U.S. Soccer has taken a giant step in altering the growth and development of the country's elite youth prospects by making a major change to the annual structure of the U.S. Development Academy.
Starting in September, the U.S. Development Academy will operate on a 10-month schedule, mimicking the development systems of nations around the world. The new system creates a situation where players will be training multiple times a week and playing games over an extended, stretched-out period of time as opposed to the current format that had a shorter, more compressed schedule that limited growth and development.
"If we want our players to someday compete against the best in the world, it is critical for their development that they train and play as much as possible and in the right environment," U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in a federation statement.
Klinsmann, one of the bigger proponents of restucturing the youth system, is a major backer of the initiative, which has already begun with clubs in the Western Conference and Texas Division before becoming an all-encompassing venture this week.
"This is the model that the best countries around the world use for their programs, and I think it makes perfect sense that we do as well," Klinsmann said.
One of the byproducts of the new system is that high school-age players will have to decide between either playing for their schools or playing in the academy system, as taking part in both won't be an option under the new format.
U.S. Soccer's mission is to attract the elite youth prospects to the development academy system and cultivate them through the federation's technical personnel while having them accelerate their growth at the same rate as their counterparts around the world.
"Going to a 10-month season is an important step in the evolution of elite player development," U.S. Soccer youth technical director Claudio Reyna said. "The format provides the ideal platform to combine an increase in the amount of high value training on a regular basis with the opportunity to play in quality, competitive games throughout an extended season. This schedule puts our elite players in line with kids in their age group internationally and places the appropriate physical demands on them at this stage in their development.
"The addition of as many as 50 extra training sessions per year will greatly enhance the ability of players to work on individual skills and receive advice and instruction from coaches."
For more on U.S. Soccer's explanation of the new format, read on here.
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