16 Apr U.S. Soccer Academy Ends as Major League Soccer Brings Light To Youth Soccer Development
The United States Soccer Development Academy announced it will cease all operations indefinitely Wednesday night. In light of this groundbreaking news, Major League Soccer announced the following day that they will start a new elite youth competition.
In an official statement, the United States Soccer Federation announced, “…the extraordinary and unanticipated circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation of the Development Academy.” The 13-year-old program sponsored by U.S. soccer had seen disastrous issues throughout its tenure.
The program was recently muddled by high-end costs that were difficult to match, along with controversy amongst players. The USSF already had a $5.5 million growing loss to begin 2020 with legal fees due to the equal pay lawsuit brought by the U.S. women’s national team according to ESPN. Furthermore, in 2012 the DA restricted boy’s abilities to play for their high school teams, which in turn created turmoil in local educational institutions. While there were a variety of internal and external issues with the DA, MLS has risen to the occasion in the hope to continue the growth of competitive youth soccer in America.
The newly announced MLS elite youth competition platform plans to accommodate for the academy teams that would be otherwise dissolved. The new platform will be structured to include competitive matches between MLS club academy teams and non-MLS academy teams that were apart of the USSF DA.
MLS already has an expansive base to begin this league according to the MLS Senior VP of Competition, Operations, and Medical Administration, Jeff Agoos. “As we currently have 2,500 elite players and 250 top youth coaches in our academies, MLS is uniquely positioned to provide a new and enhanced platform that will include high-quality coaching, professionalized environments, and enhanced player identification,” said Agoos.
MLS has quickly grown within the past 5 years, which can ultimately bring more value to the new league. Signs of this growth all allude to increasing interest and expansion. The MLS has added 5 teams expanded over the past 5 years expanding to 26 total teams, with 2 more teams to come in 2021. The league has also grown in viewership having some of the highest playoff ratings in the past seven years averaging 388,000 in 2019.
The increase in brand awareness and entry to more markets could create a larger push for more participation within the new MLS competition platform. However, the question remains, will this be the solution to highly competitive youth soccer in America?