Major League Soccer’s New Elite Competition for Youth Academies
Saving the day, literally for hundreds of players, the MLS is creating strong fans by helping the youth soccer market with a possible solution for the very best of the best.
Major League Soccer is launching a possible lifeline to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy (DA) players who have suddenly and abruptly fond themselves today league-less once the closure of the DA was officially confirmed.
The DA has cited … unanticipated circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation of the Development Academy program ….”
The MLS announced today the launch of a new elite youth competition platform intended to provide year-round high-level matches for MLS club academy teams and non-MLS academy teams that previously participated in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
The response from youth soccer club owners, coaches, players, and their families has been overwhelmingly positive to the MLS stepping in and kicking off this elite level of competition. Clubs from all across America have eargerly expressed interest, although few details are available.
One of the value propositions for MLS is early player identification of potential talent for their teams.
The best (boy) players in America compete in the MLS Academies and receive outstanding training. Free to those recruited, players do not typically pay for team dues, club fees, uniforms, travel, nutritional counseling, and physical trainers. MLS’ Sporting Kansas City even provides its youth soccer players with adidas cleats and warm-ups.
While this ‘free’ ride requires great dedication and is offered to only the 1% of the very best of elite youth talent, this financial model is designed for players on the pathway to becoming professionals who hope of being awarded a homegrown contract. While no costs have been announced, this is not expected to be the financial model for MLS’ new Domestic Player Development.
High level domestic competition will be combined with international teams affording a real-life environment for player development.
While the program will pick up the void for the left by the sudden demise of the DA, the MLS is also evaluating expanding its program to offer participation to youth soccer clubs that were not selected for the former U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Initially, the MLS program will provide opportunities for boys teams, there is the possibility of expanding the program for girls.
Major League Soccer Leads Domestic Player Development with Launch of New Elite Competition
Here are quotes from the MLS release posted on April 15:
“Major League Soccer is deeply committed to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway, from our academy teams through the professional game,” said Todd Durbin, MLS EVP of Competition & Player Relations in a league statement. “As we look ahead to the 2026 FIFA MLS World Cup here in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, now more than ever it is incumbent on us to establish a competition that sets a new standard for elite youth play and allows athletes to achieve their full potential.”
“We are seeing significant contribution to the quality of play in MLS from homegrown talent,” said Jeff Agoos, MLS Senior VP of Competition, Operations, and Medical Administration. “As we currently have 2,500 elite players and 250 top youth coaches in our academies, MLS is uniquely positioned to provide a new and enhanced platform that will include high-quality coaching, professionalized environments, and enhanced player identification.”
“Participating in high quality, competitive matches on a consistent basis is essential to the development of our young players,” said Fred Lipka, VP and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. “Launching this new competition will allow us to consistently challenge players, staffs, and teams, optimizing the potential of every player on the field.”
Thank you, MLS for stepping up so quickly to help the youth soccer market abandoned by U.S. Soccer.
Photo Credit: Diane Scavuzzo