MLS Expands Membership of Elite Youth Development Platform, Announces Groundbreaking Governance Structure
Over 11,000 players across 113 clubs and 6 age groups set to participate in platform;
Governance structure to feature equitable representation between MLS and elite academies
NEW YORK (August 4, 2020) – Major League Soccer today announced a groundbreaking governance structure of its newly created elite youth development platform along with the expansion of 19 additional youth soccer clubs into the platform. The competition will encompass over 11,000 players across 113 clubs and six age groups, including 30 professional MLS academies, 5 USL academies and 78 additional elite academies.
The platform will feature competition across six age groups: U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-19. The full list of member clubs can be found HERE.
“The spirit of this platform is ensuring representation across the entire soccer landscape and at every level of the governance structure. Seeking input from all members and catering to players from diverse backgrounds is at the core of this platform. We are excited to welcome these academies and thousands of elite players to join our Founding Members in this competition with the first stage of expansion and look forward to additional expansion in the years to come,” said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development.
The elite player development platform’s groundbreaking governance structure promotes collaboration, innovation and input with representation from MLS academies and other elite youth academies. The platform will feature four tiers of governance: Executive Committee, Working Groups, Conference Chairs and Divisions.
CLICK HERE for an image of the governance structure breakdown.
Conference Chair leaders within the governance structure will serve as representatives for all clubs within their respective governance Divisions. Likewise, leaders within each of the five Working Groups will be tasked with submitting recommendations and policies on behalf of all member clubs to the Executive Committee, Platform Management, and MLS League Office for implementation into the platform. The Executive Committee will have representation from MLS and other elite academy technical leaders.
The list of Working Group and Conference Chair Members can be found HERE.
“For this first wave of new club expansion, we wanted to focus on finding clubs that are working to instill proper weekly development and quality competition as players embark on elite and professional pathways. It’s important that we familiarize players with regional competition at the earliest ages and re-establish the importance of small clubs prioritizing quality of development over quantity of players,” said Lipka.
Last month MLS opened applications to youth academies interested in joining the development platform, and following more than 75 hours of interviews, the MLS Player Development Department admitted 19 additional academies. Applicants were considered based on geographical considerations, and evaluated on their inclusivity of players from all backgrounds and commitment to the highest level of player development standards, including:
Player Identification (Pro Pathway, Player Sourcing Strategy, History of Player Development - National Team or Collegiate)
Club Player Development Philosophy and Methodology
Consistency and Relevancy of Coaches and Technical Staff Standards and Club Projects
Development and Performance Environment
The new platform will consist of elite year-round competition, as well as player identification initiatives, coaching education opportunities, and additional programming to create the premier player development environment.
More information about the competition schedule as well as the platform’s official brand will be announced at a later date.
What They Are Saying – Expansion Clubs
Achilles FC – Washington, D.C.
“Achilles FC is thankful for the creation of the MLS Elite Youth Development platform. Our players and coaches are excited for the opportunity to compete with and against the highest level of players and coaches in the country. We are hopeful this is a big step in the right direction for youth soccer in America.” – Sal Caccavale, CEO & Founder
Alexandria Soccer Association – Alexandria, VA
"Alexandria Soccer is thrilled to join an incredible group of clubs from across the country as part of MLS elite youth development platform for the 2020-2021 season. The platform will provide our players a great opportunity to compete against other high-caliber teams and our coaches to become even better teachers within the game and training environments. We are excited about building on our partnership with the local professional team, D.C. United and Major League Soccer. We also look forward to fostering relationships with other clubs within elite youth development platform as we aim to develop, compete, and grow Alexandria Soccer players to reach their highest level both on and off the field." – Chris Arnold, Deputy Director, Academy & Futsal Programs.
