High-Level Youth Soccer Training in Germany for American Players
Germany dominates youth soccer player development and ranks high as one of the best countries for producing professional players. This Fall, The Talentprojekt will kick off its second year in Germany — this exclusive soccer immersion program is just for talented 2004 and 2005 boys who want to live the dream and work hard to reach the next level which includes trials at top Bundesliga clubs.
The Talentprojekt, an all-inclusive year-long immersion program in Germany for highly talented American youth soccer players is just coming to the conclusion of its first year. The Talentprojekt’s squad of elite players are from all over the country and joined the program to intensify their development and test their skills against top Bundesliga Academies.
The team of American youths has taken on their counterparts at Schalke 04, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Hannover 96, Borussia Mönchengladbach in many friendlies as well as other German and Dutch academies including FC Utrecht and SBC Vitesse (Vitesse Arnhem).
The Talentprojekt team has posted impressive results in all matches. Their next challenge will be playing FC Bayern youth academy this spring.
The Talentprojekt has earned stellar results competing against local and regional teams. Placed 1st in their division in the Niederrhein league with a 31:1 goal difference, the team has advanced in the League Cup known as NiederrheinPokal and are currently being drawn to compete against Bundesliga Academies.
In addition, The Talentprojekt advanced to the finals of the KreisPokal, which is the area’s Regional Cup.
While the final score only tells part of the story, the victories earned on the field have generated significant interest from scouts and Bundesliga coaches — who have extended offers for trials to a number of The Talentprojekt players.
Currently interviewing top 2004 and 2005 boys for The Talentprojekt 2020-21 season, this is a groundbreaking program that has exceeding expectations on the pitch and developing talent.
As with any startup, The Talentprojekt has experienced logistical challenges during its first season and had to forge new plans, changing to an English based private school and adjusting the living arrangements of its players — but with a focused passion, it remained dedicated to its core mission of providing a bridge to German youth soccer for the elite few.
Immersing US youth soccer players in German soccer, and providing real opportunities for top Bundesliga clubs to request the American players come for trials is a fantasy for many and a proven reality for Mark Dillon, the founder of The Talentprojekt.
“We’re doing something that hadn’t been done before,” said Dillon. “We moved twenty 15-year-old boys 6,000 miles away from home. There were challenges and we had growing pains, but we settled into a routine, and into a process that works extraordinarily well.”
“A lot of the big clubs wanted to watch us a little before they would put us on their schedule but once we started getting significant results, they realized there is real talent in this group and we started getting lots of invitations for matches,” said Dillon. “Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Nürnberg, and Fortuna Düsseldorf all wanted to play our boys and several of the Dutch clubs invited us in as well.
We’re earning a reputation, and we’re making waves — we’re disrupting the landscape and starting to make an impact.”Mark Dillion, the founder of The Talentprojekt
Even stronger than originally envisioned, The Talentprojekt 2020-21 season looks to continue opening doors for high-level players who want to experience what it is like to live and breathe the world’s beautiful game in a country revered for its soccer success.
As most soccer fans know, Germany is a global powerhouse and has lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy four times — in 1954, 1974, 1990, and 2014 and has earned three European Championships plus one Confederations Cup (2017).
More than just collecting hardware, youth soccer development in Germany is a science. The country has invested a total of more than 1.5 billion Euros and the Bundesliga’s youth academies are world-renowned.
Defeating, and even tying a match against Germany’s youth soccer teams is an accomplishment to be proud of and the squad from The Talentprojekt has repeatedly accomplished this.
“Our players are moving in the world of professional football in Europe,” said Dillon. “The standards are very high. It was up to them to try to do their best to reach those standards as quickly as possible and I am very proud of what our players have accomplished.”
In the midst of recruiting for the second year, Dillon realizes his concept of immersive training in Germany is highly successful. Looking to select the next group of young players from the 2004 and 2005 age groups, Dillon confirms he has received a lot of inquiries.
“When we evaluate players, first and foremost is character. There are so many talented players trying out and the one trait that separates is character.”Mark Dillion, founder of The Talentprojekt
“Character relates to ambition, coachability, how a player relates to other players,” said Dillon. “I always ask myself, is this a player that we want to see every day? Do they have a positive attitude or a negative attitude?”
Once The Talentprojekt has identified potential candidates for the program, the prospective players complete a detailed personality and character profile. With insights on how a player thinks about bullying and how they manage difficult situations, Dillon selects the players he wishes to interview. Dillon said, “We want to know if the player is driven and does he have a high level of ambition? Or is he too full of himself?”
One clear advantage of The Talentprojekt is the very high player to coach ratio. The program has two full-time coaches, a part-time coach, plus a dedicated goalkeeper coach. With four coaches involved with the players on a regular basis, this is a very comprehensive development program but one that also allows for players to have fun.
And, what do the players think? We thought hearing from them would be interesting.
“The Talentprojekt is a great experience. Having the opportunity to train with Bundesliga clubs motivates me to improve and work harder.”Edwin Ramirez, a youth soccer player at The Talentprojekt
“The Talentprojekt is a fantastic program, creating exceptional opportunities for me to achieve my dream,” said Anderson Holt, a youth soccer player at The Talentprojekt.
For a better understanding of the experience, teammate Luca Fava provides real insight.
“For any American in pursuit of their dream to become a professional football player, joining The Talentprojekt is easily one of the best decisions one can make. Being exposed to the world of European football, and Europe itself is such a life-changing opportunity for anyone, but especially for a young footballer with aspirations with the game,” said Luca Fava, a youth soccer player at Talentprojekt.
“Coming to play for The Talentprojekt is not just about beating Bundesliga teams and other professional academy teams in the surrounding countries, even though that is a plus.”Luca Fava, a youth soccer player at The Talentprojekt
When asked why the environment at The Talentprojekt was so wonderful or special, Fava replied, “Here you are taught the right way to act in a professional environment, perform in a professional environment, and work to earn yourself a spot in a professional environment — all of which can’t be taught in such a profound way anywhere in the states.”
“The opportunities at The Talentprojekt are endless,” said Fava. “I can especially attest to this, as I have created some of my own chances to prove myself to multiple clubs where I can potentially chase my dreams next season.”
“But, if not for the extra hours of hard work and this environment in which I constantly am training, playing, and learning — none of these opportunities would have happened. I am very proud of being invited to some of the top German youth academies.”
“Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a kid who should be getting ready for his driver’s permit test, yet instead is being given the chance to fulfill his dreams.”Luca Fava, a youth soccer player at The Talentprojekt
From this player’s perspective, the reality is simple.
“Every kid wants to achieve the same dream and training at the Talentprojekt day-in and day-out can separate a good player, from being ‘the’ player,” said Fava.
“Moving overseas as a young teenager, by myself, and being away from home, isn’t easy.
Not everything is or will ever be perfect, but if becoming a professional really is your dream, this is a chance to make the absolute most of reaching your goals.Luca Fava, a youth soccer player at The Talentprojekt
Being here in Germany for just five months, I have only begun to understand how much I have learned and grown over this short period of time,” said Fava. “I look forward to what is in store for the second half of the season, and The Talentprojekt next year.”
The Talentprojekt coaching staff includes Head Coach Samir Sisic and Assistant Coach Andreas Polenski.