As first team struggles, New England academy shines

Diego Fagundez

Photo Credit: 
New England Revolution

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – While the New England Revolution’s first team continues to struggle as the season winds to a close, the Revolution academy has received a boost as it starts to prepare for its fourth campaign.

New England's youth development program recently garnered a 3.5-star rating from US Soccer and now ranks among the top eight Development Academy clubs, according to an extensive report released by the federation earlier this week.

“We expect to do well [with our academy program],” Revolution director of youth development Bryan Scales told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday. “There's no doubt about it. We expect to do this the right way. I know that [Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns] does and I expect our staff and our players to do this the proper way. [The report] does give us a good gauge as to where we are right now, knowing that we need to push on from here.”

US Soccer administrators applied seven specific criteria – administration, facilities, funding, player development, respect for the game, style of play and training environment – to assign a rating (from one to five stars) to each of the 78 Development Academy clubs.

FC Dallas – a club with a host of Home Grown Players included in their first team – took top honors with the lone 4-star mark awarded, but New England featured among a group of seven clubs (including New York) at the next notch down on the scale.

The public introduction of the previously private process should help to spur Development Academy sides forward as they attempt to build their programs, according to Scales.

“I think it's an important step for all of the clubs in the [Development Academy] – and for soccer in this country – to constantly evaluate their own academies and to constantly be evaluated by US Soccer,” Scales said. “At the end of the day, I think it's a good thing.”

The positive piece of recognition won't stop the Revs from striving to enhance their setup over the next few years. The focus remains on cultivating players like Diego Fagundez for the first team squad and offering opportunities for players to progress within the club, but on-field success offers a tempting secondary objective as well.

“I think we're happy with where we are at this stage and with this evaluation, but we definitely have a lot of work to do,” Scales said.