The U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs, one of most-anticipated events of the youth soccer calendar each year, are right around the corner.
From June 17-25 in Oceanside, Calif., dozens of DA teams, coaches and players will convene as they get one step closer to being crowned national champions. All hold the goal of lifting a trophy in the knockout round, which arrives July 8-11 in Irvine, Calif.
Before then, the group-stage draw recently took place, sorting eight U-15 teams, 32 U-17 ones and as many U-19 ones following a 10-month season in seven divisions across the country.
Let’s take a look at the event, which often serves as a milestone moment in the journey for Homegrown Players and youth national team standouts.
Which MLS teams have qualified?
U-15 age group
Seven of the eight teams come from MLS academies, as the two groups of four were determined by seven division winners and one wild-card team as based on highest points per game:
- Group A: Toronto FC, Montreal Impact, Seattle Sounders
- Group B: Colorado Rapids, LAFC, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire
U-17 age group
Nearly half of the teams out in California come from MLS academies, as 14 of the 32 sides hail from the league. They were drawn as follows:
- Group A: FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps, Atlanta United
- Group B: Sporting Kansas City
- Group C: Montreal Impact, Seattle Sounders
- Group D: LA Galaxy
- Group E: Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake
- Group F: Philadelphia Union, New York City FC, Chicago Fire
- Group G: D.C. United, Orlando City
U-19 age group
There’s a 50-50 chance that an MLS team will win the U-19 division for the third time in as many years. Sixteen of the 32 teams come from the league.
- Group A: New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls
- Group B: Sporting Kansas City, Montreal Impact, Columbus Crew SC
- Group C: New York City FC, Toronto FC
- Group D: FC Dallas, Chicago Fire
- Group E: Vancouver Whitecaps
- Group F: San Jose Earthquakes, Philadelphia Union
- Group G: Orlando City, Seattle Sounders
- Group H: Real Salt Lake, Atlanta United
How do teams get here?
MLS and non-MLS academies begin their seasons around early September, with regular-season action carrying through the Winter Showcase, which is held annually in early December in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
After a two-month break, action picks back up in the springtime with an outlook on qualifying for year-end playoffs. Team are split into the Eastern, Central and Western Conferences, as well as seven divisions: Southwest, Northwest, Southeast, Atlantic, Northeast, Frontier and Mid-Atlantic.
When the regular season ends, the oldest two age groups (U-17, U-19) result in 21 automatic playoff berths and 11 wild-card spots. Both are spread across the divisions. Only divisional winners and one wild-card team advance for the U-15s.
The DA, founded in 2007, is in its 12th season of operation and has produced national champions from all across the country.
In all, the U-17 crown has been captured nine times by an MLS team, with the Seattle Sounders doing the honors in 2017-18 and FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy each doing so twice. At the U-19 age group, an MLS team has won five times, with New York City FC looking to repeat as champions. This will be the first year a U-15 champion is crowned.
Top-end DA players don’t always win a national championship, but there’s also a pretty decent track record on that front.
Last year’s U-17-winning Sounders team had recent Homegrown Player signing Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez up top. As for NYCFC’s title-winning team at the U-19 level, it featured Homegrown Players in midfielder Justin Haak, center back James Sands and right back Joseph Scally. They also had US Under-17 men's national team standout Gio Reyna.