U.S. Soccer announced the end of the Development Academy system for both girls and boys under controversial circumstances on Wednesday, and MLS subsequently announced they would help helm a new elite youth competition to replace it.
U.S. Soccer released a statement with the official line being the cost suffered during the coronavirus pandemic became too much to bear and therefore the program, which is about 12 years old on the boys’ side, is done.
It is with profound disappointment that U.S. Soccer has made the determination to end the operation of the Development Academy, effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/WdnmrsIqZr— Development Academy (@ussoccer_da) April 15, 2020
While the economic effects of the coronavirus shutdown are real and are being felt in all aspects of life, it seems perhaps a bit convenient to pull the plug like this.
Meanwhile, MLS announced they would be helming a new elite youth competition, including MLS academies, like the LA Galaxy’s, as well as other non-professional youth clubs, details forthcoming. It could be this new competition merely steps into the breach and does many of the same things as the DA, or it could work to improve upon the project set out by the DA.
The Development Academy had a lot of problems but it was the first attempt on the boys side to make an elite youth circuit on a national scale. The girls’ DA, meanwhile, was racked by instability in its short history, initially attracting plenty of elite programs from the rival ECNL circuit, before many of those program defected back to the ECNL after just a year or two. Yes, the ECNL would seem set to continue, but the DA was pretty much a disaster for the girls’ side.
It’s unclear when the new competition will kick off, if it will include a girls’ division — a report in The Athletic indicates the new competition will be for boys only and the girls will effectively be ceded to the ECNL — and who exactly will be involved, but the Galaxy will be involved. While academy products are but one way to build a club, it is becoming increasingly important around the league, and the Galaxy are looking for their first true superstar in MLS that came through the academy, so this story is an important one.
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