Charlotte Independence academy players on the field at historic Al Lang Stadium. Photo by Cameron Koubek
On the second day of the USL Academy Eastern Conference Event, action continued on the field while players and coaches had the chance to develop off it.
Saturday began with the Youth Development Workshop, where coaches and academy directors from all 12 competing clubs came together to discuss best practices and unique challenges in creating a youth to pro pathway.
North Carolina FC's Tom Harris presents a case study on his club's youth development practices. Photo by Cameron Koubek
USL Sr. Director of Youth Development Liam O’Connell spoke on the structure and vision of USL Academy before introducing Tom Harris from North Carolina FC’s academy, who presented a case study on the club’s development system, ideal player profile, and more.
All eight Elite Division teams played their second matches of the tournament in the afternoon. Charlotte Independence earned yet another 1-0 win, with Joey Skinner’s 69th minute strike and another strong defensive effort earning a result against Colorado Pride Switchbacks.
Cedar Stars Rush also made it two wins from two, with a pair of goals either side of halftime helping them to a 4-0 win over Weston FC. David Garcia led the way with a brace.
Tampa Bay Rowdies also cruised to a 4-0 victory behind two goals from Ethan Chadwick, the Florida side’s second-straight four-goal game. Elsewhere, North Carolina avenged their opening defeat to the Rowdies in style, pouring six goals past Boston Bolts.
Forward Luke Hille, who is signed to a USL Academy contract with NCFC’s senior team in the USL Championship, scored two and added an assist, while Rohit Thakur and Marvin Mariche bagged a pair each as well.
After the Academy games concluded, players, coaches, and families from many clubs took advantage of two exciting professional preseason matches at Al Lang Stadium in nearby St. Petersburg. Attendees saw Inter Miami’s first-ever public match as the new MLS side faced Philadelphia Union, followed by the Championship’s Tampa Bay Rowdies against Thierry Henry’s Montreal Impact.
USL Academy players were recognized at halftime of the latter match, an amazing experience for the young players and another connection between youth and professional soccer at the USL Academy Eastern Conference Event.
The four Premier Division teams return to action on Sunday at the Premier Sports Campus.
North Carolina FC taking on Boston Bolts. Photo by Cameron Koubek