TAMPA, Fla. - The United Soccer League (USL) today announced a new phase in the evolution of the USL Academy program and competitions. As the USL establishes its youth-to-professional pathway for women, the USL Academy League will include girls’ divisions beginning in 2023. In addition, new roster rules for all USL Academy programs will foster integration of younger and older players – including senior team members – in matchday squads.
The USL Academy system is built around the core philosophy of “If You’re Good Enough, You’re Old Enough,” and features one Academy team for players aged 15-20 per club that connects elite youth soccer organizations to local senior teams in USL Championship, USL Super League, USL League One, USL League Two and USL W League. Players who sign USL Academy contracts at any level of the USL system can experience the senior team level of play at a young age, while maintaining college eligibility.
The USL Academy League Finals take place this week in Tampa, Fla. featuring 30 teams and more than 600 of the country’s top young players, at least 40 of whom have already appeared for their club’s senior team.
Under the leadership of USL Sporting Director Mark Cartwright, the USL Academy provides a foundation for player development, improves the on-field product, and underpins the transfer market strategy for USL’s professional clubs across the United States. Vice President of Women’s Soccer Missy Price, Technical Director Liam O’Connell, Director of USL Academy Sarah Brady and Director of Sporting Development Jason Collister work with clubs to ensure a standard of excellence across the ecosystem.
To achieve its objectives, the USL Academy …
Emphasizes the promotion of developing talent into senior team environments with the goal of helping players, coaches, staff, and others achieve their maximum potential.
Complements existing youth and college systems and all other levels of the USL pyramid.
Provides USL club owners an efficient player development model for their senior teams while increasing the likelihood of return on that investment via the transfer market.
Strives to provide the best opportunity for young players to develop and learn both on and off the field.
Maintains a set of minimum standards across eight functional areas that all USL Academy members must meet.
USL Sporting Director Mark Cartwright:
“As the USL Academy concludes its fourth year of competition with the Finals this week in Tampa, we are celebrating the numerous examples of the program’s immense value to players, clubs, and communities. Joshua Wynder in Louisville, Cristian Nava in New Mexico, Diego Abarca and Joel Maldonado in El Paso, Alann Torres at Indy Eleven, and Rafael Jauregui in Sacramento – the list goes on, and all those case studies prove that our model works. Now our goals are to refine that model and replicate it in as many markets as possible across the United States.”
USL Technical Director Liam O’Connell:
“As we prepare for the 2022 USL Academy League Finals this week, we applaud the work that so many of our clubs are doing to develop top young talent in their local communities. In addition to top young professionals and current Youth National Team players, this elite tournament also presents an incredible opportunity for other young players to show they’re ready to step into a local USL Senior Team.”
USL Academy Director, Women’s Soccer Sarah Brady:
"The addition of girls’ divisions to the USL Academy Cup and USL Academy League demonstrates USL’s commitment to providing more and clearer youth-to-professional pathways for talented individuals across our ecosystem. Our standards, in collaboration with our member clubs, drive our decision making and ensure that all individuals are best positioned to fulfil their full potential."
About the United Soccer League
Impacting more than 200 communities, the United Soccer League (USL) is the largest professional soccer organization in North America. The USL is the first and only soccer organization in the United States to build a youth-to-professional pathway for both women and men within one ecosystem. That structure includes three professional leagues: USL Championship (men), USL Super League (women), and USL League One (men); three national pre-professional leagues: USL League Two (men), W League (women); and USL Academy; and one national youth league: Super Y League.