Top 95 Domestic Youth Soccer Clubs, 8,000 Players, Join Major League Soccer’s Elite Player Development Platform
Strategic objectives and competition format to be created in collaboration with Founding Member clubs
NEW YORK (May 13, 2020) – Major League Soccer today announced that 65 former U.S. Soccer Development Academy clubs will join the League’s existing club academies to create a partnership that will transform youth player development in the United States and Canada.
The 65 youth clubs will join the MLS academies as Founding Members of MLS’ elite player development platform. The new platform, which will include more than 8,000 players throughout the U.S. and Canada, 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.
The platform will operate with a groundbreaking governance structure that promotes collaboration, innovation and input across all areas of the soccer landscape. Within the structure, technical working groups will provide recommendations on the platform’s strategic objectives and standards, outline competition guidelines and formats, as well as introduce platform programming. By unifying the elite player development landscape and creating a collaborative structure, the new platform will accelerate and enhance player development in North America.
With a focus on maximizing each player’s potential, the new development platform will not only provide high-level, year-round competition for players, but will provide important programming, education and innovation in the key areas of player development:
“There is strong positive momentum and excitement among MLS club academies and elite academy clubs to co-create a platform that will deliver an unparalleled experience for the nation’s top players and clubs,” said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. “The development of professional and elite players requires a comprehensive and integrated approach, beyond just the competition format, and we are having daily conversations with academy clubs across the country who are committed to building that environment with us.”
Since launching the MLS club academy initiative in 2007, Major League Soccer has demonstrated unprecedented commitment to the development of top level professional players in the United States and Canada, including an investment of more than $70 million last season alone. This investment has produced more than 250 homegrown players that have become professional and national team players, including recent standout players such as Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas, Solar Soccer Club), James Sands (New York City FC academy, New York Soccer Club) and Matt Real (Philadelphia Union, FC Delco).
The elite academy clubs that are Founding Members of the new platform have also been leaders in the development of players for college, MLS and the national teams. Combined, MLS Academies and the elite academies joining the platform have produced more than 90% of the U.S. Youth National Team players in the last year, making the new platform the top destination for the best young players in North America.
With the launch of this new platform, MLS and the elite academy clubs will not only continue to develop world class players but will create a world class soccer development culture that supports and inspires elite players throughout the countries.
“The Sockers FC Chicago organization is excited about this great opportunity to collaborate with MLS, in the development of this new competition platform,” said David Richardson, Sockers FC Chicago Technical Director. “In our soccer communities we feel that our work as leaders of Elite Academies alongside the leaders of MLS Academies will help to shape a world-class soccer culture in our country. This will be a benefit to all that play, coach, referee, and support our game from the grassroots to the professional level.”
“Major League Soccer’s inclusive approach to the greater soccer market is the most exciting aspect of this movement,” said Ryan Miller, Portland Timbers Academy Director. "This new competition will continue to provide a platform for the top player development clubs in the country to get the most meaningful games. Elite player development requires the highest level of competition and this platform will provide that.”
Applications for additional clubs to join will be available in the coming weeks. More information about the competition structure as well as the platform’s official brand will be announced at a later date.
What They Are Saying
Albion SC San Diego – San Diego CA
"We could not be more ready and excited to be part of a legacy that will forever revolutionize American Soccer as we know it. To create the highest and best level of competition with standards and true measurables around producing players excites us. We expect to be a club that produces professional players year in and year out.” – Noah Gins, CEO/Executive Director
All City SC – Carlsbad, CA
“As the US Soccer Development Academy era comes to a close, City SC is delighted to be announced as one of the founding members of the newly formed MLS elite youth development platform.
We are aligned with the MLS in our vision to develop the next generation of professional and collegiate soccer players in this country. This league sits at the top of the elite youth player development pyramid and offers unrivaled opportunities for boys in North County San Diego.”
Ballistic United Soccer Club – Pleasonton, CA
“We are extremely excited, pleased and optimistic that the selection and participation of Ballistic United Soccer Club’s Development Academy into the new MLS player development academy platform will be the ideal pathway for our players in achieving the highest level of competition available in the nation. This will ultimately sharpen our young men’s abilities while providing opportunity for them to strive towards their goals and potentials. We are honored to be a part of the inaugural season of the MLS player development academy platform! – Jerry Losson, Director of Coaching
Barça Residency Academy – Casa Grande, AZ
“Barça Residency Academy is delighted to be a founding member of the elite youth development platform. With the USSDA dissolving this new league ensures that our players will continue to have the opportunity to compete at the highest level of youth soccer within the United States. As we prepare for the 2020-21 season we look forward to continuing our tradition of providing a top level professional residency academy environment for our players and continue pushing them onto the collegiate, professional and national team levels while competing with other top clubs across the country."
Bayside FC – 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, Academy Director
Beachside of Connecticut SC – Norwalk, CT
“The conversation and collaboration that has and will continue to take place is transformational and a game changing moment for youth soccer development in our country. This MLS elite youth development platform that has transpired from these discussions and cooperation will influence the whole landscape of youth soccer from bottom to top. With the leadership and support of Major League Soccer, and the contributions from grassroots clubs, we are finally on our way to truly becoming a soccer country.” – Mickey Kydes, Founder & Technical Director
Boston Bolts – Boston, MA
“The Boston Bolts develop exceptional soccer players who are prepared to compete at the highest levels, collegiate, national or professional. This newly formed league provides the platform that challenges players day in day out to be the best. Those with aspirations to become a future MLS All-Star are provided a platform to be the best and play against the best to fulfill their dreams. As a founding member it gives the Bolts staff an opportunity to exchange ideas with like-minded professionals who share the same philosophy about player development. It gives us an opportunity 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.”
