U.S. Soccer Officially Announces Girls Development Academy
The Academy will focus on positively impacting the everyday club environments to assist in maximizing female youth player development across the country.
U.S. Soccer started its Development Academy Program for boys in 2007 and the program, which currently consists of 152 clubs across five age groups, serves as the elite player development model for the country and has significantly improved the everyday environment for players, coaches and clubs. The Girls’ DA will be structured with many of the same principles and will begin play in the fall of 2017. The application process for clubs interested in being part of the new program will open in May of 2016.
The institution of a Development Academy for girls is part of U.S. Soccer’s global leadership position in women’s soccer and will impact thousands of players. U.S. Soccer is also excited to launch this program working alongside the NWSL and its efforts to support player development and the long-term growth of professional soccer.
“In support of U.S. Soccer’s long-term plan for player and coach development, launching a Girls’ Development Academy is part of an unprecedented commitment to elevating the women’s game,” said U.S. Soccer Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs. “This program will directly impact the everyday environment for clubs and further connect players and coaches to our National Teams. From a program perspective, we will educate both players and coaches on position-specific roles, physical and psychosocial planning and preparation, current coaching methodologies and the use of sport science and technology.”
The guidelines for members will feature increased training requirements with fewer, but higher quality games. U.S. Soccer’s technical standards have been designed to benefit players and coaches, and allows clubs to work directly and collaboratively with U.S. Soccer technical staff and Youth National Teams. The overall focus of the program is to assist in developing world class players, coaches and referees by prioritizing training and player development within the team concept.
From the start, the program will feature three combined age groups in the Girls’ Development Academy: U-14/15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. Clubs will be expected to train a minimum of four times a week. The players in the Girls’ Development Academy clubs will play exclusively within the Academy program and will not play in any outside competition, such as ODP or high school. The use of combined age groups will require clubs to form teams with a balanced roster of players from two distinct birth years. The games will be scouted by U.S.Soccer and the program will serve as a pathway to U.S. Soccer’s Youth National Teams.
In addition to combining the most elite players from each birth year to form the mixed age group player pool, coaches will be encouraged to play their most elite players “up” on an older age team within the club to help accelerate development.
The competitive framework will focus on the core values of the program, which emphasizes quality coaching and teaching in a positive learning environment for players with zero tolerance for poor behavior from coaches.
Competitively, the program competition will feature local and regional matches as well as regional and national events with playing rules based on international standards, e.g., no re-entry, limited substitutions and proper rest and recovery periods. The season will be structured over a 10-month period, likely from September through July, and as in the Boys’ Development Academy, the clubs will be organized by divisions and conferences with national and/or regional events incorporated into the overall program.
Club applications will be evaluated by U.S. Soccer technical staff based on the following criteria:
- Leadership of the club and quality of the coaching staff
- Desire to embrace and promote the core values of the program
- U.S. Soccer license levels of coaching staff
- Infrastructure of the club and the resources currently being invested in development (facilities, scholarships, staff to player ratio, etc.)
- History of player production for Youth National Teams, the senior Women’s National Teams, and professional leagues
- Market and depth of the player pool, geographic location and travel implications, and proximity to other elite clubs