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San Jose Earthquakes shutter girls academy, and it’s a damn shame

Possibly the best program in the country, too.

MLS: D.C. United at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

News rumbled on Tuesday that the San Jose Earthquakes have closed their girls academy, with Center Line Soccer obtaining information supporting that report.

Youth soccer expert Travis Clark reported on Tuesday on Top Drawer Soccer the Quakes and the LA Galaxy both had shuttered their girls academy programs. The report indicated families in the Quakes girls academy were sent a letter this week informing them of the news, a copy of which Center Line Soccer obtained from an anonymous source.

According to the club, the reason the program is being scrapped is due to money.

“As with every business, this pandemic has caused us to evaluate all of our options, including our youth soccer development programs. We have spent the past few weeks examining our options for the future of the Earthquakes youth soccer platform, and after much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision that the Earthquakes Girls Academy program will cease operations, effective immediately,” read an excerpt from the letter sent to families in the program.

This explanation matches what happened with the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which abruptly pulled the plug last month for both boys and girls teams, blaming the coronavirus epidemic for causing financial strain so bad the whole program became untenable. It’s clear the DA decision had long been in the works and the financial explanation, while certainly a contributing factor, helped obscure some messier realities that led to the entire framework being abandoned by U.S. Soccer.

While a girls program being abandoned at the first sign of trouble is a terrible sign no matter what the circumstances are, what’s especially galling here is the Quakes girls academy had very quickly become a powerhouse, winning a national title in 2019 at U-15 level, supplying a bevy of players to the U.S. youth national teams at all age levels, and becoming a national player in the girls youth soccer scene in just three years. When it comes to tangible impact and reputation alike, the girls program was far more successful than the boys program, although the boys program has made major strides itself in recent years.

Still, assembling a girls youth soccer program and committing to training not just boys but girls too, and then sacrificing that successful girls program immediately is truly hard to swallow. Many of the top prospects in the program will be fine in the long run, some will fall through the cracks. But the optics of shuttering the program sends a terrible signal about fickle commitments to girls and women’s sports and is, put simply, extremely disappointing news.

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