USL Academy League Accepting Applications for Inaugural Year #USLACADEMY
While not exclusive to the USL Championship, but perfectly suited to it, the USL League has kicked off its own elite youth soccer academy program — separate from the MLS.
The United Soccer League announced June 22 the application process for the 2021 USL Academy League season is underway — with clubs from across the USL Championship, League One, and League Two able to participate in and invite youth soccer clubs to join them as an affiliate member.
Hailed as a first-of-its-kind competition designed to create the clearest path possible to professional soccer, the USL Academy will connect the local USL senior team with aspiring and talented youth players.
To maintain a viable player pathway with the opportunity for development, the USL Academy Play Development Model includes creating an environment where younger players play against and with slightly older players.
There is a maximum number of allowable players who are U18/U19 with a mandatory minimum number of younger players who are U17 or under.
Players in the USL Academy will be registered directly through the USL with U.S. Soccer.
In addition to USL clubs apply to participate in the new Academy League, the USL will also accept applications from youth soccer clubs outside the United Soccer League, under the provision they align their player development pathway with an existing USL Senior Team.
The application process will run throughout the summer, allowing the USL League Office to assess all applications and determine which clubs and markets are prepared to meet the minimum standards which include a focus on nutrution as well as mental strength and psychosocial health programs.
Following approvals, the first-of-its-kind will announce which regional subdivisions are to be launched ahead of the 2021 season.
“The response to USL Academy League has far exceeded our expectations,” said Liam O’Connell, USL Senior Director of Youth Development. “The new model it offers will allow teams across the United States – including select youth academies who affiliate with current USL clubs – to provide a professional environment for development and a true pathway to the professional ranks. We can’t wait to get going in 2021.”
The USL Academy League will evaluate applications on a number of key factors. Among those will be the strength of the club’s youth network and its connectivity to a senior team, as well as appropriate funding levels, market conditions, a club’s proximity to current or future USL professional clubs, and a club’s history of player development.
The USL Academy will be cost-effective for professional teams as is will afford their U19 Academy team the likely ability to join on regional travel and allow youths to be immersed in a professional soccer player culture.
The USL also anticipates the dates and locations for the 2020-21 USL Academy Cup will be announced in the coming weeks, with the competition set to build on the successful first edition hosted in San Antonio, Texas, and Bradenton, Florida.
In addition, the USL Academy is set to release a four-part animated video series designed to better illustrate how clubs are able to utilize the existing Academy platform to build and clearly define player development pathways – including information on strategic alignment, talent identification, player promotion and more.
More detail on the Academy platform’s plans for the second edition of the USL Academy Cup, as well as the release of the first set of regional subdivisions, will be provided in the coming months.