May 18 – Major League Soccer (MLS), who have abandoned their academy league structure, have announced a strategic partnership with US Youth Soccer (USYS) aimed at keeping open talent development pathways.
The hook up will have as its focus a new regional competition platform that will showcase boys and girls players to professional club scouts.
Players will be selected from high school programmes and leading club teams, or from local soccer leagues for their regional team. The MLS said it will pay all expenses for players playing in the regional competitions at select age levels.
The MLS/ US Youth Soccer hook-up, will also work together on enhancements in player identification and monitoring; coaching and scouting education for parents, coaches and volunteers; regional competitions; and fan engagement.
“We are very proud that USYS and its 55 member state associations have decided to make MLS their league of choice,” said Gordon Bengtson, MLS senior director of player development.
“The state associations are crucial partners in creating more meaningful connections to the professional levels while supporting the overall growth of the game. This is particularly important in communities that have not historically had access to elite development environments or professional pathways.”
The MLS had already announced that its academy teams would be joining 65 elite academy clubs which formerly participated in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy as part of a new elite player development platform.
The 95 clubs are founding members of the new platform which will include more than 8,000 players throughout the US and Canada and will consist of elite year-round competition.
In the new partnership, MLS and USYS will collaborate across all 55 state associations to develop best practices for talent identification in each region.
“This is not a short-term vision, but rather one in which we realize the opportunity to truly connect the whole system of soccer in our country,” said US Youth Soccer CEO Skip Gilbert in a statement. “For too long the professional and youth systems have been working relatively independent of each other and with this MLS partnership, we start down the path of true collaboration.”
A part of that will be to open the opportunities to talented players that are currently lost in a system where they have been unable to get free or subsidised team places in a predominantly pay-to-pay youth system.
“Our goal is to ensure that every player throughout the country has the ability to reach his or her highest potential,” said Fred Lipka, MLS technical director of player development. “…We want to ensure that every player has a clear pathway to achieve their dream of playing at the collegiate or professional level, regardless of location or financial resources.”
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