Why does the Development Academy Bar Players from High School Soccer?High School Soccer vs DA

Why does the Development Academy Bar Players from High School Soccer?

US Soccer Director of Talent Identification explains why DA players can not play for their high schools.

The Boys’ Development Academy started in 2007, and the Girls’ Development Academy started in 2017. Since then, many families strongly disagree with US Soccer’s directive that DA players are not permitted to play for their high school teams while they are on a DA roster.

Mirelle van Rijbroek is the Director of Talent Identification for US Soccer. I asked her to explain US Soccer’s decision to not allow DA players to play for their high school teams.

“Imagine you get into Harvard.  You go to Harvard, and you’re in a very high-level environment. There are big group projects to work on that are crucial to your education. Those projects are going to help you learn how to handle huge stressful situations later in life. But then you want to take a few months off to go to a different school for a while. Think Harvard will be OK with that? You think that’s going to be beneficial to your Harvard education? Furthermore, you’ll be leaving the members of your group without an important member of the team, while you take a few months to go do something else. It’s not fair to the group left behind. Additionally, it’s not going to be good for your own education. You can’t just leave for a few months.”

High school sports are a treasured rite of passage for teenagers and their parents. Many highly experienced club coaches confidently explain the benefits of high school soccer: Learning from different coaches, leadership opportunities, playing with and against opponents who are years older and stronger.

However, the Development Academy is not changing their policy. Van Rijbroek’s Harvard metaphor clearly exposes US Soccer’s view that the Development Academy is not an extra-curricular activity or a league.

Van Rijbroek explains:

“The Development Academy is a nation-wide programme designed to develop individual players to reach their full potential.”

“That will help every player that is is in the program. It will also improve the quality of players that eventually make up the US Men’s and Women’s National Teams. The DA is not a league. It’s a nation-wide philosophy. The DA is not a team that practices a few times a week. It’s a program that makes sure players are in the best environment for their development. US Soccer ensures DA players have at least four training sessions every week, with the best coaches available, with the most competitive matches.”

I asked Van Rijbroek what a player should do if he or she really wants to play high school soccer.  She easily answered, “They should play for their school! It’s a choice. It’s an important choice, but I believe that every player needs to decide what is best for them. If they want to play for their school, they’re making that choice, and that choice means they can’t stay on their DA team. Only the players with their families can decide what the best choice is for each particular player. Of course the DA isn’t for everyone.”

“I am passionate about every player having the opportunity to reach their highest potential at whatever level that may be.”

“Basically, what you want is that every player has/gets the possibility/opportunity to play on his/her own level, ambition, talent, motivation and experience or that fits their talent, ambition, motivation. The beauty of the American soccer landscape is that there are so many opportunities for players at so many different levels to choose what is the best route for them.”

Should a player choose a club team that allows him/her to play high school soccer?
Should he/she join a DA team?

US Soccer’s viewpoint is crystal clear:

Families in the DA program understand that they are choosing to be part of a high-level, highly competitive developmental system that doesn’t include playing for their high school.

As is the case with all important decisions, there is no standard answer, and each family must decide their own individual path through the high school years.


  • comment-avatar
    Joseph Guardiola 2 months

    How many players made into higher levels teams less than 1%that were in the academy the Las 3 years.
    Cuz academies don’t develop a anybody. Just recruit new players and get rid of the others.

  • comment-avatar
    Amanda Crotty 1 month

    The Development Academy is not an extra-curricular activity. Exactly! Couldn’t be happier that my daughter is training at the level she is.

  • comment-avatar
    Dan 1 month

    Harvard would be ok with that, and it’s done all the time. People go on Study abroad, they go on Fulbrights. Etc.

    • comment-avatar
      Ted Hudock 1 month

      Dan that is the exact point I would have made the opening analogy is 100 % terrible. There are many colleges that actually encourage all students to go elsewhere to expand learning and to add a different point of view. Some schools actually force you to take “Field Periods” or whatever they choose to call them to graduate. That doesn’t just mean a work internship it means other experiences that are valuable.

      I went to a Jesuit school where all education is based on being well rounded- all students must take a broad base of courses many not directly related to your course of study to expand ones knowledge and teach you to look at other ways. Its made me a better educator and a much better person having learned about many things I might have missed.

  • comment-avatar
    Jasen 1 month

    That would be great if every DA program was equal. Our daughter almost left the game after playing in the inaugural season of the Girl’s DA. All the promises that went unmet.

    • comment-avatar
      Joe Fig 1 month

      Typical US Cub soccer scene…

    • comment-avatar
      Christina 4 weeks

      Our club just entered the DA. Those are some of the fears we have. All the promises sound great but will they be met? It’s a hard decision for these girls. Wish I had a crystal ball.

  • comment-avatar
    Eliot 1 month

    The largest problem is cost and some markets tauting a professional system that barely makes the cut on some premier teams. Main example is Empire United in Rochester NY. No matter what they say or do they see the game and players as a zero sum game and talent as set in stone. Sure winning isn’t everything but winning 1 out of every 5 games would be better than what they have accomplished with the girls side. 5500 dollars and I can find better coaches easily. Sad and even sadder for the parents that are bamboozled into thinking they are it. The culture is terrible. Everyone is out to get everyone else on the team. So cliquey. When they play it’s like 2-3 teams against the 1 opponent which is why they lose so much.

    • comment-avatar
      Truth 1 month

      Looks like someone isn’t paying attention.

  • comment-avatar

    These instances are considered unlawful because they were
    considered outlawed underneath the Structure.

  • comment-avatar
    Joe Fig 1 month

    The problem with that analogy of Harvard and DA is flawed in many ways. First and foremost Harvard is an established institution with history and DA is not. Secondly some of DA club teams in boys side are not that competitive, not even close to a strong or decent F1 level teams. I have seen small clubs in Los Angeles area that constantly demolish some smaller DA club teams on constant basis and on every tournaments. And it does not help that DA is approving clubs for DA badge that are sub par to some established clubs such as LA Galaxy, Pateadores, or Strikers. US Soccer can’t have pathway for success by limiting the pool of the players on constant basis.

  • comment-avatar
    Shawn 4 weeks

    What a horrible explanation. Clearly, he didn’t go to Harvard, lol. Perhaps the explanation could’ve been that the development academy has highly skilled licensed coaches as opposed to most high schools that have high school teachers or former high school players wanting to coach their kids or to earn a little extra money..

    I believe the better coaches ARE in the clubs and not in the schools. Players are more skilled, faster, higher soccer IQ in the academy’s. The level of play demands quicker thinking. Watching high school soccer a lot of the times is like watching recreation soccer. A few good players that attempt to dribble through everything; thus, changing their style of play once they finish fall soccer and get back to the club. In other words, they may have regressed. It is a choice. It’s a family decision. If your young player truly has the potential to move on to college of pro then it would be my suggestion to stick with the development academy.

  • comment-avatar
    Tim Mactuttle 4 weeks

    Curious what the value of the da approach really is? Just watched England v US. Figure a decade plus in, we’d start to see better soccer being played by the US. Entirely too much focus on speed and athleticism. Small improvement in technical skill. Lacking tactical awareness and execution. Meanwhile da academy demands 100% commitment. What’s their deliverable for this sacrifice and 5-10k? Perhaps a pathway to sub par level US college play? It’s really hard to understand how 5000+ players committing to da academy approach for 10+ years can produce 15-20 talented international players. Unless the approach is flawed?

    • comment-avatar
      Joe Fig 3 weeks

      So True team. Most DA clubs in USA don’t put soccer players together; it is like that USA coaches are interested in track and field team.

  • DISQUS: 0