Landon Donovan, pictured in his younger days, participated in the U-17 residency program. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
All things must must come to pass.
And that includes the U.S. Soccer Under-17 men’s national team residency program.
The program, which allowed players such as Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Kyle Beckerman develop their skills further at an early age, will complete its final semester after 18 years at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
U.S. Soccer made the announcement Friday.
There had been talk and rumors of the program possibility being mothballed for a while.
“One of our main hopes when establishing the U.S. Soccer residency program was that at some point advancements in youth player development would make its existence no longer necessary–we believe that point has been reached.” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement.
“Not only did the program develop a number of key players for our National Teams, it served as a model for academies across the country to follow. With the U.S. Development Academy having achieved high standards in preparing our young athletes, we are now able to impact future American professionals on a much larger scale.”
Created in 1999, the residency program created an elite training environment for the best 20 youth players in the country by focusing on daily training to improve their development.
The U.S. produced its best U-17 World Cup performance in 1999 when it finished fourth behind the likes of Beasley, Beckerman and Donovan.
Ten residency program alumni went on to play in the World Cup. That included Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Bobby Convey, Omar Gonzalez, Eddie Johnson, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, plus the three aforementioned 1999 WC team players.
The success of the residency program helped guide the 2007 launch of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, which took the program model down to the club level, creating an elite development environment across more than 60 clubs and providing thousands of players the opportunity to improve.
In its 10th season, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has grown to 150 clubs with more than 10,000 registered players after beginning with 63 clubs in 2007. There are now 360 Academy coaches who have earned the USSF ‘A’ license, substantially improving the day-to-day training environment.
This development progress has borne fruit at the international level, with 89 percent of all call-ups to U.S. youth national teams coming from Academy clubs. Twenty-three Academy players have made an appearance for the senior national side.
“It’s a bittersweet moment because the program has been invaluable for almost two decades as a critical piece of the development process for U.S. Soccer,” U.S. U-17 men’s national team head coach John Hackworth said in a statement. “The end of the residency program signals the next step in the evolution of player development in this country.”
The U-17 national team is preparing for CONCACAF qualifying for the 2017 U-17 World Cup. The 2017 CONCACAF U-17 Championship will take place in Panama from April 21-May 7.
“We will maintain robust U-17 programming to accomplish our goals of providing players with international experience, and qualifying and competing in FIFA U-17 World Cups,” Hackworth said. “We will expand on our work with Development Academy coaches and clubs in order to evaluate players in their home environments on a regular basis. We owe a huge thanks to IMG for being amazing hosts, and we fully expect to continue to utilize their fantastic facilities and build on the relationship of the last 18 years.”