Five New Clubs Admitted Into U.S. Soccer Development Academy Program For 2009-10 Season

April 7, 2009

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Development Academy
Five New Clubs Admitted Into U.S. Soccer Development Academy Program For 2009-10 Season  
  • Most competitive application process in short history of Academy program
  • Houston Dynamo and Kansas City Wizards are the ninth and tenth MLS Clubs in Academy
CHICAGO (April 7, 2009) – Five new clubs will join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy for the 2009-10 season after the most competitive application process in the young history of the Academy program. With the new additions, 79 total clubs are slated to participate in the national team training program next year.

Joining the Academy in 2009-10 will be California Development Academy (Sacramento, Calif.), Houston Dynamo (Houston, Texas), Kansas City Wizards Juniors (Kansas City, Mo.), McLean Youth Soccer (McLean, Va.) and NJSA 04 (Holmdel, N.J.).

The five Academy clubs were selected from a pool of 250 applicants after an extensive review process. Clubs were selected based on their potential to generate future national team players as determined by geographic location, history of player production, coaching staff and administrative capabilities. Information was gathered through the national team scouting network, including more 50 site evaluations.

"The U.S. Soccer Development Academy creates an environment that is focused on developing the player while providing competitive games that challenge each individual player and team," said Peter Vermes, Kansas City Wizards Technical Director and former U.S. World Cup veteran. "We are pleased to enter the Development Academy in 2009 with our KCW Juniors U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams. The KCW Juniors philosophy of player development matches the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, and we look forward to competing against some of the top clubs from around the country."

Kansas City and Houston become the ninth and tenth MLS clubs to participate in the Academy program, joining the Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, D. C. United, Los Angeles Galaxy, New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls.

“We’re excited about joining the program,” said James Clarkson, Houston Dynamo Director of Youth Development. “We feel it’s going to provide some outstanding opportunities for our players and accelerate their development toward a professional standard.”

The addition of NJSA 04 in New Jersey places another Academy club in an area with a rich history of developing national team players. After forming the club in 2004 and coaching many of its teams, Tab Ramos looks to the Development Academy as the next step for his club. The Academy program’s focus on development, according to Ramos, is in line with NJSA 04’s philosophy of improving player development through increased training in an environment focused on player development.

“In the past, youth development in this country has been win-oriented and I think this is why it was so important for our club to become part of the Academy, because that has never been our goal,” said Ramos, who represented the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups. “I constantly tell the boys in our academy, our goal is to make each single one of them the best that they can be.”

Also joining the Academy program is McLean Youth Soccer from McLean, Va. With more than 17,000 athletes participating in recreational and competitive soccer programs from the Under-5 to the Under-18 age level, McLean has a broad talent pool to develop future Academy players.

In northern California, Placer United and San Juan Soccer Club, two top clubs in the Sacramento area, joined forces to form California Development Academy. Placer United, formed in 1982, and San Juan Soccer Club, formed in 1978, spent years as rivals, developing such players as 2008 Olympian Patrick Ianni and former U.S. Men’s National Team member Sasha Victorine as well as several MLS standouts.

Beginning in late 2009, the two will merge, with Placer United Director of Coaching Nathan Williams taking the helm of the Under-15/16 squad, while San Juan Soccer Club Director of Coaching Billy Wiskel will lead the Under-17/18 Academy team, both serving as Co-Directors of Coaching for California Development Academy.

“Between Placer United and San Juan, we are the two most dominant programs in Sacramento and we figured that the best way to create the best environment for the players would be to get the Academy to Sacramento, as opposed to bringing it to one of the clubs,” Williams said about the decision to merge the two programs. “The reality in Sacramento is that we have a very large pool of players that are scattered amongst a bunch of clubs and I think it’s about time we brought those players together and offered them the best opportunity to be exposed to the national team and the national scouts.”

Wiskel agrees with Williams, pointing out that despite being competitors in the past, the opportunity for growth by integrating the player pools and coaching philosophies of both clubs made the most sense for the youth development initiatives in the Sacramento area. The opportunity to join the Academy also provided both clubs with an environment designed for player development by applying U.S. Soccer Best Practices such as only playing one game per day, training three times per week and playing with the FIFA Laws of the Game.

“Our philosophy as a club is always trying to follow the U.S. Soccer model,” said Wiskel. “The merger will put the kids in an environment designed according to U.S. Soccer’s best practices.”

The Academy program was created to enhance the player development environment for elite youth players in the United States, according to U.S. Soccer Best Practices, with specific focus on increasing the number of training sessions, decreasing the total number of games while increasing the number of quality games and maintaining the highest level of coaching, refereeing and competition available in an everyday environment.

Aside from providing clubs with a soccer-centric environment, the Academy program also provides a platform to systematically improve the player identification and development processes. Over half of the Academy matches are attended by a national team scout, resulting in a comprehensive system to evaluate player, coach and referee talent. Academy coaches and athletes also receive video analysis from ProZone, a soccer-specific athletic training curriculum from SPARQ and Nutrition and Hydration recommendations from Gatorade’s Sports Science Institute. The physical capabilities of Academy athletes are measured using SPARQ’s soccer-specific tests and Gatorade’s fluid loss tests.

In its second year, the Academy program has already dramatically impacted the player development process in the United States. In 2008, more than 100 players from Academy clubs were included in U.S. Youth National Teams and almost 800 graduates from the inaugural Academy class participated in college soccer the following fall. Virtually all college programs use the Academy program as a scouting vehicle and the program has received increased attention from professional scouts representing domestic and international clubs.

Launched in the fall of 2007 after a detailed review of player development systems in the U.S. and across the world, the Development Academy provides players, coaches and referees a nationally-coordinated program designed to enhance their development environment. The Academy has improved the training environment, provided relevant, high-level matches on a consistent basis, increased the level and efficiency of scouting for the national teams and provided players, coaches and referees with structured programming. For more information on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, log on to