USL Academy contracts are a critical component of the platform’s holistic approach to improving youth development in American soccer. Players signing USL Academy contracts at any level of the USL system have the opportunity to experience the senior team level of play at a young age, while maintaining college eligibility.
As USL clubs invest more in supporting their local youth soccer communities, pathways from grassroots to professional soccer are expanding in USL markets around the country. USL senior teams in the Championship, League One and League Two are encouraged to identify top local players and provide them with opportunities to compete at a high level by signing them to USL Academy contracts.
To discover and promote these players, clubs can either establish an internal development system, build a youth network with local clubs, or do a combination of both. By doing so, USL clubs help drive the creation of collective youth soccer communities, with well-defined pathways to both Men and Women's professional soccer.
As players within those pathways are integrated into senior team environments, USL Championship, Super League, W League and League One clubs will be able to offer the most talented players professional or Academy contracts with their senior team.
This mechanism provides the players ready to go pro with a direct route to do so. Clubs in League Two will use their senior team to provide their top young talents experience competing against college-age players during the summer.
By pushing more young players across the United States into professional environments, the USL will play a key role in improving the overall level of the elite American player.
As reported in July 2022, more clubs than ever are utilizing USL Academy contracts to great effect. See below to see examples of young players who successfully reached the pro level thanks to Academy contracts.