U.S. Soccer announced the end of the Development Academy in rather abrupt circumstances on Wednesday, while MLS subsequently announced they would take charge of a new elite youth program.
The Development Academy, approximately 12 years old on the boys’ side and about three years old on the girls’ side, was the first effort on the boys side to build an elite competition on a national scale, but the program was also racked by faults and dissatisfaction over the years. However, that did not account for the stated reason for the program’s demise, which the federation says is a financial decision as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is with profound disappointment that U.S. Soccer has made the determination to end the operation of the Development Academy, effective immediately. pic.twitter.com/WdnmrsIqZr— Development Academy (@ussoccer_da) April 15, 2020
Color me skeptical that this abrupt about-face is all about the money.
At the same time, the girls’ program was racked with even worse instability from the start, including enticing plenty of elite programs at the rival ECNL to move to the DA, before many of those programs moved right back to the ECNL after a year or two.
The new program starting up at the behest of MLS is reportedly for boys, with the girls side apparently to be led by the ECNL in a business-as-usual manner. The MLS program will reportedly include both professional and non-professional elite youth clubs, including the San Jose Earthquakes’ academy, which has really come on in recent years to develop prospects for the MLS first team.
Beyond that, details, even basic ones, are hazy, and it’s unclear if the new competition will simply step into the void left by the DA or legitimately improve youth soccer in this country. Time will tell.
It is also unclear what will happen to the San Jose Earthquakes girls academy, which had also emerged as a pipeline of promising pro talent the past few years and had the support of the Earthquakes front office. Hopefully that is not shuttered as a result of this upheaval.
We’ll keep you posted on details as we learn them.
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