The first priority of the USL Academy League & the minimum standards set for clubs to participate centers around establishing a high-level pre-professional training environment, with a direct connection to the local USL senior team. However, a critical component of this player development platform is to also provide meaningful games to aid in those players’ development, and to provide all clubs an opportunity to compete amongst each other in regionalized competition
Below are some of the key elements as to the timing of when the USL Academy League season will occur annually:
In an effort to drive further vertical integration of each USL club’s academy team and senior team, the USL Academy League season will be aligned with the pro calendars of Championship & League One. Doing so will also encourage further collaboration between youth & senior team staff, as well as make the transition of integrating from the youth to pro levels even easier for the top youth prospects.
Each 10-month playing year will begin with a full month of preseason in February, with pro clubs expected to identify at least one week with which the academy & first teams can train side by side. Following preseason, regular & postseason play will occur across (3) subsequent 3-month seasons (Spring: March-May, Summer: June-August, and Fall: September-November). Players will have an offseason from approximately Thanksgiving through the month of January.
Clubs are able to participate in USL Academy Cup, as supplemental competition to their USL-AL schedule. That platform allows clubs not yet running a full-time program the opportunity to compete within the USL Academy platform. Click here to learn more about the USL Academy Cup
Clubs may register players using one of four designations: Part-Time Youth, Full-Time Academy, Part-Time Senior Youth, and Part-Time Senior Overage, whichever is best for their long-term development. Doing so will again add synergy & create collaborative opportunities with both the club’s senior team as well as local youth clubs.
Gives players the freedom to play with their youth club and/or high school at select times throughout the year. Players on this status will have a limit on the number of USL Academy League games they can participate in, to prevent injuries & take into consideration the physical load of those outside competitions.
Top young players projected to be ready for their first integration into Senior Team Soccer within 1-2 years will be encouraged to register as the “Full-Time Academy” status.
Players most ready to make the jump to USL Championship, League One, and Legue Two can begin their integration into their local USL Senior Team by taking the “Part-Time Senior Status”, allowing them to train and even play at the senior level, while still getting additional trainings and games within the USL Academy League.
Players over 19 years of age and playing with their senior teams can join the Academy team to further integrate both teams. Up to three Overage Players may be on the field at once for Academy teams.
One of the strengths of the USL Academy platform is its ability to involve clubs from all levels of USL’s senior teams: Championship, League One, and League Two, as illustrated by the map above, which shows all of the different clubs that participated in the first-ever USL Academy Cup event series. As the USL Academy League expands & more USL clubs participate, regionalized travel demands will be a key priority, with a focus put on:
Each year, club applications will be reviewed, and regional subdivisions will be launched once an appropriate critical mass of clubs is established in a specified geographical area.
More than ever, it’s important to limit the travel demand & cost for youth players competing in high-level environments. to depend on number of clubs within a regional conference.
As USL expands at the senior team level, and more top youth clubs in select areas affiliate with USL senior teams, additional regional subdivisions will be launched, with the cost of travel going down subsequently
By offering all clubs within USL Championship, League One, and League Two the opportunity to apply for USL Academy League, it shows we’re uniting communities across all levels of the game, and increasing the likelihood of expanding on our regional subdivisions quickly.
With minimum standards of USL Academy League participation being primarily focused around clubs establishing a high-level pre-professional training environment, a mixture official league games as well as outside competitions will serve as a means for each team to get an appropriate amount of meaningful games throughout the year
As regional subdivisions are launched, participating clubs will be expected to participate in a minimum number of official USL Academy League games during each 3-month period of the regular season. For subdivisions with greater travel demands, play weekends may be utilized to maximize travel time, providing they follow the appropriate play to rest ratio for player safety & health.
The focus is on getting as many clubs as possible building a high-standard pre-professional training environment. While we want to supplement that by providing meaningful USL Academy League games within a regional footprint & select national events (such as USL Academy Cup), we want to give each club the flexibility to add to their calendar with local friendlies, showcase tournaments, & international trips.