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USL Academy Player Development Model

Why was the USL Academy Model Created?

Vision

With the launch of USL Academy, United Soccer League now has an elite youth platform to offer to its clubs in the Championship, League One, and League Two. As such, these clubs can now develop a more clearly-defined path for top youth prospects in their area to reach the professional level & sign directly with their senior team.

Strategic Goal

This new structure for future USL Academy programs will provide USL clubs a progressive model to develop local players for the senior team, at a fraction of the cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Doing so will also allow far more clubs & communities to participate, allowing for a regional footprint that limits travel demand to teams & families.

How will the USL Academy League Player Development Model be Structured?

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.

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Program Structure

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.

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Youth Network

USL clubs will be required to have a youth network supporting their USL Academy team. In an effort to standardize those youth programs & to ensure mutually-beneficial partnerships are put in place with local clubs, the USL League Office has developed a set of best practices & template agreements for these programs.

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Player Development Standards

USL will be implementing a set of minimum standards with which our clubs must meet in order to field a USL Academy team. These will focus on areas that directly impact the development of the club’s pre-professional youth players, including but not limited to: staffing requirements; use of technology & analytics; integration of sport science, nutrition & peak performance drivers; access to appropriate training facilities; use of individual development plans; etc.

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Academy Roster Rules

USL will mandate a minimum and maximum number of players rostered at each age range, to ensure focus remains on long-term development over short-term results in youth competitions. Clubs will also have the flexibility of registering part-time players that will share time with their youth clubs and/or the local pro team

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Youth Development Initiatives

By moving forward with this model for future USL Academies, we feel our clubs can deliver a new player development platform that collectively bridges the gap between our pro clubs & their local youth soccer community. In doing so, more clubs than ever will be able to integrate their top local players into a pre-professional development environment, allowing more players than ever to chase their dream of playing at the professional level.

In order for USL clubs to field a team in the USL Academy League, they must have a league-approved Youth Network in place. Doing so provides an organic connection to the local youth soccer community, and ultimately serves as the foundation of the club’s player development pathway. This network is made up of committed clubs, coaches, & local leaders in youth soccer all working together towards a common goal of growing the game at every level, while providing opportunities for the most competitive players. The graphics above illustrates two key ways in which these youth networks can be set up, though USL recognizes slightly different approaches may work more effectively in different markets.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

To learn more about the USL Academy League, and how the player development model will be utilized by its participating clubs, please visit:

For further information on USL Academy, please contact

Liam O'Connell

Liam O'Connell

Senior Director, Youth Development