Two of the newest MLS franchises are extending the league's presence in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the Portland Timbers and Montreal Impact have been approved to have teams entered into the Development Academy, giving MLS 17 teams in the 80-team academy system.
Both the Timbers and Impact passed technical and administrative evaluations and will field U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams effective this upcoming season, according to a U.S. Soccer release. Their inclusions leave only the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC as MLS teams without representation in the Development Academy, which starting in September moves to a 10-month schedule in an effort to accelerate and cultivate the development of the elite young players in North America.
The Timbers will join the Northwest Division in the West Conference, where MLS sides Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes also compete in addition to other clubs. The Impact, meanwhile, will compete in the new-look Northeast Division in the East Conference along with the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution academy sides.
“The Portland Timbers have had great success in their inaugural season in MLS and look forward to continued success this season, as well. The addition of the Academy program will provide a sound platform for elite youth player development in the area,” said U.S. Soccer Development Academy technical advisor Hugo Perez, who also oversees the Northwest Division. “The Portland area has consistently developed a strong player pool for Youth National Team programs. We hope the addition of the Portland Timbers Academy Program will help continue to improve upon the history of player development.”
Added Impact sporting director Nick de Santis: "It's important as a club to play at the highest level in North America. A lot of young players from this league developed into very good players. We want to put our players in a professional environment, and they need to be challenged at a young age to progress. It will also be a measuring tool to see where we are in North America."
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