NEW YORK – Major League Soccer Wednesday announced that 65 former U.S. Soccer Development Academy clubs will join the league’s existing club academies to create a partnership that will transform youth player development in the United States and Canada.

The league called it the MLS Elite Youth Development Program.

The 65 youth clubs will join the MLS academies as founding members of MLS’ elite player development platform. The new platform, which will include more than 8,000 players throughout the U.S. and Canada, will consist of elite year-round competition, as well as player identification initiatives, coaching education opportunities, and additional programming to create the premier player development environment.

The platform will operate with a governance structure that promotes collaboration, innovation and input across all areas of the soccer landscape. Technical working groups will provide recommendations on the platform’s strategic objectives and standards, outline competition guidelines and formats, as well as introduce platform programming. By unifying the elite player development landscape and creating a collaborative structure, the new platform will accelerate and enhance player development in North America.

With a focus on maximizing each player’s potential, the new development platform will not only provide high-level, year-round competition for players, but will provide important programming, education and innovation in the key areas of player development:

* Player Identification

* Coaching

* Environment

* Personal Growth

* Community Outreach

“There is strong positive momentum and excitement among MLS club academies and elite academy clubs to co-create a platform that will deliver an unparalleled experience for the nation’s top players and clubs,” said Fred Lipka, vice president and technical director of MLS Player Development. “The development of professional and elite players requires a comprehensive and integrated approach, beyond just the competition format, and we are having daily conversations with academy clubs across the country who are committed to building that environment with us.”

The elite academy clubs that are founding members of the new platform also have been leaders in the development of players for college, MLS and the national teams. Combined, MLS Academies and the elite academies joining the platform have produced more than 90 percent of the U.S. youth national team players in the last year, making the new platform the top destination for the best young players in North America.