USSF Shuts Down the Development Academy

USSF DA Closes

US Soccer announced that it is shutting down its Development Academy, effective immediately. The DA closed with a letter from Will Wilson, CEO of US Soccer since on March 23, 2020.

The DA was created in 2007 because USSF felt that no one was developing young players in the US. Since then the MLS has created Academies and some have performed very well – you can see the top 10 list. Many others have organized quality youth soccer clubs across the country.

Amid an impending painful lawsuit, a quarter into the 3rd year of a 5 year plan to spend surplus and then Covid-19 arrived. Several games were canceled and likely reduced income from sponsors. USSF decided to suspend the DA permanently.

MLS Launches a Development Academy

At essentially the same time as USSF’s announcement, MLS announced they were opening a elite youth development league. It would include their academy as well as possibly other top academies from outside.

MLS has spoken about leaving the DA for two years now primarily due to complaints about the competition quality. It does not seem like a fully formulated plan for either USSF or MLS was in place.

Many suspect this was coordinated, I am hearing differently. It does seem that MLS may have announced in reaction to USSF’s expected DA closing as a way to capture some of the clubs that they are interested in bringing into their fold.

MLS have no obligation to release anything any time soon and it’s unknown when they would be required to announce (if at all). Jay Berhalter is strongly rumored to be on board consulting for the newly established DA so it’s unlikely a ton of transparency can be expected. It is certainly is plausible they announced without a fully formed plan.

What Does this All Mean?

Truthfully, I don’t know and don’t think anyone really does yet. MLS does not have clear criteria for who they will be selecting.

The sense I am getting from many inside and out of US Soccer is there is general optimism that MLS, USL and other leagues will be established to scoop up much of the talented clubs that are out there. The rest of the clubs could get organized and sponsorship to continue on in some fashion on their own.

There are much more avenues to connect with clubs, find talent and with improved coaching nationally since 2007. This is with social media and the larger sport’s network of the growing interest in youth soccer development.

There is generally more awareness from Europe and lots of interest for young American players in the US than ever before. The pathway overseas is of most interest to elite players.

I don’t want to overly sell a rosier picture in something I am not involved in or have a clear picture of. I have heard many opinions that seem optimistic though.

The initial list that I’m hearing is that there will be challenges:

  • elite soccer may become more expensive
  • travel may be greater for players and clubs
  • great players from smaller markets may not get discovered
  • MLS will have more control
  • girls expenses will increase tremendously and will likely have greater challenges than boys

Map of the DAs Clubs

An Older Visualization vs MLS Teams

U.S. Soccer Development Academy
U.S. Soccer Development Academy

Next Steps

Significant more research is needed to gain a clear picture and sadly time will be the key story teller. We will investigate further and share more as time goes on.

Teams, coaches and families are still shocked. They will be looking for their next steps in the midst of a pandemic that could be causing further off the field challenges.

On behalf of and the team here, we wish you the best in this difficult time. Please stay in touch if there is anything we can do to help your club as they are looking to connect.