USL, United Soccer League, is the governing body over USL’s various divisions. (see graphic below). On May 6th, USL announced they are planning to launch an Academy league in 2021. This league will operate in cities where USL is represented, across all their divisions. Sarasota is lucky to have a USL-2 team in Sarasota Metropolis FC, supported by Next Generation Soccer Academy. With Metropolis having a home base in Sarasota, youth clubs in the area will have access to the USL Academy program.
Unique to any other pre-professional set-up in the United States, USL Academy League teams will field a single elite youth team, geared towards top local players within the U15 to U19 age range, and built with a direct connection to the club’s First Team. The model is designed to allow identification and integration of elite youth players into a pre-professional environment at a younger age, giving them exposure to a higher level of play than they would normally experience, access to the resources and teaching of USL First Teams, all the while serving as a complement to the work being done by other youth clubs in USL communities.
As the landscape of youth soccer continues to evolve, USL has unveiled a player development model for future USL Academies and their participation in the USL Academy League, a first-of-its-kind competition designed to create the clearest path possible to professional soccer, with a direct & immediate connection to the local USL senior team.
How does this impact Next Generation Soccer Academy athletes?
Next Generation athletes from U16 to U19 will be part of the talent pool. Players selected will move into more regional talent pools where eventually a top team will be selected for each age group. A somewhat similar model is ODP, but the big difference here is the immediate access to over 80 USL teams around the country. The finish line being that a local, homegrown player gets a professional contract.
“At its core, the launch of our Academy League is about providing the opportunity for elite local youth soccer players to look down the street at a USL stadium and know that if they work hard enough, train hard enough, and believe in themselves, there is a pathway for them to achieve their dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and one day wearing a U.S. national team jersey,” said USL CEO, Alec Papadakis. “Additionally, we aspire to create a unique community connection by building an engaging, respectful and trusting relationships between our clubs and the local Youth Soccer Organizations that are already serving our communities admirably.”
For more information, please visit the USL Academy page.