Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy in 2007. The Academy Program's philosophy is based on increased training, fewer total games, and more meaningful games using international rules of competition.
The Academy Program focuses on positively impacting everyday club environments to assist in maximizing youth player development across the country. The Academy values individual development of elite players over winning trophies and titles. The Academy sets the standard for elite environments for youth soccer clubs nationwide and is a part of U.S. Soccer’s global leadership position in youth soccer that will impact thousands of players.
Consistent Training Environments
Development Academy clubs are required to train a minimum of four (4) days per week [three (3) days per week for ages U-13 and below] and rest one (1) day per week during the Academy season.
Fewer, More Meaningful Games
Each Academy team plays approximately 25-30 league games, including 3-6 games played at Showcases. Teams that advance from the Academy Playoffs could expect to play up to three (3) additional games.
Our game-to-training ratio ensures our players are getting adequate rest. Teams may have one (1) or two (2) games per weekend based on travel, with no more than one game per day.
No Outside Activity/Competitions
To maintain a focus on club training environments, Academy players and teams do not play in any outside competitions without written permission from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff. This includes any other leagues, tournaments, State Cup competitions, ODP or All-Star events. Development Academy players for all teams must choose to participate in the Academy full-time and forgo playing for their high school teams.
Full-time Academy players can only participate on their designated Academy team, with only two exceptions: U.S. Soccer Training Centers and Youth National Team duty.
The Development Academy upholds this rule because we believe elite players require world class environments. The Development Academy's 10-month Program allows for a greater opportunity to institute style of play and implement a system according to U.S. Soccer's Development Philosophy. It also gives teams increased opportunities for younger kids in their club to "play up" against older players in both training and matches, thereby accelerating their development.
Players receive integrated oversight from Academy club coaches and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors in their local environment. Developing a world-class coaching system is fundamental to developing world-class players. Education is a continuous process. As the game of soccer is constantly evolving, it is important that coaches are knowledgeable on current domestic and international trends. U.S. Soccer Coaching Education supports the Development Academy in its initiative to require minimum certification for all technical staff. These requirements can be seen below:
Academy club directors → USSF 'A' License
Academy club head coaches and technical staff → USSF 'B' license (minimum)
Talent Identification Opportunities
The Development Academy offers various talent identification opportunities for Academy players through both league play and at events. Since the 2007-08 Development Academy season, 19 Academy alumni have earned Men's National Team Call-Ups and 1,250 Academy players earned Youth National Team call-ups. Over 160 Development Academy alumni have played in Major League Soccer, with approximately another 50+ alumni at professional environments overseas.
The Academy connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy club is evaluated by a member of the U.S. Soccer Scouting Network at least ten (10) times each year
U.S. Soccer scouts attended over 50% (2,100+) of DA games in the 2014-2015 season.
Development Academy events are premier scouting venues for players to be identified for U.S. Soccer Training Centers and Youth National Teams:
The Scholarship Program is designed to provide opportunities for full-time Academy players who require financial assistance to participate in the Development Academy Program. For more information on deadlines, the application process, eligibility and program requirement, click here.
The Academy provides various resources related to sports medicine, including mandatory concussion testing, requiring a medical personnel at each Academy competition, providing U.S. Soccer Heat Guidelines, and offering secondary insurance coverage. For more information, click here to visit our Resource Center.
The U16 Richmond United team competes in the National League Atlantic Development Player EDP Conference because the Development Academy does not have a U16 age group. The league is made up of only clubs who have Development Academy teams at the U15 and U17 age groups. The U16 teams will consist of mostly the same players who competed for the previous year U15 DA teams and who most likely will be a part of the U17 DA Team the following year.
Due to US Soccer not running the U16 league itself, there are no US Soccer run Showcases for this age group. Instead, we will have the U16s compete in additional high-level regional Showcases, for example the Jefferson Cup, during the 2018/19 season.
A player registered with the Richmond United U16 team could have the opportunity to play on the U17 DA team. If the coaching staff determines that it would be beneficial for the individual development pathway of a U16 player to play up, he can be a part-time player and play up to 12 games with the U17 DA team without losing eligibility for his U16 team.