One of the keys to player development is ensuring every player is given the opportunity and time to build his or her game at the right level. Through a three-pronged system, the pathway through the USL Academy League and into the professional ranks is set to provide the ideal approach for players nearing the top of the youth game, and those whose pathway will take a long-term approach between the youth ranks and USL Senior Team action.
Through its collaborative youth network, USL clubs will have the ability to work with local youth coaches to not only identify talent that has the potential to reach the professional ranks, but also put them on the appropriate path for their development. For elite players, this would mean being given Part-Time Senior Status, offering the opportunity to train regularly with Championship, League One or League Two squads – and potentially becoming a USL Academy to a club’s roster.
For some players, that path may not be immediately suitable, with the likelihood more development will be needed. That path would see a player take Full Time Academy Status, giving them a chance to compete throughout the full USL Academy League season. The opportunity to compete against the best opposition around the league will further a player’s development and put them on the path to Senior Status.
For younger players, meanwhile, the more long-term pathway of the Part-Time Youth Status will offer the starting point for the road ahead. Players at this level will compete primarily with their current youth clubs, while also having the opportunity to step up to the USL Academy League side during one of the three periods during the Academy League season.
These three pathways will allow – and encourage – further collaboration between local youth coaches and those within the USL club, allowing strong relationships to be formed between a club’s youth network and the senior team. Those partnerships will allow coaches to properly evaluate the right time to move players further up the pathway to the professional ranks.