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Cosmos academy vision taking shape after U.S. Soccer approves DA status

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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.”


  1. The Cosmos had to ask for permission? They are a PRO AMERICAN SOCCER TEAM!!!! What the hell do you mean they had to ask for permission to develop our youth? The system is F***ED!!!!!

    • They didn’t need permission to start a youth team/system. The needed the USSF to qualify their program for the USSF DA.

  2. The Academy program is flawed in so many ways:

    1. Ban on High School soccer.
    2. Academy programs are not required to have equivalent girls/female teams (???).
    3. Outside MLS (and perhaps NASL) academy programs,…it’s really just pay-to-play.
    4. USSF and the Academy program mock college soccer,…but guess what they sell to parents who are asked to fork over big bucks to play at an academy,….”your son will get a soccer scholarship to a Div. I college program!”
    5. Academy’s fail to point out to uninformed parents (suckers) that soccer scholarships are limited and many are offered to non-US/foreign players and that the majority of Academy player do not get scholarships. Sound like a scam?

    Take a wild guess what prominent USSF figure agrees with all of the above? Pat on the head for the first correct answer.

    • I think the NASL is great for the growth of soccer in this country and an important “second division” to MLS (even if they don’t publicly acknowledge that’s what they are). Where I struggle is (1) Cosmos, for all its aspirations for world domination, should be striving to land a seat at the big table instead of acting like MLS doesn’t exist, and (2) I don’t mind NASL articles, but the inordinate number of articles about the Cosmos is kinda nuts.

  3. There are currently 74 teams at the DA 17/18 age bracket with a average of 25 players per team for 1850 players. How many of those 1850 players will ever play for the US or play for a pro team….20-30 and 100-200 with the rest getting their college education?

  4. It does crack me up that they have to get approval from US soccer. As if they have some sort of tract record of success. Hilarious.

  5. Would be curious to read more about modeling academies. In particular, what is Europe doing that, for example, Argentina or Brazil are not? Clearly, great players come from there too. I’m unedumacated about such things.

  6. Regardless of how pro NASL Sbi might seem or how delusional Cosmos may be, more developmental academies who care about making players better instead of pay to play is a good thing. No doubt there is a financial piece to it as Cosmos will be able to reap the benefit of eventual transfer.

  7. These Cosmos pieces are bonkers.

    You can write my comment off as a disgruntled downer. But I am an example of a reader who used to visit the site much more frequently in years past. To the extent you guys care about this traffic, there are some of us who visit less due to these seemingly paid promotional pieces.

    • these seemingly paid promotional pieces

      I am curious if SBI has ever or will ever address this to debunk or admit this allegation that’s becoming more prevalent (with some reasonable suspicion).

  8. On the one hand, I always welcome teams in the U.S. growing strong youth academies. I think everyone agrees that is where we are lacking as a country in order to become a truly great soccer nation. We have taken good strides in the past 5-10 years as a whole.

    On the other hand, unless Cosmos somehow eventually gains admission to MLS, its ceiling is being NASL champs (and, conceivably, concacaf champs), but will continue to be irrelevant to the overall American soccer scene. Even if their academy starts producing players that feature on the USMNT senior team, most people won’t take this team seriously.

    We see so many articles about Cosmos; I’d love to read an SBI interview with Cosmos leadership where the question is posed: “What is your ultimate goal? Have you attempted to join MLS and, if not, why not?”

    • If you listen to Cosmos fans, their team is already too good for MLS. Reality and Cosmos don’t mix too often.

      As for the academy, this is good news. We need all hands on deck when it comes to developing young players. And in other countries, lower league clubs like Cosmos sometimes have some of the top academies.

      • True, true, true. A 12 year old should not be thinking about playing for the first team of one of the top teams in the country. They should be thinking about earning time against pros and winning things in lower divisions. Hallelujah, these lower leagues are finally developing!!!

    • Just because they are developing youngsters, doesn’t mean those youngsters are stuck going to Cosmos first team. Anyone with enough talent will be sold to higher leagues. It’s sort of a cementing of their D2/3 status. Like they’ve done buying up youngsters from other organizations, training them, and then selling them on. This is nothing buy good news for US soccer as a whole. And hopefully more NASL teams make this a focus as well.

      • The Cosmos won’t be able to sell these academy kids, unless they sign them to a professional contract first. Basically, these academy kids are free to go anywhere they want, with the buyer not paying any transfer fee. But if you can sign some of these kids to the pro team and then sell one or two every so often, you can pay for the academy.

        The article is a little unclear as to whether the Cosmos academy will or will not be “pay to play”. I’m assuming that it will not be “pay to play”, which will give the Cosmos a big advantage over the other local academies that currently are still “pay to play”.

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