TAMPA, Fla. - The United Soccer League (USL) announced today the schedule for the 2021 Academy League season for the Atlantic Division. The division’s first matchup will be between VBR Star and Charlotte Eagles on June 6.
The Atlantic Division will consist of nine clubs that represent at least one senior team from each of the three tiers of USL competition. The clubs participating in the inaugural season of the USL Academy League are the Charlotte Eagles, Charlotte Independence, Combine Rush Academy, NC Fusion, North Carolina FC, Tri-Cities Otters, VBR Star, Virginia Beach United, and Wake FC.
By design, the USL Academy League season is structured around the seasons of the senior teams in order to give players the best chance of training and potentially playing at a higher level.
To get ready for the Atlantic Division 2021 season, here’s a look at three clubs and how they’re going about building their USL Academy pathways & programming:
There are a lot of opportunities to compete at the highest level for those in the North Carolina FC youth network, and now more than ever with the addition of the USL Academy League. With teams in both USL League One and the National Women’s Soccer League in the pro ranks, North Carolina FC provides a direct pathway to the professional level for its youth talent. For the 2021 season, North Carolina FC’s First Team has joined USL League One to create even more opportunities for its top youth talent to compete at the professional level. Currently, North Carolina FC has 15 USL Academy signings on its senior team.
Tri-Cities Otters is planning to use its new USL Academy side to strengthen relationships with the surrounding youth clubs in its area to create a foundation for the local talent to have a pathway to the senior team. The club is planning to use the pipeline to identify and provide the top teens the opportunity to train and play at the highest level in the organization. Tri-Cities Otters is also providing coaching education resources free of charge through a collaboration with the Tennessee State Soccer Association.
“Investing in coaching education is the best way to help improve the coaching and the future of our young players,” said Otters Head Coach David Strickland. “This is the most impact we can have as the Otters Academy to help develop new talent on multiple levels through coaching education.”
Charlotte Independence oversaw and guided one of the largest youth club mergers under its banner two years ago. Now, the club uses the established local youth network to identify the top talent in the area to feed its USL Academy team with stars with the potential to make the jump to the USL Championship side. The Independence has already seen success with their academy through the team’s success in the USL Academy Cup East Regional Event in early 2020 and at the USL League Two side where the U23 team plays. Through the multiple tiers the Independence offer, top talent in the area has a multitude of opportunities to grow to the professional level and different paces best suited to their needs.
The Atlantic Division will see strong competition throughout the season between established youth networks and dedicated organizations in the area.
To view the entire Atlantic Division schedule, click here.