Since their rebirth, the New York Cosmos have set out to create an academy to rival any in the world. Boasting a grand vision of a state-of-the-art in-house academy program, the Cosmos’ efforts took a major step forward with the introduction of the Under-13 and Under-14 age groups.
Following approval from U.S. Soccer, the Cosmos have been granted inclusion in the national Development Academy system for the U-13 and U-14 age groups. Previously recognized at the U-12 level, the Cosmos can now work with players from the ages of 12 to 14 to better prepare young talent for an introduction into the professional game.
As part of the team’s continued push, sources tell SBI that Assistant Youth Director Ronan Wiseman will assume the role of youth development director. In addition, sources tell SBI that 12-year-old Aidan Pericic and 11-year-old Simon Adjakple have joined the Cosmos from affiliate Auburndale SC as the club’s first academy signings.
According to Cosmos COO Erik Stover, the process of beginning with players at the U-12 through U-14 age groups makes the most sense for the time being. As players move towards the U-16 and U-18 level over the next several years, the Cosmos will continue to look at adding younger age groups to help further develop the club’s academy pyramid.
“I think the investment in the academy is quite literally the investment in our future,” Stover told SBI. “It’s great to have a sporting department and a head coach like Gio (Savarese), where we have a vision that I think aligns with big clubs around the world. To have people like that that can execute and the confidence of U.S. Soccer is very special. At the same time, to have a board that is committed to doing things the right way is very encouraging.
“It starts with the vision of the entire organization. We want to have a proper club modeled after some of the biggest clubs in the world. All of them have strong academy systems, and it’s a system that begins from a very young age up through the professional ranks. What I think is so important for soccer in the United States is to get it right on the academy level from ages 16-20, that transition from amateur to professional. The commitment is there from our organization, and this is an important step in that process.”
For Stover and the Cosmos, the process is just beginning, as the club looks to help further the efforts of developing talent in the U.S.
With approval from U.S. Soccer now finalized, the Cosmos are able to recruit and work with the best players possible while straying away from the pay-to-play model that has been the norm for decades. Regardless of income, players will be given the chance to make inroads within the academy system in a similar way to young players throughout the rest of the world.
Stover says the Cosmos are very much on board with the European model of molding young talent. Playing in a country where the academy situation is still in its infancy, the Cosmos are hoping to take things a step further with the introduction of everything from younger age groups to a residency program.
“We hope to develop not only our stadium, but a state-of-the-art training facility that includes a residency program, a partnership with local schools in New York and being able to recruit, really, anywhere to get the best of the best,” Stover said. “Hopefully, those are local homegrown players in the New York metropolitan area, but there soothing to restrict us from players in other parts of the United States or even abroad, depending on the age group. That’s ultimately the goal.
“It’s going to take time to build the facilities that need to be done. It’s going to take time to build out the different age groups, but that’s the vision and that’s what’s really exciting about where we can take this club.”
Despite being very much in the middle of a long-term project, the vision remains very clear. The Cosmos’ goal is to push players into the U.S. national team program at every age group while developing talent that can someday step into the first team. According to Stover, the process isn’t just about developing young players for the team, but rather a national team program that is just now benefiting from a proper academy system.
To date, the Cosmos have had three players represent the club with a U.S. national team: Eric Calvillo, Alexis Velela and Haji Wright. The former two are fresh off of a trophy-winning performance at the Slovakia Cup with the U.S. U-19s, while the latter is currently in the process of beginning his European career with German Bundesliga club Schalke.
Stover is quick to state that the credit for those players’ recent successes should be credited to the youth teams that helped develop them at a young age. Now with the resources and approval to reach players at that age, Stover and the Cosmos are hoping to play a major role in developing the next crop of American international talent.
“You go through the application process for U.S. Soccer and believe in the vision that you’re going to be part of the solution to the challenge of having a national team that can win a World Cup,” Stover said. “I think in signing players like Haji Wright, Eric Calvillo, Alexis Velela, we’ve shown our commitment to players in that transitional, 17, 18, 19-year-olds — players that need an opportunity to be tested and pushed. I think there’s a belief within the academy system in U.S. Soccer that the people we have in our organization are the right kind of people to help them accomplish their goals.
“For our academy, going into the future, that’s absolutely what it’s about,” Stover added. “It’s getting young players into the national team in full and getting them onto our first team. Whether it’s through the B-team process or straight into the first team. That’s what this system has to be about.”