With the objective to expand and improve the youth national team player pool, U.S. Soccer will launch a new Youth National Teams Under-14 Talent Identification Program this month.

This new scouting model will function as a collaboration between the U.S. Soccer Talent Identification department and the Youth National Teams Program.

The program is designed to discover and introduce a larger base of top talents at the U-14 age group into the scouting funnel of the older U-15 to U-20 YNTs. A mini-camp format will help evaluate and inspire high-potential players while accelerating their development in an engaging and challenging environment. A similar program will be implemented for female players next season.

“With this Youth National Teams and Talent Identification program, we will be able to identify a higher number of talented players at an important moment in their development,” U.S. Soccer Youth technical director Tab Ramos said. “This will help us to create an even more competitive Youth National Teams environment, which will deliver more competitive men’s national team players for years to come.”

The program starts with the in-market scouting process: players will be observed in games and the top talents selected to attend YNT Identification Centers. Formerly known as Training Centers, Identification Centers are scheduled to be held in 25 key markets nationwide and will be overseen by U.S. Soccer TID Managers and YNT Network Scouts. These single-day sessions, hosted at local clubs or U.S. Soccer member organizations, gather more than 600 top talents each year in the U-14 and U-15 age groups. Depending on the number of top players identified in each market, YNT Identification Centers are held there two to three times each year in the fall, winter and spring.

“Our TID Managers and YNT Network Scouts, along with the Academy and member clubs, are identifying more and more players with YNT potential that we want to influence and get to know better through our in-market YNT Identification Centers and mini-camps,” U.S. Soccer director of talent identification Tony Lepore said. “We can use these settings to create an engaging and fun environment over multiple days to help us compare players from different scouting areas in order to eventually identify the top talents that will funnel into our U-15 boys’ national team.

“At the same time, by bringing together the best-of-the-best, we have a special opportunity to really challenge and inspire the players to take responsibility for their own development. We also can use the time off-the-field to educate the players about important topics like nutrition, sleep and recovery as well as use video to provide individual feedback and introduce YNT principles.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.