U.S. Will Play Against Five MLS Development Academy Clubs Inside MLS Stadiums
CHICAGO (March 12, 2010) – The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team faced Development Academy club PDA on Thursday, March 11, and will face New York Red Bulls on March 13 in the first of 10 matches against Academy clubs throughout the country. The 10-game tour provides the U.S. U-17 MNT and Academy players a chance to play against high-quality competition in different professional environments.
Including the match against New York Red Bulls Academy, the U.S. will play against five Academy clubs affiliated with an MLS team and five other Development Academy clubs. Four of the five matches against MLS Development Academy clubs will be played as a doubleheader with an MLS game. Saturday’s match against the New York Red Bulls is the only game that won’t take place before an MLS match, but it will be the first game played at the new Red Bull Arena. The match will kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET and fans can follow along on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
The U.S. U-17 MNT will play one other game at an MLS stadium, taking the field against Indiana United at Columbus Crew Stadium two days before playing against Columbus Crew Academy.
Other scheduled stops at MLS stadiums include FC Dallas Juniors on May 8 and the schedule wraps up against Houston Dynamo on May 22.
“Games like these are played worldwide and helps players develop more quickly, makes them feel a greater commitment to their clubs and helps them improve in regards to the maturity required to play in a soccer stadium filled with people,” said U.S. U-17 MNT head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “It’s something that is very important and will help us tremendously.”
These matches provide not only high-level competition, but also an opportunity to play in professional facilities in front of larger crowds.
“When the players have the chance to play where a professional team plays, the opportunity for development and learning is different from playing on any other field or park,” Cabrera said. “It makes the players feel more connected with professional soccer. It’s also a chance for other people to get excited, to stay and watch and see how the future professionals and the future national team players are doing, how they’re developing.”
Chicago Fire Director of Player Development Larry Sunderland sees the opportunity to challenge his young players against the youth national team as an important one.
“Any time you can get on the field with a national team, which all of our players aspire to be on, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Sunderland said. “It will be great to get out there, and of course our players are always looking to be recognized by our national team staff and maybe one day get an opportunity with one of the programs. It doesn’t get any better than that for our players and it’s certainly a challenge for our guys to step out onto the field and see how we match up.”
Aside from playing MLS Academy clubs in professional stadiums, the U.S. U-17s will also face off against five other Academy clubs that have demonstrated a strong commitment to player development. The U.S. will play Indiana United Academy on March 25, Chicago Magic on April 12, Dallas Texans on May 6 and Texas SC DTH on May 20 .
Indiana United won the 2008 U-15/16 Development Academy Finals Week title and went on to win the 2009 U-17/18 Development Academy championship. Formerly Carmel United, the club has demonstrated a strong commitment to creating the best training and playing environment possible for its players. Indiana United will travel to Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, to play against the U.S. U-17 Men two days before they play the Crew.
“To have an opportunity to play against the best players in the country as recognized by the national team staff and to enhance that by playing in a stadium that seats 22,000 people is great,” said Indiana United U-17/18 assistant coach John Sochacki It’s almost a soccer dream to the boys and to have that opportunity is a great culmination of what they’ve been able to do the last couple of years, and to see the look in their eyes was just great.”
According to Cabrera, playing against Academy teams, especially in a professional atmosphere, not only helps players develop their game but also helps to prepare this cycle of players for a similar environment as they move toward next year’s world championship. The U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team is in the early stages of preparation for the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championship and the subsequent 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup. All of the players currently part of the U.S. Soccer Residency Program were born on or after Jan. 1, 1994.
“Whenever we have the chance to play against one of the older Development Academy teams, it helps our younger players a lot,” Cabrera said. “That is very positive for our players because the demands are greater, the speed of the game is faster, it makes the game harder and they have more responsibilities and can improve their level of play.
“It’s very positive, and it’s also very positive to be able to play against the Development Academy clubs because they are clubs that can give our players the best competition at a national level.”