LEXINGTON, Ky. – Lexington Sporting Club on Monday announced it is joining the United Soccer League (USL) Academy, a pre-professional league that is central to USL’s player development model.
For Lexington SC, the USL Academy pathway will operate as a “club and country” model. Lexington's model within the USL Academy is strategic and consists of these key components:
This model develops a long-term player development initiative and places the emphasis on our training environment, which in turn justifies the selection process of top players to showcase events every 12 weeks. These showcase events will be some of the highest competition throughout the nation, creating a unique and exciting approach to our player development model.
High-performing players will then be selected into our academy cup training environment where they will train together and represent our USL Academy program every 12 weeks. This is designed to reward players that are performing well within their youth club environment.
In its inaugural season starting in Fall 2022, Lexington's USL Academy league team will be for the U16-U19 age group of players. They will compete in a maximum of six to eight games for this initial season, and Lexington SC fully supports players choosing to compete with their high school teams.
February 2023 will represent the official start of league play for Lexington's USL Academy U16-U19 seasons. This is designed to create more opportunities for more players over time through a “potential over performance” mentality. In addition, the USL Academy Cup is the prestigious competition within the USL Academy structure that players will be selected for from their body of work throughout our seasons.
“Lexington Sporting Club wants to thank USL Technical Director, Liam O’Connell, and his team for the countless hours of work that have been put into helping us devise a bespoke model that fits our values and philosophy for player development,” said Sam Stockley, Sporting Director. “We are fully committed to our players, families and community in providing a world-class environment for our players to thrive.
“The USL Academy provides us with two separate models for our players,” Stockley added. “The USL Academy League will be for our U-16’s, U-17’s, U-18, and U-19’s who will compete eight months out of the year, which allows players to participate with their high school teams, if they choose. USL Academy Cup teams will be for players that have been performing well in the club environment throughout their seasons. We fully understand that every player’s journey is different, and we are committed to all our players throughout their development. It is critical that we provide multiple platforms for our players to perform and compete. Joining the USL Academy is a major component to our pathway to pro development model.”
Players in the USL Academy will be able to experience professional soccer while still being able to compete in high school, if they choose. The season aligns with the United States’ professional calendar, beginning with integration with the club’s Senior Team, followed by a regular season of mostly regional competition, and finishing at the USL Academy League Postseason Tournament. There will be a minimum of three events for the USL Academy season.
This fall, specifically, Lexington SC will be in a division that features Louisville City FC, Indy Eleven and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC of the USL Championship, and Cleveland Force SC of League Two.
“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Lexington Sporting Club into the USL Academy League in advance of their men’s senior team kicking off next year as part of the 2023 season,” said Liam O’Connell, USL Technical Director. “From the staff to the ownership, everyone within the club is fully committed to improving the local landscape of soccer in Lexington and the greater Central Kentucky region. We expect this club to serve as a model franchise in building sustainable, equal-opportunity player development pathways that will help young boys and girls be able to pursue their dream of competing in professional soccer. We can’t wait to continue helping them achieve those efforts while setting a new standard in how a USL League One club can achieve those ambitions.”
With standards emphasizing a “holistic approach” to youth development, the USL Academy is not only focused on pushing a handful of top players to the pro team but will also provide college support since all players will retain college eligibility. The USL Academy prepares players for the demands of being a student-athlete and gives players the opportunity to compete in front of college scouts without having to leave the club. More information about maintaining college eligibility can be found here.
A unique and appreciated aspect of the USL Academy is its regionalized structure. The league limits travel requirements and costs for the players and clubs, with most matches being played within a regional division.