One of the emerging trends in MLS is the affiliation of far-flung, established youth soccer clubs with growing MLS clubs.
Last week, FC Dallas joined the likes of Chicago, Houston and Columbus in that exercise, announcing a partnership with Emerald Coast United, officially launching FCD’s affiliate program.
A club already well-known for their early success in youth development — FC Dallas have signed six of their academy players to the first team — launching the affiliation with the Niceville, Fla.-based program is the next logical step.
“We looked to be associated with clubs that were philosophically the same,” Hunt Sports Group vice president Dan Hunt told MLSsoccer.com. “A lot of it came around by knowing the different coaches at the clubs and understanding that they had a very similar thought process to what we do at FC Dallas.”
The affiliation with Emerald Coast will be the first of its kind for Dallas and will include numerous benefits. The Florida club will now be called FC Dallas-Emerald Coast, wear the club’s jerseys and receive visits and tips from members of the technical staff to help progress in the youth development department.
“We’re here to help support them with our experience,” Hunt said.
The tie is just the beginning of what Hunt says will be a slow building process of affiliates around the country. Other Texas clubs in El Paso, Midland, Lubbock and San Antonio have already been targeted for partnership.
However, Hunt said there isn’t going to be any rush to link up with other clubs, and that if by the end of the year the number of affiliations stands at around three of four, then it’ll be good progress made.
“We want to slowly and thoughtfully build it,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s ever any magic number.”
Eskandarian named Philadelphia Union youth technical director
Former MLS forward Alecko Eskandarian will assume the role of youth technical director, the Union announced this week.
“I am extremely excited to join the Philadelphia Union family as it is a first-class organization from top to bottom with a passionate fan base,” Eskandarian said in a press release.
“Not only are the Union dedicated to being one of the top clubs in MLS today, they have placed a strong emphasis on building for the future. The foundation for a world-class youth academy is already in place, and I look forward to using my experience to help take it to the next level.”
The 28-year-old joins the Union after a stint as a volunteer assistant at the University of Virginia, his alma mater. He’ll work alongside assistant coach John Hackworth in overseeing the club’s academy system and will assist reserve coach Brandon Burke.
Dynamo place eighth in Netherlands tournament
With a 1-3-2 record during the three days of the 2011 Eurovoetbal Tournament, Houston Dynamo U-17s finished in eighth place out of 12 teams in the Dutch youth competition.
After opening the tournament with a 0-0 draw against PSV Eindhoven on June 11, the Dynamo played three shortened matches the day after — drawing Feyenoord 0-0, losing to Groningen 1-0, and beating Slavia Prague 1-0 to earn a spot in the seventh-place match.
On June 13, the U-17s wrapped up their stay with a 3-0 loss against Turkish side Galatasaray to finish in eighth.
The Dynamo Academy side will participate in the Development Academy playoffs starting at the end of June.
MLS Academies lock up playoff spots in Dev. Academy League
A total of nine MLS academy sides have officially clinched spots in the USSF Dev. Academy League playoffs by virtue of their division finish.
One weekend of action remains before the playoff field is officially set, with 12 teams in each age group qualifying via their average points per game.
The Seattle Sounders are one of a few teams in action this weekend, and it’s an important one for the U-18s. While Seattle’s U-16s have sealed first place in the Northwest Division already, the U-18s need to win or tie in their last game of the season against California Development Academy to grab first place in that division.
Should they achieve that on Saturday, Sounders FC will join D.C. United and Empire United in the rare group of clubs capturing a division title.
As it stands, six MLS clubs will send both their U-16s and U-18s to the playoffs. Along with Seattle and DC, the Columbus Crew, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and the Chicago Fire will compete for a Finals spot in June.
Sporting KC, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution look good to make it at the U-16 age group, while New York Red Bulls U-18s are also in via a second-place divisional finish.
Wild-card results will be officially taken into account after the final weekend, so last-minute changes are still possible. Playoffs begin June 24 in Frisco, Texas.
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark