CHICAGO (Oct. 12, 2015) – Atlanta United will join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in the fall of 2016.
At a luncheon held for youth development leaders around the greater Atlanta area, Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra and club President Darren Eales announced the team’s plans and outlined the timeline for the club’s youth soccer development program. They shared their plans to partner closely with local and regional youth soccer clubs as they build their Academy structure, explaining that the club’s objective is to contribute to the advancement of youth soccer not only in Georgia but regionally and nationally.
Launching in the fall of 2016, Atlanta United will join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy at all age groups. At that time, Georgia United Soccer Alliance (GUSA) will remain in the Academy at the U-13/14 age groups, and their two older teams will conclude. During the transition period and beyond, Atlanta United will work with GUSA to build upon GUSA’s successful organizational structure for developing elite level talent. Concorde Fire Soccer Club will continue as an Academy member club in all age categories.
“It’s fantastic that Atlanta United is making player development a priority even before the first team gets started,” said U.S. Soccer Technical Director Jürgen Klinsmann. “Atlanta is an important soccer market and having a first class training environment will be fantastic for elite players as well as help raise the bar in the area overall.”
Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy, a program that provides education, resources, and support to impact everyday club environments in order to develop world-class players. The Academy was established in 2007 for male players in the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups.
In 2013, the Academy expanded to include the U-13/14 age group, which has continued to improve development for younger players by setting standards and improving the everyday environment for players and clubs.
According to Eales, GUSA’s approach in developing youth talent is superb and innovative. Atlanta United will build upon the success of the GUSA model consisting of a structured alliance of six metro Atlanta clubs. The clubs joined together to share resources and player talent providing a high level training and competition environment for elite level players in the state of Georgia. Atlanta United’s plan is to take this model to the next level by working with all clubs in the Atlanta area to bring the region’s top young talent to Atlanta United’s Academy, with the aim that they will one day represent the Club in MLS.
“The U.S. Soccer Development Academy looks forward to continuing to build upon the strong foundation built by Georgia United and Concorde Fire with the addition of the Atlanta United Academy,” said U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director Jared Micklos. “The club leaders are committed to providing the Atlanta community with a professional club dedicated to player development and creating an environment for young talent to grow.”
Through their extensive experience in youth development both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as through visits to multiple academies around the globe, Eales and Bocanegra are looking to implement best practices at Atlanta United to ensure that its Academy will be recognized as a leading developer of youth talent.
Developed as a player in the U.S., Bocanegra played in Major League Soccer as well as top leagues in France, England, Spain and Scotland enabling him to experience youth development operations first-hand. As former executive director for the Barclay’s Premier League Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC), Eales sat on the Technical Board of THFC’s Academy, known as a leading developer of youth talent. Considered to be one of the best academies in the Premier League, THFC produced five full England international players between 2012 and 2015 including Harry Kane and Ryan Mason.
Both Eales and Bocanegra are confident that the U.S. youth development model is only getting stronger, and believe it is most efficient when clubs work together toward the common goal of producing top level talent. Atlanta United will follow this approach and ensure that the development process is inclusive and collaborative.
Atlanta United Academy players will train at a new, state-of-the-art training facility due to be completed prior to the club’s first match in 2017. The club considers it to be fundamental in the development of youth players to have the academy train at the same facility as the first team. Sharing the training complex will allow an aspirational environment for Academy players as they observe and interact with Atlanta United’s first team and strive to follow in their footsteps. A shared training facility also supports the club’s broader philosophy that the Academy should not only produce elite players, but serve as an environment that creates well-rounded, professional individuals.