TAMPA, Fla. - The United Soccer League (USL) will announce the regional alignment for the USL Academy League, kicking off in spring 2021, over the course of the next two weeks. In order to ease the burden of travel while still offering an elite level of competition and youth development programming, the USL Academy League’s founding member clubs will be divided into seven regions: Northeast, Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, East Central, South Central and Southwest.
“It’s an exciting time for youth development in American soccer as more USL clubs look to build pathways for local young players who aspire to be professionals,” said USL Sr. Director of Youth Development Liam O’Connell. “We’re thrilled to help our clubs toward that vision, and confirming the regional alignments for our founding member clubs is a key step as we move toward the launch of the league next year.”
The structure of the USL Academy League will provide USL clubs a progressive model to develop local players for their Senior Teams, at a lessened cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Doing so will also enable far more clubs and communities to participate, allowing for a regional format which limits travel demand to teams and families.
Clubs participating in the USL Academy League will field one elite youth team, made up of the top U15-U19 prospects in their organization. With a set of league-mandated standards in place, the league will ensure players’ exposure to a high level of competition and development result from direct ties to the organization’s USL Senior Team.
More than 50 clubs across 25 states comprise the wide geographic footprint of the inaugural USL Academy League and a number of other clubs and communities have expressed interest in joining the league for the 2022 season and beyond. As the league adds teams, its ability to further reduce travel demand for all participating clubs increases as divisions become further regionalized.
The schedule for each region to be unveiled is as follows:
The 2020 USL Championship season has shown that young players on USL Academy contracts can break through to their local Senior Teams. Players like Orange County SC’s Aaron Cervantes and Francis Jacobs, San Antonio FC’s Jose Gallegos, Austin Bold FC’s Beto Avila, Birmingham Legion FC’s Jaden Servania, Sacramento Republic FC’s Hayden Sargis, Indy Eleven’s Josh Penn and Phoenix Rising FC’s Ansu Kanneh, among others, demonstrate the benefits of an established youth development pathway at USL clubs.
The launch of the USL Academy League will help all USL clubs identify top prospects, and provide more players with the opportunity to compete against professionals at a younger age.
Additional founding members of the USL Academy League may still be confirmed in the coming months. For more information on the USL Academy League, visit usl-academy.com/academy-league.