CHICAGO (Oct. 16, 2015) – In its continual effort to improve player development, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program will be expanding to the Under-12 age group starting in the Fall of 2016.
The expansion to U-12 will incorporate the same Academy philosophy as the older age groups, providing this critical younger age with an improved environment to enhance player and coach development. The players will train more often, while also playing fewer – but more meaningful – games every week, which will provide the American player with the opportunity to learn and develop to reach their full potential.
“We are very excited to expand and introduce the Academy structure and philosophy to the U-12 age group when players are in their peak learning years,” said U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos. “That age represents a critical stage in a player’s growth, and this move represents another important step in our expanded efforts to improve elite player development."
The Development Academy has posted a narrated video presentation about the overall plan for the U-12 age group. Clubs interested in becoming a member of the Development Academy should view the video to learn about opportunities to apply for U-12 membership.
- Academy Membership Application: U-12
- Full Academy Membership Application: U-13, U-14, U-15/16, & U-17/18
Existing Development Academy clubs will add a U-12 age group, while a select number of new clubs will enter at the U-12 age group in key markets to help localize competition within the Academy. The addition of the youngest age group and the split to single age groups at U-13 and U-14, will also streamline and simplify the development pathway for the Academy clubs, creating a consistent environment from U-12 to U-18 and beyond for the elite player.
“This will improve the overall environment at an earlier development stage and help clubs create a more consistent, step-by-step pathway for players to learn,” added U.S. Soccer Director of Scouting Tony Lepore.
The U-12 Academy will adopt all aspects of the new Player Development Initiatives, which were recently announced by U.S. Soccer in another step of its commitment to long-term player development after being a best practice for the last 10 years. U.S. Soccer standardized small-sided games based on player age groups, while also aligning birth-year registration calendars with the start of the calendar year to run from January to December. The development initiatives, which will be a best practice in 2016 and a mandate by August of 2017, are focused on advancing youth players’ individual skill and intelligence, and providing players with the best opportunity to improve.
“U.S. Soccer Development Academy Clubs have made a tremendous commitment to player development in the past 9 years and will serve as the example for clubs and leagues throughout the country to provide the best possible environment for young players” said U.S. Soccer Development Academy Director Jared Micklos.
In addition, U.S. Soccer and the Academy will focus on improving the coaching environment through enhanced educational opportunities, license requirements and support from U.S. Soccer Technical Staff. In an effort to continue to increase the quality of coaching for younger players, Academy coaches will move away from a results-driven philosophy, apply consistent standards for training and games, and unify player development initiatives and standards across the county.
“The opportunity to provide a simplified development environment for players will have a direct impact on their advancement as players, said Micklos. “U.S. Soccer will continue to invest resources and work together with our clubs to serve as the leaders in the community to collaborate with local clubs to provide players with an opportunity to grow.”
To review the direction and format of the Academy U-12 program, please see the new Player Development Initiatives (released in early September). For more information on the Development Academy, please visit ussoccerda.com.
DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY BACKGROUND
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 for male players in the U-15 to U-18 age groups. In 2013, the Academy expanded to include the U-13/14 age group, which has continued to improve development by setting standards and improving the everyday environment for players and clubs. To date, the Academy has been the leader in developing players in the U.S. with the thousands of alumni moving on to play college soccer, 116 Academy graduates currently rostered in the MLS and 14 Academy players earning USMNT caps.