Major League Soccer announced the launch of a new elite youth competition platform intended to provide year-round high-level matches for MLS club academy teams and non-MLS academy teams that previously participated in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy which ceased operations.
The new platform will provide elite competition against domestic and international teams. MLS is also evaluating expanding participation to include clubs beyond the former U.S. Soccer Development Academy, in addition to future potential competition opportunities for girls.
“Major League Soccer is deeply committed to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway, from our academy teams through the professional game,” said Todd Durbin, MLS EVP of Competition & Player Relations in a league statement. “As we look ahead to the 2026 FIFA MLS 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.”
“We are seeing significant contribution to the quality of play in MLS from homegrown talent,” said Jeff Agoos, MLS Senior VP of Competition, Operations, and Medical Administration. “As we currently have 2,500 elite players and 250 top youth coaches in our academies, MLS is uniquely positioned to provide a new and enhanced platform that will include high quality coaching, professionalized environments and enhanced player identification.”
The competition will include league season matches and both regional and national tournaments with international teams. It will also expand coaching education and improve the approach to player identification to ensure top players have the opportunity to participate in a high-level development environment.
“Participating in high quality, competitive matches on a consistent basis is essential to the development of our young players,” said Fred Lipka, VP and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. “Launching this new competition will allow us to consistently challenge players, staffs and teams, optimizing the potential of every player on the field.”
CONSISTENT TRAINING ENVIRONMENTS
Development Academy clubs are required to train a minimum of four (4) days per week [three (3) days per week for ages U-14 and below*] and rest one (1) day per week during the Academy season.
FEWER, MORE MEANINGFUL GAMES
Each Academy team plays approximately 25-30 league games, including 6-9 games played at Showcases. Teams that advance from the Academy Playoffs could expect to play up to three (3) additional games.
Our game-to-training ratio ensures our players are getting adequate rest. Teams may have one or two games per weekend based on travel, with no more than one game per day.
NO OUTSIDE ACTIVITY/COMPETITIONS
To maintain a focus on club training environments, Academy players and teams do not play in any outside competitions without written permission from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff. This includes any other leagues, tournaments, State Cup competitions, ODP or All-Star events. Development Academy players for all teams must choose to participate in the Academy full-time and forgo playing for their high school teams.
The DA follows international rules of competition developed by FIFA. These include no reentry on substitutions, the January 1st birthday cutoff, and players playing-up with older teams when appropriate.
Players receive integrated oversight from Academy club coaches and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors in their local environment.
TALENT IDENTIFICATION OPPORTUNITIES
The Development Academy offers various talent identification opportunities for Academy players through both league play and at events. Since the 2007-08 Development Academy season, 19 Academy alumni have earned Men's National Team Call-Ups and 1,250 Academy players earned Youth National Team call-ups. Over 160 Development Academy alumni have played in Major League Soccer, with approximately another 50+ alumni at professional environments overseas.
The Academy connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy club is evaluated by a member of the U.S. Soccer Scouting Network at least ten (10) times each year. U.S. Soccer scouts attended over 50% (2,100+) of DA games in the 2014-2015 season.
Development Academy events are premier scouting venues for players to be identified for U.S. Soccer Training Centers and Youth National Teams. National Team staff members observe every game and domestic and international professional scouts are in attendance. An online player profile is created for all Academy players.
The Scholarship Program is designed to provide opportunities for full-time Academy players who require financial assistance to participate in the Development Academy Program.
The Academy provides various resources related to sports medicine, including mandatory concussion testing, requiring a medical personnel at each Academy competition, providing U.S. Soccer Heat Guidelines, and offering secondary insurance coverage. For more information, click here to visit our Resource Center.