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Program Overview

Mission

The U.S. Soccer Development Academy program provides education, resources, and support to impact everyday club environments in order to develop world-class players.

Development Academy Crest

Stars: Indicative of the American flag, the three stars represent the three Academy mixed-age groups: U-13/14, U-15/16 and U-17/18.

Stripes: Indicative of the American flag, the equal-width red and white stripes represent the four pillars of the Academy:

  • Excellence
  • Pride
  • Tradition
  • Education

What is the Development Academy Program?

Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy in 2007 to provide education, resources and support to impact everyday club environments that will develop world-class players. The Academy Program's philosophy is based on increased training, less total games, and more meaningful games using international rules of competition.

The Academy also connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy club is evaluated by a member of the Men’s Scouting Network at least ten (10) times each year and each Academy club receives two (2) formal reviews that provide feedback in seven (7) Key Performance Categories each year from U.S. Soccer Technical Staff.

Developing a world-class coaching system is fundamental to developing world-class players. Education is a continuous process. As the game of soccer is constantly evolving, it is important that coaches are knowledgeable on current domestic and international trends. U.S. Soccer Coaching Education supports the Development Academy in its initiative to require minimum certification for all technical staff. These requirements can be seen below:

  • Academy club directors -> USSF ‘A’ License and must complete the Academy Director’s course
  • Academy club technical staff -> USSF ‘B’ license (minimum) 

The Academy is also focused on identifying and developing the next generation of elite referees. U.S. Soccer assigns up-and-coming officials to participate in Academy games at the local and national levels. 

To maintain a focus on club training environments, Academy players and teams do not play in any outside competitions without written permission from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff. Full-time Academy players can only participate on their designated Academy team, with only two exceptions: U.S. Soccer Training Centers and National Team duty. The Development Academy's 10-month Program allows for a greater opportunity to institute style of play and implement a system according to U.S. Soccer's Development Philosphy. It also gives teams increased opportunities for younger kids in their club to "play up" against older players in both training and matches, thereby accelerating their development. Academy players choosing to participate in the Academy full-time will forgo playing for their high school team.

Schedule/Commitment

Development Academy clubs are required to train a minimum of four (4) days per week and rest one (1) day per week during the Academy season. Academy teams will play approximately 30 games per year.

Member Clubs

94 U-13/14 clubs (83 league and 11 non-league) with 74 U-15/16 and U-17/18 clubs participate in the program.

Selection

Any club is welcome to apply, but admission is very selective. Applications will be evaluated holistically using the following measures:

  • National Team Coach Analysis based on U.S. Soccer's Development Philosophy
    • 7 Key Performance Categories
    1. Player Development Effectiveness
    2. Staff, Leadership, Structure, and Qualifications
    3. Style of Play & Philosophy
    4. Training Environment & Personal Development
    5. Facilities & Infrastructure
    6. Respect
    7. Resources
  • History of Youth National Team and professional player production
  • History of success in elite competitions
  • Geography
  • Impact on existing Academy members

Age Groups

Participation in the U-13/14 age group is required to create a consistent pathway of development throughout the player's time in the Academy. Clubs participating in the older age groups must field one team in each of the two Academy mixed-age groups at U-15/16 and U-17/18. 

  • U-13/14: Players born on or after 1/1/2001
  • U-15/16: Players born on or after 1/1/1999
  • U-17/18: Players born on or after 1/1/1997

U.S. Soccer Technical Staff encourages players to "play up" when appropriate.

Rosters

U-13/14 team rosters must have a minimum of 16 full-time players and no more than 23 full-time players.

Each club must have a minimum roster of 32 full-time players and no more than 46 full-time players at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups combined. 

All players register directly with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Format

The Development Academy contains nine (9) geographically-based divisions at the U-13/14 age group and seven (7) geographically-based divisions at both the U-15/16 and U-17/18 levels. Each team plays home and away games against the other teams in their division, plus games against non-division opponents from across the country during the 10-month season. 

The U-15/16 & U-17/18 age groups will compete at the Academy Playoffs for one of eight spots in the Academy Championships. There is no postseason play for the U-13/14 age group. 

Events

The U-13/14 age group will attend several showcase events throughout the Academy season:

  1.      Fall Regional Showcases
  2.      Winter Futsal Showcases
  3.      Summer National Showcase

The U-15/16 & U-17/18 age groups will compete in (2) National Showcase events throughout the Academy season concluding with the Academy Championships in mid-July.

  1.      Winter Showcase
  2.      Summer Showcase and Playoffs
  3.      Academy Championships

Cost

There are no fees for a club to participate in the U-15/16 and U-17/18 Academy program, aside from $10 per player and $25 per coach registration fee.

There are no fees for a club to participate in the U-13/14 Academy program, aside from $100 per player and $25 per coach registration fee.

U.S. Soccer covers all referee fees and event fees. Clubs are responsible for all of their travel and administrative expenses. 

Scholarship Program

U.S. Soccer is pleased to announce the ninth year of the Development Academy Scholarship Program supported by the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The scholarships are designed to provide opportunities for full-time Academy players who require financial assistance to participate in the Development Academy Program. 

Player Development Advantages

Top Instruction

  • Players receive integrated oversight from Academy club coaches and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors in their local environment.

Consistent Training Environment

  • Four (4) mandatory training sessions per week

More Meaningful Games

  • Compete against top youth clubs in the country
  • FIFA rules (i.e. no reentry on substitutions, Jan. 1 birthday cutoff, players play-up with older teams when appropriate)

Fewer Total Games

  • Approximate 30-game season
  • No outside participation for full-time Academy players
  • 25 percent minimum start requirement

Connection to U.S. Soccer Resources

  • Coaching Education
  • Technical Advisors & Scouts
  • National Teams
  • Referees assigned by U.S. Soccer
  •  

Talent Identification Advantages

Since the 2007-08 Development Academy season, 24 Academy alumni have earned Men's National Team call-ups and over 1,250 Academy players earned Youth National Team call-ups. Over 120 Development Academy alumni have played in Major League Soccer, with approximately another 50 alumni at professional environments overseas.

In the 2014-15 Development Academy season, the U.S. Soccer Men's Scouting Network scouted over 2,100 Academy games. 

Development Academy events are premier scouting venues for players to be identified for U.S. Soccer Training Centers and Youth National Teams:

  • National Team staff members observe every game
  • Domestic and international professional scouts in attendance
  • Online player profile for all Academy players