California-based youth club LAFC announced over the weekend that it has ended its affiliation with the New York Cosmos.
The two sides joined forces last August to create Cosmos Academy West, which competed in the USSF Development Academy at the U-18 and U-16 levels and sought to give top players in Southern California a chance to play without paying club fees.
According to LAFC director of coaching Barry Ritson, the decision stems from the club wanting to stand alone and focus on the pay-to-play model.
“We just feel as though we would be better place for all players on the pay-to-play side, just to be grassroots, no bells and whistles,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We just want to go back to being a professionally run youth soccer club with the best interests of our kids at heart.”
In the past, LAFC has been one of the top-ranked youth soccer program in America, running 48 teams. They’ve previously held partnerships with English Premier League side Chelsea FC.
After the affiliation with the Cosmos began last year, some players were moved into the system under the oversight of Cosmos West director Teddy Chronopoulos.
Essentially, the two sides will go their separate ways, with the Cosmos looking to produce college and professional players and operate the Development Academy teams, while LAFC returns to the common pay-to-play model that made them successful in the past.
“We have no issues with the Cosmos; they were very, very good to us,” said Ritson. “They’ve created something in Southern California, which is a fully funded club for the kids to play in from nine years old through to the U-18 Academy.”
In a statement on their official website, the Cosmos explained that "this does not affect Cosmos Academy West in any manner … and [the club] will continue its membership in the United States Soccer Development Academy."
Ritson said ending the affiliation removes any possible distractions and that his club will strive to be the best youth program it can.
“LAFC’s created its national brand by being one of the best clubs in the country, so that’s what we’re going to focus on – to be the best pay-to-play club in the USA.”