Only the end of year evaluation score is shared and applied to their membership status for the following season.
How does U.S. Soccer determine the grades?
U.S. Soccer conducts live evaluations and video analysis at Academy clubs' training and games and collects administrative information on the club throughout the year.
Is all criteria worth the same?
The criteria receive different weights based on their importance to providing an environment to develop elite level players. The technical components carry the greatest weight.
Who is involved in the grading process?
U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors, National Team Scouts and U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff participate in live evaluations, observations, video analysis and data collection.
What does an evaluation that a club receives look like?
Each evaluation is personalized for every Academy club based on last season's data, statistics, and analysis for their 15/16 and 17/18 age teams.
2010-11 template here
2011-12 template here
Player Development Advantages
- More Training
- 3 mandatory training sessions per week
- Fewer Total Games
- Approximate 30-game season
- No outside participation for full-time Academy players
- 25% Minimum Start Requirement
- More Meaningful Games
- Compete against top youth clubs in the country
- FIFA Rules (i.e. no reentry on substitutions, January 1 birthday cut-off, players participate on older teams if appropriate)
- Top Instruction
- Players receive integrated oversight from Academy club coaches and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors in their local environment.
- Connection to U.S. Soccer Resources
- Select teams compete against U.S. Youth National Teams
- Regular Game and Training Evaluations by U.S. Soccer Men's Scouting Network staff
- Referees assigned by U.S. Soccer
Player Identification Advantages
- Direct connection to Men's Scouting Network for identification of potential national team pool players
- Showcases are premier scouting venues:
- 400-500 college coaches
- 25 Professional Scouts
- National Team Staff observe every game
- Online player profile for all Academy players
- Showcase games footage can be purchased
- There have been more than 2,000 instances of players being called into Youth or Senior team events since the Fall of 2007 from 72 different Academy clubs.