US Soccer Development Academy – What Happened?
On April 16, 2020, it was announced that the United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) would be closing due to the ongoing pandemic.
The Development Academy, which was designed to identify and develop young talent in the U.S., had played a vital role in the success of the players playing at the next level.
The closure of the DA was a significant, but temporary, blow to the future of soccer in the U.S. The youth soccer landscape made significant traction under the Development Academy. It was a platform for elite youth soccer players in the U.S. to showcase their skills.
In this article, we’ll shed some light on what the DA was, what it stood for and the future of youth soccer in the U.S.
What Was the Development Academy?
The Development Academy was a soccer program designed to identify and develop young, talented players in the United States.
The DA focused on providing players with the best training, coaching and competition possible, in order to help them reach their fullest potential.
The program was open to both boys and girls, and included teams at the u12, u13, u14, u15, u16, u17, and u19 age levels. This affected almost 20,000 players across the country!
The DA served as a feeder system for the U.S. youth national teams, and some players who have gone through the program have continued on to play for the national teams and professionally.
Some notable players who came up through the Development Academy include: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Chris Richards.
The DA was considered the premier youth development program in the US, and was an important step for young players who want to pursue a career in soccer.
Here’s a video from U.S. explaining the program from 2010!
Why Did the Development Academy Really Shutdown?
U.S. Soccer announced its permanent closure and cited that financial difficulties caused by the COVID pandemic was to blame. But, is there more to the story? We think so!
U.S. Soccer was under immense pressure after a lawsuit with USWNT that ended up costing them $24 million. In that previous year, U.S. Soccer anticipated that it would spend $12 million on the Development Academy. This obviously didn’t happen but it gives you a clear picture as to how sudden the closure came about.
Also, many parents were simply not happy with the DA and their restrictions. More specifically, players that competed in the DA were not allowed to play for their high school or middle school teams. They also had tight restrictions on what tournaments teams can participate in.
Moreover, there was heavy travel involved throughout the course of the fall and spring seasons. No fault of their own but when elite teams play elite teams, parents need to expect that there will be travel over state borders.
Although the pandemic did a toll on the federation and the sport of soccer, it wasn’t the sole catalyst for the DA closure…it accelerated it.
Development Academy Shutdown, Now What?
After the U.S. Soccer made the announcement, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced its intentions to fill the void and formed MLS NEXT in 2020.
MLS becomes the new standard for elite boys youth soccer. Now, instead of the U.S. Soccer driving its standards, MLS is defining playing styles, budgets, coaching and other program essentials.
MLS NEXT has now become the next logical pathway from the youth-level to the professionals.
Similarly, the Girls Academy (GA) was formed to provide a top-tier program for talented youth female soccer players.
The GA has been well received by players, parents, coaches and scouts thus far.
Additionally, many DA players went on to play in the boys and girls Elite Club National League (ECNL). The ECNL also provides top-tier development across the nation.
All in all, the closure of DA for the future youth soccer was just a bump in the road. In actuality, it created more opportunities for new programs to elevate youth soccer in the U.S.
In today’s youth soccer landscape, there is a linear but flexible pathway which is great. There are more options for parents of youth players to explore.
We are firm believers that youth soccer in the United States is alive and well!