By Michael Lewis
Citing great financial losses due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. Soccer Federation Wednesday terminated the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
The DA had been around for boys since 2007 and girls since 2017.
DA administrators, coaches, players and parents were notified of this stunning news in a letter written by U.S. Soccer secretary general and CEO Will Wilson, sporting director Earnie Stewart and president Cindy Parlow Cone.
“It is with profound disappointment that we have made the determination to end the operation of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, effective immediately,” the letter stated.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but the extraordinary and unanticipated circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation of the Development Academy program into the future. We know that suddenly discontinuing a program that has been with U.S. Soccer for many years is shocking, but these unprecedented times required acting now.”
U.S Soccer did not say how much money it would lose if it had kept the DA. With several lawsuits on tap — the U.S. women’s national team is suing the federation for gender equality and the North American Soccer League’s anti-trust is expected to come to trial this year — the federation is spending millions in legal fees.
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 was 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) were the two Connecticut clubs in the DA.
Four professional clubs also had 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).
The Red Bulls and NYCFC will compete in a new youth league in MLS, the league announced on Wednesday.
According to an MLS press release, the new platform will provide teams with “elite competition” against domestic and international teams. MLS also is evaluating expanding participation to include clubs beyond the former Development Academy.
“Major League Soccer is deeply committed to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway, from our academy teams through the professional game,” Todd Durbin, MLS executive vice president of competition and player relations said in a statement. “As we look ahead to the 2026 FIFA World Cup here in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, now more than ever it is incumbent on us to establish a competition that sets a new standard for elite youth play and allows athletes to achieve their full potential.”
The league also is evaluating the potential to provide future competition opportunities for girls.
Here is another story you might be interested in: