Major League Soccer has announced its youth league as the Elite Youth Player Development Platform proclaiming a “new era for soccer development in North America.” It is founded on 95 Clubs including 30 MLS Academies, 5 USL academies and members from the former Development Academy. All in all, an estimated 8000 players will join the competitions.
City SC based in Carlsbad are one of the founding members. “We are aligned with the MLS in our vision to develop the next generation of professional and collegiate soccer players in this country,” said City SC Technical Director Steve Cowell. “This league sits at the top of the elite youth player development pyramid, and brings offers unrivaled opportunities for boys in North County San Diego. We are honored to be working hand in hand with MLS to develop the next generation of professional players, and provide a best in class pathway for those who wish to play soccer in college.”
“There is strong positive momentum and excitement among MLS club academies and elite academy clubs to co-create a platform that will deliver an unparalleled experience for the nation’s top players and clubs,” said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. “The development of professional and elite players requires a comprehensive and integrated approach, beyond just the competition format, and we are having daily conversations with academy clubs across the country who are committed to building that environment with us.”
Nomads Soccer Club, who have helped develop numerous US National Team players are also joining the new league. “We are really excited about the future because of the MLS being the governing body. And now a player has a clear pathway to the professional game or to college. This is going to be in line with the rest of the world as far as professional clubs being in charge of elite player development.” said David Armstrong, Technical Director of Nomads Soccer Club.
“We all felt that this is a step forward, for the simple reason that the USSDA was run by the federation. This is run by professional clubs, like in the rest of the world,” said Roberto Lopez, academy director at respected Florida youth club Clearwater Chargers and a former U.S. Soccer staff member. “Most important, we strongly feel that we’re partners. Every meeting we have with MLS, they emphasize the need for us to bring to the table our needs. They want our experience at our level, they want to know how to go about doing things. It’s very, very inclusive and we have a seat at the table. And that’s why I feel that this is a major, historical step forward.”
It is not yet determined exactly how the league will be structured. What specific age groups will compete and how the teams will be placed into divisions are not yet official. Travel costs and the MLS Academy teams desire to have international competition in addition to the new league are variables to be considered.
MLS ready to lead and collaborate
One thing that is certain is the youth landscape is in motion. To grow and improve the environment offered to talented and aspiring players will now rest on the MLS as it leads the way forward. They have offered collaboration and want to give a voice to all clubs involved not just the MLS Academies, much of whom have greater resources than the traditional soccer club. There is definitely a buzz about the new league and a lot of support for MLS from the teams that were formerly of the Development Academy.