Heading into this year’s U-13/14 Development Academy Showcase, U.S. Soccer technical advisors are weighing an entire first Academy season and the upcoming event to decide on a USA representative at the 2014 Manchester United Premier Cup.
This reward will give one club a unique opportunity on an international stage to compete in a top tournament, which runs Aug. 6-9 in Manchester, England.
Development is the primary principle in this newly created U-13/14 Academy division, where standings are not kept and a champion is not named. But recognizing and rewarding the efforts of the clubs who follow the ideals and style of play in the Academy system is important in the eyes of the technical advisors and Youth National Team coaches.
“Because this isn’t a trophy league, we are looking at the scouts’ evaluations and match evaluations from the season,” said Tony Lepore, the Development Academy’s Director of Scouting. “By the time we go into the Showcase, we will have scouted every team approximately 15 times, so we know the clubs intimately.”
The Academy Showcase and the three games each club is playing in will certainly play a factor in choosing a representative, but there are other factors to weigh, particularly for clubs that are playing up their players for the following week’s Academy Playoffs.
“Some of these teams that may be considered as stronger candidates for this reward might not have their ’top 99s at the U-13/14 event because they will be playing up in the U-15/16 Academy Playoffs, so we will also keep these types of factors in mind as we are evaluating the teams,” Lepore said. “It will be a very holistic evaluation and criteria that we are applying to determine the best representative.”
A presentation will be held on Monday, June 16, to officially honor the candidate that will be heading to England for this August’s tournament.
“Obviously we want a team that’s going to be very competitive, but we also want a team that represents the Development Academy and U.S. Soccer for their style of play, discipline and respect,” Lepore said. “There are a lot of things to consider, and it will be a tough decision but our TAs already know who the best candidates are from their divisions. With the way we have tiered the games at the Showcase, now we can have more direct comparisons as we evaluate closely the potential representatives for the Manchester United Premier Cup.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for one of our clubs that is doing things the right way,” Lepore said. “International competition can be incredibly meaningful and valuable to a young player’s development. This season alone, about 18 different Development Academy clubs took international trips to countries such as Spain, Holland, France and England. We would like to see this number increase, and so it is awesome to now be able to offer this very prestigious international tournament to one of our top clubs.”