Minnesota United FC, New York City FC, LAFC and the Portland Timbers feature prominently in US Soccer’s sweeping new expansion of the Development Academy, the youth league that includes MLS academy teams and other top clubs across North America.
Announced Friday, the news marks the DA’s second-largest expansion in terms of total teams since it was founded in 2007. It includes 17 new member clubs accepted into the DA, 108 existing clubs receiving promotions into additional age groups and two new geographical regions – the Portland and Seattle markets – being introduced at the Under-13 and U-14 age groups.
A total of 165 additional teams, two new divisions and one newly-introduced age group have added for the DA’s 2017-2018 season, meaning that 3,000 boys players will be added into the development pathway over and above the 10,000-plus players competing in the current DA season. An additional 1,500 games will be played in 2017-2018 above and beyond the 8,000-plus total games this season.
“This expansion is a direct reflection of the commitment from existing Academy clubs and the permeating effect of the Academy influence on additional clubs across the country that are adopting the Academy philosophy,” said Development Academy director Jared Micklos in a US Soccer release. “When the Academy added 230 teams for the current 2016-2017 Academy season, our primary objective was to establish a base at the U-12 level. This early success at U-12 has created an opportunity to expand the player pathway, especially at the U-13 and U-14 age groups.”
Minnesota are entering the DA for the first time, and will begin with U-13 and U-14 teams (meaning boys born in 2004, 2005 and 2006). In future years the Loons will expand into the U-15, U-17 and U-19 age groups. With that in mind, MNUFC will partner with the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association (MYSA) promote and grow the state’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) as part of “improving and expanding the player pathway” for Minnesota’s most talented youth players.
NYCFC have taken a similar path since their inception, originally competing only in the DA’s lower age levels. Starting this fall, they will compete in all six age groups, meaning new U-12, U-13, U-15 and U-19 teams in addition to their current U-14 and U-16 squads. LAFC’s own measured growth sees the 2018 MLS expansion side field U-13 and U-14 DA teams next season after debuting in the U-12 division last year.
For the Timbers, DA expansion means additional teams in the younger age groups – fielded by the parent club as well as PTFC’s network of regional affiliates in Oregon and southern Washington – as the federation launches a major expansion in the US portion of Cascadia.
“Combined, these two markets [Oregon and Washington] currently have 17 teams participating at U-12. The recent success and player development efforts from the clubs in these markets are the driving forces behind the expansion,” stated US Soccer’s press release. “This growth expands the player pathway in the Northwest region, which will create additional opportunities for player development.”
FC Dallas (pictured above) are the defending champions in the DA's top two age divisions, the only ones which hold national championship events. At the start of the 2017-2018 Boys Development Academy season, the following age divisions will apply:
- U-18/19: eligible for players born Jan. 1, 1999 or later
- U-16/17: eligible for players born Jan. 1, 2001 or later
- U-15: eligible for players born Jan. 1, 2003 or later
- U-14: eligible for players born Jan. 1, 2004 or later
- U-13: eligible for players born Jan. 1, 2005 or later
- U-11/12: eligible for players born Jan. 1, 2006 or later