CHICAGO (Sept. 16, 2011) – The 2011-12 U.S. Soccer Development Academy will kick off its fifth season in earnest on Saturday, Sept. 17, as teams from the West, Central and South conferences take to the field to play 50 games over the course of the weekend.
Four teams from the South Conference unofficially kicked off the season last weekend, playing eight games in two age groups on Saturday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 11.
“We move into a new year where everyone is looking to improve on the one before, and that’s always the case,” said U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna. “It’s exciting for our staff, our Technical Advisors to start working with the teams shortly and hopefully they can improve from last year.”
Georgia United and Vancouver Whitecaps will both make their on-field debut as Academy clubs and several teams will initiate a 10-month season that will spread matches out throughout the year. Vancouver will host Real Salt Lake AZ in their first Academy match, which will be played in Seattle, while Georgia United will host Virginia Rush AJ Auxerre in the club’s first Academy game.
The SoCal Division in particular is undergoing significant restructuring. All teams are moving to a 10-month season with the exception of San Diego Surf. During the off-season, Cosmos Academy West merged with Chivas USA. The MLS-affiliate now counts on the services of 2011 West Conference Starting XI Coach of the Year Dan Calichman leading the U-17/18 squad, and 2011 Development Academy U-15/16 Coach of the Year Mike Muñoz leading the younger age group.
“The clubs that are going to a 10-month season is the most important change,” said Reyna. “Planning for a 10-month season is something new for them, but will provide the players more time to train which is important for their development. Around the world, kids at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age level play for 10 months and they train more than our kids, so this helps us close that gap. It's an exciting move for the Academy clubs to commit more overall hours to this environment.”
Southern California is also home to the defending Academy champions, as both the U-15/16 LA Galaxy and U-17/18 Pateadores look to continue with the programming that led their teams to the championship matches at 2011 Finals Week. The West Conference teams will ease into the season, facing off against conference opponents before playing in divisional matches.
Pateadores will initiate the defense of their title against Cal Odyssey while the LA Galaxy kicks off against De Anza Force. In the younger age group, Real So Cal will play its first match against the Seattle Sounders since falling 2-1 to the Washington-based team at 2011 Finals Week.
In the Texas Division, only Texas Rush will not play in the first weekend of the new season, with the remaining eight teams kicking off across the division. The Texas Division is also switching to a 10-month season, spreading out games and training throughout the course of the year. At FC Dallas, 2011 Central Conference Starting XI Coach of the Year Oscar Pareja will continue to build on the U-17/18 team’s success after finishing in second place at 2011 Finals Week. Pareja will be followed closely by the Dallas Texans, who had a team in both age groups at the Finals Week in Milwaukee.
Georgia United, McLean Youth Soccer, Richmond Strikers and South Carolina United Battery are the four South Conference representatives on the weekend. The East Conference and remaining teams for the West, Central and South Conference will kick off the season later in the year.