By Michael Lewis
The U.S. Soccer Development Academy could be history as soon as Wednesday.
The U.S. Soccer Federation is expected to terminate the boys and girls programs this week. The Athletic originally broke the story. FrontRowSoccer.com corroborated the story through sources. One source in the American soccer community, the announcement could happen as early as tomorrow.
The competition’s demise appears to have been hastened by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has put the spring season on hold.
The Development Academy was created in 2007, for boys in several age groups from Under-13 through U-19, in an attempt to put the U.S. on the same playing field — a more professional environment — with European and South American clubs. Teams had a 10-month season in which players trained four days a week and competed on the weekends. The DA followed international rules — limited substitution instead of unlimited subs in youth soccer.
In a controversial move in 2012, the DA banned boys from playing for their high school teams, angering many scholastic coaches and officials.
More than 200 clubs belong to the Development Academy.
That includes 14 clubs in the tri-state area, seven youth organizations in New York, five in New Jersey and one in Connecticut.
The New York contingent is comprised of B.W. Gottschee (Queens), FC Fury (Bay Shore), FC Westchester (Scarsdale), Long Island SC (Plainview), Met Oval (Queens), New York SC (Purchase) and World Class (Orangeburg).
Cedar Stars Academy in Carlstadt and Aberdeen, Players Development Academy (Somerset), SJEB Rush (Marlton) and TSF (Wayne) hail from New Jersey.
Beachside SC (Norwalk) and Oakwood SC (Glastonbury) the two Connecticut clubs in the DA.
Four professional clubs also have sides competing in the DA — New York City FC and the Red Bulls (Major League Soccer), the Cosmos (National Independent Soccer Association) and Sky Blue-New York SC (National Women’s Soccer League).
According to a source, Major League Soccer could keep its Academy teams and could wind up competing in a league of its own.
The DA’s report card has been mixed, especially the boys program. The U.S. men failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics (an Under-23 competition) — the first time it didn’t reach the Summer Games for back-to-back tournaments since 1964-68. The U.S. men’s national side did not book a spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the first time the squad failed to reach soccer’s greatest pinnacle since the 1986 competition.
A girls program was added in 2017, but could never really get traction and move past the ECNL, which was established in 2009. Recently, several top clubs have moved back to the ECNL, which did not help matters.
As of Tuesday night, the fate of one major competition, the DA Summer Showcase, which is set for Oceanside and Del Mar near San Diego, Calif. in mid-June, was not known. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the event, which is contracted through 2022, has a projected annual economic impact of $63 million.
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