The Development Academy’s expansion into younger age groups has been a long time coming, but U.S. Soccer put some details behind that move this week with a presentation to prospective clubs.
Last month, U.S. Soccer sent out a release that the Development Academy, the elite boys club soccer league run by USSF, would incorporate non-Development Academy clubs in its new U14/U13 age group. The application process is already open and is scheduled to close on December 1.
On Tuesday, U.S. Soccer added some more meat to that release with a public webinar - think of a PowerPoint presentation shown to 100 coaches across the country at the same time - to provide some more details to the expansion and answer questions about the open application process.
U.S. Soccer Director of Scouting Tony Lepore led the presentation, which highlighted a 30-game schedule, a Winter Futsal event, and a number of other wrinkles as USSF attempts to reach a younger age with its all-encompassing league.
The theme of the Development Academy remains producing better players from all 80 clubs, but there were a few points made about the younger age group that stood out during the talk.
During the 15-minute webinar, Lepore spoke about the importance of implementing a no re-entry rule to this age group. He said it was “at the top of the list” for rules currently implemented by the Development Academy in the U16 and U18 age groups that helped player growth. The key points he made revolved around the priority set for keeping possession and discouraging “an artificial pace” to the game with continuous substitutions.
Also, the addition of Futsal to the schedule in the winter is a new wrinkle, which will be tested in a few markets this season according to Lepore. A couple of Development Academies already use Futsal as part of their program including MLS outfit Sporting Kansas City, which has been a supporter of the indoor game for a long time. The game, especially popular over the years in Brazil, is well known for helping a player’s technical abilities and comfort with the ball.
Judging by the post-presentation questions though, the main focus for the coaches was the cost. U.S. Soccer announced that clubs would be responsible for “all expenses related to travel and training.” There was also a point about the player cost being higher for the young age group to compensate for the “referees, events, and player insurance.”
U.S. Soccer did say there would be a scholarship fund, which is in place at the older ages, to help with the cost for players.
The announcement about which clubs will be admitted into the younger age only is expected in March with preseason kicking off in August and the final events ending in July 2014.