TAMPA, Fla. – USL Academy today announced the structure for the 2022 USL Academy League Finals presented by Puma. The conclusion of the first full nine-month season will culminate with the national event that will take place at the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay in Tampa, Fla. from Thursday, Nov. 17 to Sunday, Nov. 20.
The postseason tournament will feature a playoff and showcase bracket competing separately in similar style formats. The playoff bracket will include two groups of four that will consist of the top teams from each of the eight full-time regional divisions, as determined by points per game. The eight teams that qualify for the playoff bracket will then compete in a World-Cup-style tournament which will conclude with placement games and a championship match to crown this year’s USL Academy League Finals winner. The showcase bracket will consist of 28 teams accompanied by eight additional clubs in the playoff bracket that will compete in a similar format focusing on competitive and geographically unique games.
“We are incredibly excited to announce an expanded postseason tournament to conclude the second-ever USL Academy League season,” commented Liam O’Connell, USL Technical Director. “This new structure not only rewards more clubs for their performance throughout the regular season but will also make it easier for more players to gain additional exposure in front of collegiate, professional even international scouts.
“Numerous players who competed in last year’s USL Academy League Finals have already transitioned to their club’s senior team, with some of those likely to even return to this year’s event. We can’t wait to celebrate the investment these clubs have put into developing local players and to showcase some of the incredible talents next in line to make that jump.”
Still in its infancy, the USL Academy League has proven to be a strong developmental system in youth soccer as six of the 11 members of the 2021 USL Academy Finals All-Tournament Team have since signed with or made appearances for professional clubs across the country.
To best prepare players and to create a true reserve team atmosphere, the USL Academy League schedule intentionally mirrors the USL Championship and USL League One professional calendar. Additionally, the overage player rule creates a unique environment in which professional players can temporarily drop down to their club’s academy team which further integrates both teams.
The top teams based on points per game from Group A and Group B of the playoff bracket will square off in the 2022 USL Academy League Finals championship match to be held in the Tampa Bay area on Sunday, Nov. 20. Streaming and additional match information will be shared at a later date.
The six teams in the playoff bracket that do not advance to the championship match will play a fourth match on Sunday, Nov. 20, with the seventh place, fifth place and third place games all taking place at the Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay. In accordance with player health and safety best practices, matches will be shortened to 70 minutes with two 35-minute halves, and each team will have a minimum of 24 hours between matches.
Further exemplifying the path-to-pro pipeline, the USL Academy League Finals will serve as an opportunity for players to increase their exposure with collegiate and professional scouts in attendance. As with past events, registered scouts will receive rosters and player profiles for each team competing at the tournament and can be provided opportunities to engage with league and/or club leadership. Any interested scouts should register to receive additional information here.
“USL Academy’s competitions are very intriguing as the best teams across the USL can compete at great facilities against strong organizations,” said Rémy Loret, Head of Football Development at French Ligue 1 side Toulouse FC. “This allows us to evaluate the level of each team and identify the individual talents. These competitions are important for the coaches too as they have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and tactics.”
To ensure that invited clubs receive the highest level of games, USL Academy is working with local and state referee coordinators to provide the highest-level referees possible for all games. Referees will be evaluated by Professional Referee Organization (PRO) representatives and multiple former FIFA referees during each game, as well as receive education and training in the classroom at the end of each day. Full details surrounding additional referee development and advancement initiatives will be announced in the coming months.
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