Expansion, Training, National Team Impact Among Growing Trends as Academy Begins Sixth Campaign
The 2012-13 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 8, and there are many themes entering this sixth season where the Academy and U.S. Soccer raise the bar when focusing on player development.
The Academy continues to expand its presence in North America as 80 teams make up the field. With the 10-month season format implemented across the board, the emphasis on important training hours is a significant focal point. The presence of Academy players on the National Team front also grows with every season.
Here is a “by the numbers” breakdown of these themes and other trends and stats heading into the new season:
Key Training: A major value in the Academy utilizing a 10-month season format will be the importance on additional training, while playing fewer but more meaningful games. Across the board, teams will practice three to four times per week and play a 30-game competitive national schedule.
Academy Expansion: The Development Academy opened the 2007-08 season with 63 members. The following campaign, the Academy added 11 clubs to bring the total to 74. Since then, the Development Academy has strategically expanded the field to 80 teams for 2012-13. This season features the debuts of Orlando City and MLS-affiliated Portland Timbers and the Montreal Impact.
Team Breakdown: The 80-team Academy includes the following geographic breakdown by state: California (13), Texas (9), Florida (5), New York (5), Illinois (4), New Jersey (4), North Carolina (4), Virginia (4), Colorado (3), Maryland (3), Connecticut (2), Georgia (2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (2), Minnesota (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (2), Washington (2), Arizona (1), Kansas (1), Indiana (1), Missouri (1), New Hampshire (1), Oregon (1), South Carolina (1), Wisconsin (1), and two teams in Canada (Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Montreal Impact).
2012-13 Season and Setup: The 2012-13 Academy season starts in September and is capped off by the postseason in July. During that stretch, the 80 participating teams will play approximately 2,000 matches. Each age group consists of three conferences (East, West and Central) and seven divisions (Northeast, Atlantic, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest, Frontier and Mid-America).
Youth National Team Impact: Since the inception of the Development Academy in 2007-08, there have been 3,870 instances of players from the Academy clubs called into a Youth National Team camp, trip or event. This group includes 850 players with Academy ties.
Representing at Residency: U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team head coach Richie Williams recently finalized his 2012 Fall Semester roster for the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla. Among the 31 players selected, there are 24 players representing 19 Development Academy clubs. Three players each come from Chivas USA and the New York Red Bulls. The three Red Bulls players – goalkeeper Evan Louro, midfielder Christopher Lema and forward Wesley Wade – won the U-15/16 championship at 2011-12 Finals Week in Houston.
MLS Sweeps Finals Week: As a byproduct of their the clubs’ player development, Major League Soccer-affiliated teams have thrived of late in Finals Week, including the FC Dallas U-17/18 team and New York Red Bulls U-15/16 side capturing their respective crowns in the 2012 title matches at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Four of the past six Finals Week champions have come from MLS, and the past three U-15/16 champions have been MLS-affiliated teams. FC Dallas represented the first U-17/18 MLS champion in 2011-12, and preceding the U-15/16 New York Red Bulls were the LA Galaxy (2010-11) and Chicago Fire (2009-10).