All clubs within the USL Academy League are required to meet a set of minimum standards, designed to create optimal long-term player development environments, directly connected to USL Senior Teams. With these efforts, USL Academy strives to provide the best opportunity for young players to develop and learn both on and off the pitch.
As part of those standards, all players within these programs must have access to resources that can help them in their academic endeavors (high school and/or college).
By focusing on these endeavors, we hope to ensure our clubs are not just developing talented players, but also upstanding people who can succeed outside of soccer & eventually contribute in a positive way towards their communities.
Additionally, many top prospects will have the opportunity to sign a USL Academy contract in the USL Championship & League One, prior to turning fully-professional. This route maintain those players’ collegiate eligibility, while providing them the opportunity to train and even play in a professional soccer environment.
As the landscape of elite youth development continues to evolve, more & more teenage players are being promoted into USL Senior Team environments while still attending high school.
For professional clubs that intend to have local youth players integrated into their Senior Team or Academy Team training during school hours, the club must ensure that their staff or outside educators they bring in have part of their role dedicated toward working with the players’ school as needed.
While the aim with USL Academy is to develop a direct path from youth to professional soccer, most players that compete within the platform as a teenager will inevitably still see the college game as their next step after their U19 season.
As part of these standards, clubs that intend to have local youth players integrated into Academy Team training must provide a college advisory program for the players that won’t go immediately to a senior team at the professional level.
Additionally, USLHQ ensures that all major USL Academy competitions as well as select showcase events are promoted to a database of coaches & scouts across all levels of NCAA, NAIA, and even Junior Colleges. Coaches of those programs are encouraged to attend those events in-person, and those that do receive scouting booklets with profiles of each player at the event included.
In 2021, USL announced a significant partnership with Bellevue University, naming the University the first-ever Official Education Partner of the USL in the organization’s history.
As part of the partnership, Bellevue University (BU) will provide up to one (1) full scholarship for each Team competing in the USL Championship and USL League One divisions. For more information, please visit the USL portal – https://usl.corporatelearning.com/
In addition to providing full scholarships annually to Championship and League One clubs, Bellevue University offers tuition assistance across the entire USL ecosystem to club and league employees, as well as family members of staff, coaches, and players.
Total Benefit when you attend Bellevue University
|USL-A Member Club - Full Time Coaches and Staff||Any full-time staff member of a Team or Club within the USL ecosystem, to include all USL properties||Up to $4,000 benefit per year|
|USL-A Member Club - Part Time Coaches and Staff||Any staff member of a Team or Club within the USL ecosystem that is considered part-time by employment definitions.||Up to $3,000 benefit per year|
|USL-A Member Club – Players||Any player on the roster of a USL Academy Member Club||Up to $3,000 benefit per year|
|USL-A Member Club – Family Members||Limited to an employee’s spouse, dependent children, parents, & siblings||Up to $2,500 benefit per year|
Owen Damm took advantage of the opportunity to attend Bellevue University while pursuing a future in soccer. Damm was previously on an academy contract with Louisville City that preserved his amateur status, but wanted to keep rising the professional ranks. The Louisville City defender's professional contract came with a scholarship to Bellevue, allowing him to excel on the pitch and in the classroom. Damm is using the USL Educational Scholarship to study sports management while simultaneously playing high level, professional soccer.