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Inaugural USL Academy Event Offers Off-Field Development

By Staff, 09/30/19, 9:30AM EDT


Coaches, players, and referees will have chances to learn and improve

SAFC'S Toyota Field and STAR Soccer Complex. Photo courtesy Tim Laielli Photography

With the first event of the inaugural USL Academy Cup around the corner, USL clubs will have the opportunity to bring together some of the top youth prospects in their markets. But outside of game play, participants at the event will also have off-field opportunities to enhance their experience. A series of smaller events geared toward coaches, players, parents, and referees highlight a consistent focus on youth development throughout the event.

“Since the onset of this project, we’ve been very deliberate in ensuring all USL Academy initiatives approach youth development through a holistic lens,” said Liam O’Connell, USL Sr. Director of Youth Development. “To do that, we need to involve all key stakeholders that influence young players in this country, and discuss ways in which we can support and accelerate player development on and off the field, while continuing to push our game to greater heights.”

Youth Development Workshop

Saturday, October 12 from 7-9 PM

The Youth Development Workshop is designed with a focus on driving dialogue around youth development within USL pro pathways, and how best to bridge the gap between youth and professional soccer. O’Connell will introduce the event by discussing the future player development model for USL Academy and how this model will aim to assist USL clubs in accomplishing their missions. San Antonio FC Academy Director Nick Evans will then present a case study on “Identifying and Integrating Elite Youth Talent into a Pro Environment.” Evans and his staff were given the 2018-2019 USSDA award for Best Coaching Staff in the Central Conference.

PlayerMaker will then present its technology, a valuable resource for USL clubs that can be used to enhance youth development by providing in-depth data about player performance. Clubs that use PlayerMaker gain incredible insight through the ability to monitor and analyze their players in a way that allows each individual to improve at a personalized level.

The event will conclude with breakout sessions, where those in attendance will have the chance to discuss relevant trends in youth development and significant shifts in the American youth soccer landscape. These sessions will aid coaches in networking and forging relationships with others who are pushing for positive change in the sport at the youth level.

Pro Pathway Panel

Sunday, October 13 from 2-3:30 PM at Toyota Field (Stadium Seating)

The Pro Pathway Panel will educate both players and parents about the USL Academy platform and what it means to be a part of this exciting new initiative. Attendees will learn about the expanding opportunities to play professionally in the United States via both USL and MLS as more professional clubs are setting up academy programs than ever before. Moving forward, youth clubs will have the chance to affiliate themselves with USL Academy programs and be part of their local professional club’s path to the professional level.

The panel will also teach young players about the massive commitment it takes to reach the sport’s highest level and offer advice on potential pitfalls in chasing that dream. The guest speakers will include individuals that have been involved with soccer’s pro pathway as coaches, scouts, and players.

Most players at the USL Academy level are already among the elite in their age group but still have many steps in front of them before reaching the pros. Hearing from those who understand the challenges of building a soccer career will be valuable for USL Academy players and the parents that support them.

Referee Development Sessions

Friday, October 11 from 3-4 PM, Saturday, October 12 from 11-1:30 PM, and Sunday, October 13 from 1-3 PM at Toyota Field and STAR Soccer Complex

An often overlooked area of soccer development, these sessions will help referees gain insight on game management and other aspects of one of the sport’s toughest jobs. After an orientation prior to the start of the tournament, the tournament’s referees will meet to review the day’s action and discuss how to improve moving forward.

"Referee development is an important and integral part of the game," said Dick Triche of Officials Management Group, who will attend the event. "Field and classroom training, as well as game observation and review, will be part of the conference games in San Antonio. Each referee will receive feedback from national and regional referee coaches throughout USL Academy conference play."

Hosting these sessions at USL Academy events could pay dividends toward improving the quality of refereeing in American soccer, not just for the youth game in the present but for the professional level in the future.

Player Village

Open by the fields at STAR Soccer Complex during game days

The USL Academy Player Village will feature plenty of things for people to do when they’re not watching the high-quality soccer on display.

A custom USL Academy Select Ball will be featured ahead of its full release in 2020, giving players the chance to see a design that has yet to be shown to the public. Other USL Academy merchandise will be available for purchase, and some of USL Academy’s partners will be there too. Marka, a company that produces and installs field boards and other signage for USL Academy, will have a tent in the player village.

PlayerMaker will host a very exciting opportunity in the Player Village for young players to wear their gear and see how it works in real time. Try out your skills and test yourself against your friends on a 3v3 pitch where there's sure to be plenty of nutmegs, flicks and tricks. After you play, check the data recorded by PlayerMaker's unique game-worn technology.

No matter which of these sessions you choose to take advantage of, be sure to make the most of everything on offer at the inaugural USL Academy event in San Antonio. USL Academy's first-ever event is designed in a unique way that focuses as much on youth development off the pitch as it does on it. You don't want to miss out.

For more information and to stay up-to-date with USL Academy Cup events, visit or search #USLAcademy on social media.