Bayside Futebol Club – East Providence, RI
“Bayside FC is excited for the opportunity to partner and collaborate with Major League Soccer and like-minded clubs to enhance player development in the United States. This platform will provide our players a professional and competitive environment on a daily basis that will maximize their development. The professionalism and high standard MLS will provide for the league will be second to none.” – John Mark Andrade, President
Black Watch Premier Albany (BWP) – Albany, NY
"BWP Albany is thrilled to receive acceptance into the MLS elite youth development platform. We feel strongly that the new competition will afford our players and staff the information and standards necessary to enhance and heighten player performance and development over time. MLS and its expanded role in youth development and programming will have profound impacts on players and technical staffing throughout our country." – Steve Freeman, Academy Director
FC Bay Area – San Jose, CA
“We are very excited and honored to be accepted to the inaugural season of the new MLS league. We have worked very hard over the past several years to develop players for the next level. The national playing platform MLS is providing will allow our players to grow and compete against the top players in the country. Our club will continue to focus on our players and helping them to reach their highest potential.” – Heath Piper, General Manager
Houston Dynamo Unidos – Houston, TX
“We are very excited to join this new elite league and provide our player base the opportunity to play at this level! Our number one priority has always been the development of our players both, on and off the field and competing with top programs in such platforms is instrumental to that.” – Alex Cardenas, Boys Academy Director
Inter Atlanta FC – Atlanta, GA
“Inter Atlanta FC is excited to be a part of something bigger than itself in the soccer landscape within our region. We are honored to have been accepted into the MLS elite youth development platform which will continue to allow us to focus on player development and provide a pathway for our players to reach the next level. This new and refreshing league model offers teams across the region the chance to compete against other top teams, as well as compete against the MLS Academy teams. The Platform focuses on a holistic club development model that helps the player, coach, team, club, and community.” – Matt Busch, Academy Director
Javanon FC – Louisville, KY
“I believe that this new platform will help push soccer in this country to new levels. The year-round, high-level competition, along with the player development and exposure to the MLS culture and methodology, will benefit our players who want to compete against the best.” – Juan Carlos Carreras Domingo, Technical Director
Lamorinda Soccer Club – Clovis, CA
“Here at Lamorinda Soccer Club, we take great pride in our responsibility to evolve, learn, teach, serve, and pursue individual and player development for all of our Club's members. We are thrilled to join MLS’s elite youth development platform and we are excited for Lamorinda SC to be a part of the top boys’ player development and competition platform in the country. I would like to thank the MLS selection committee, our LMSC alumni, coaches, players, and parents for giving our club this opportunity. We are excited for what the future holds, and we look forward to working with our partners in the MLS elite youth development platform and getting back on the field.” – Mohamed Mohamed, Academy Director
Las Vegas Sports Academy (LVSA) – Las Vegas, NV *2021 expansion club
"We are excited to be part of the new elite player development platform between MLS and elite academy clubs such as Las Vegas Sports Academy. To receive input from MLS clubs, U.S. Soccer and the College Coaches Committee, will be invaluable to our players. The pathway for Las Vegas Sports Academy to the professional level for our elite players has never been clearer. This new competition platform will assist in our player development and accelerate their growth on and off the field." – Jim Rasmussen, Director
Michigan Jaguars – Detroit, MI
"We are extremely excited to be joining Major League Soccer's elite youth development platform. The structure of the platform fits really well with our own Player Development Plan allowing us to focus on what's truly best for our players growth. We also look forward to the quality games, additional exposure and exchanging of ideas as we continue to try and create an environment that benefits our player's development." – Pete Pososki, Technical Director
Midwest United FC – Grand Rapids, Michigan
“We are thrilled to be joining the elite youth development platform. To be a part of such a high-level national league platform led by MLS and partnered with some fantastic clubs is a privilege and we can’t wait to begin. We know that with our consistent 10-month training plan and top weekly competition aligned with the top academies in the country, our players will receive the best support possible. We are excited to continue to grow soccer in West Michigan and help support and improve the MLS elite youth development platform at the national level." – Lewis Robinson, Director of Coaching
Napa United – Napa, CA
“As Head of Soccer for Napa United I am incredibly excited to be one of only 4 expansion clubs joining the MLS youth platform in Northern California. This is a huge step forward for our soccer community and we look forward to the opportunities this will provide our players, coaches, and wider community.” – Gavin Taylor, Academy Director
Orlando City Youth Soccer Club – Sanford, FL
“This new opportunity will allow player development to go to the next level. Anytime you can create a league that allows the best players and coaches in the country to compete against each other you are creating an environment that only encourages player development. I expect this will only progress in a positive way as we work our way out of the pandemic.
“The players will be tested in all aspects of their game each and every week. This will allow them to showcase their abilities but also give them the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Playing against the best team’s week in, week out will take them to their soccer limits and they will have to create solutions to problems they face in each and every game.
“The impact on the players will be in a high-level learning environment each and every week. The staff will challenge the players to think on their feet and make creative decisions as we play the best teams from different areas of the state, and country.” – Phil Gordon, Senior Boys Director
Real Jersey FC – Medford, NJ
“We are extremely excited and honored that the MLS has accepted our program. We have worked very hard over the past several years to build a player pathway program for our players. The MLS program is another step in allowing our players to grow and continue their development. Our club will continue to focus on our players and helping them to reach their highest potential.” – Russell Aaronson, President
Sheriffs Fútbol Club – Oakland, CA
"We are grateful our club will have access and opportunity to compete at the highest level of youth soccer in our country. We look forward to working with and competing against other like-minded clubs as we identify, train and develop future generations of college and professional players. As a cost-free youth club, we appreciate all opportunities that enhance the development process of our players, and we are honored to have been selected to join the elite youth development platform for the inaugural season as it gives our players access to a new pathway." – Omar Cervantes, Academy Director
Springfield South County Youth Club (SYC) – Springfield, VA
“We are humbled and excited to be able to participate in the MLS elite youth development platform in the inaugural year. This newly formed league provides the platform that challenges players day-in and day-out to be the best. Those with aspirations to become a future MLS player are provided a platform to be the best and play against the best to fulfill their dreams. It gives us a chance to contribute to the continued growth and development of our elite youth players, to put more domestic talent into the nation’s highest professional league, MLS, and our national teams.” – Esteban Maldonado, Technical Director / Academy Director
Total Football Club – Houston, TX
“We are both excited and incredibly honored to be able to participate in the MLS elite youth development platform. We believe that this is the next step in player development in the United States. We feel the level of competition and consistent challenge is going to ensure player progress as well as offering a clear pathway into the professional game. We really believe that this platform is going to force everyone to raise their game and push the standards of soccer and player development to new heights”. – Sean Street, Director of Coaching