Breakers FC – Santa Cruz, CA
“Being part of the MLS family and a founding member of the MLS elite youth development platform is something special! We strongly believe that this new collaboration between the MLS Academies and the Elite Academies will accelerate the development of the players and will raise the level of the game in North America. Thanks to the organization and professionalism of MLS, this new initiative is now the best platform for player development in the US: it provides a professional pathway as well as a pathway for future college players.” – Paolo Carbone, Breakers FC Director
BW Gottschee – Queens, NY
“BW Gottschee is excited to participate in the new MLS national platform highlighting a players first approach. The league will uphold the highest standards and principles, which will all align with our long-standing history of player development. This will be the highest level of competition in the US. Our players are looking forward to the challenge and opportunity.”
Cedar Stars Academy – Bergen, NJ
"Cedar Stars Academy - Bergen is very excited to be part of the elite youth development platform. I think this platform will allow us to compete at the highest level of youth soccer within the United States. We strive for competition for our players and I believe this league will undoubtedly give us that. We are proud to be founding member and look forward to collaborating with other like-minded clubs to develop the next crop of professional and collegiate players."
Cedar Stars Academy – Monmouth, NJ
"Cedar Stars Academy – Monmouth is very excited to be part of MLS’s elite youth development platform as a founding member. This league will allow our players to compete at the highest level of youth soccer in the US and we look forward to working closely with like-minded clubs to develop the next generations of professional and collegiate players.” – Phil Swenda, Academy Director
Chargers SC – Tampa Bay, FL
“Chargers SC is extremely excited to join the new MLS player development initiative. We have been with the USDA since the very beginning, we were the 7th Club invited to join thirteen years ago, in what was arguably the best youth league in the history of soccer in the US, it was a major step forward. Now we strongly feel that this new elite youth soccer platform will take us a step further, this will be a historical, revolutionary change that will put our Club and the game in the U.S. at a different level and will provide our top players a pathway to a professional career.” – Roberto Lopez, Academy Director
Chicago FC United – Chicago, IL
“Chicago FC United could not be more proud or excited to enter the inaugural season of the elite youth development platform as a founding member. Our club, staff, players and families look forward to participating in this new competition platform and testing our best against the very best players in the country. I would like to thank the leadership of the MLS, MLS Academy's and the Elite Club Academy's for their vision, courage and collaboration in developing this game changing development platform for high level youth soccer in this country."
Chula Vista FC – Chula Vista, CA
“We are excited to join a new platform that will be more inclusive and solely focus on elite player development with extremely high standards.”
Cincinnati United Premier (CUP) – Cincinnati, OH
“We are humbled to be a founding member of the MLS elite youth development platform. One pillar of our philosophy of development includes a club-based league model that allows players the opportunity to express themselves in a highly competitive environment, and we feel that this platform will allow us to continue providing top-tier competition and an ideal developmental environment for our elite players.” – Scott Bower, Technical Director
Empire United – Rochester, NY
"Under the new guidance of MLS, our coaches, support staff, and ultimately our families here at Empire United are extremely excited for the future of player development in this country. We are proud to represent Western New York at the highest level of youth soccer in the United States. Competing every weekend against MLS-youth opposition and the top like-minded amateur clubs is an essential piece to the player development cycle. With the platform and resources provided to us by MLS, the training environments and playing standards in this country will continue to improve exponentially. MLS and their desire for a collaborative approach represents their desire to push the envelope of improvement and inclusion and we couldn't be more excited about the future.” – Rory Charcholla, Boys Academy Director
FC DELCO – Conshohocken, PA
"We always strive to challenge our players in the highest level of competition and we are excited to join the MLS Elite Youth Development League.” – Rob Elliott, General Manager
IMG Academy – Bradenton, FL
"IMG Academy is proud to be a founding member of the newly formed MLS elite youth development platform which brings together the best MLS Academies and Elite youth clubs throughout the nation. This unique development platform aligns with our Academy philosophy that is player focused, coach driven and club led. We are excited to partner with the MLS and the other Elite Academies as we strive to support the growth and development of our outstanding pool of players. IMG Academy Soccer delivers a residential ten-month holistic development program that is focused on supporting our student-athletes in their pursuit of their soccer, academic, and personal goals.”
Internationals Soccer Club – Cleveland, OH
"We are extremely honored and excited about the new league of elite programs from around the country. Working in conjunction with MLS will allow clubs to continue to keep player development at the forefront of how we grow our sport. It is amazing how clubs from around the country have banded together to ensure that our players can continue to compete at the highest level possible on a regular basis."
LA Surf Soccer Club – Pasadena, CA
" We are incredibly excited to join the new Major League Soccer player development initiative as founding members of this new league.
By bringing together some of the nation's top talents and funneling them toward a professional pathway, we are confident that we are aligning our country's most talented players with the best possible pathway by connecting directly to MLS. In this way, we are confident that our young men will thrive under the new umbrella, but most importantly develop their ability to potentially become professionals in America's top soccer competition.
For us as a country to have one of the top leagues in the world in MLS, we need to have our very own young players develop in better ways. At Los Angeles Surf, we're excited to be a founding member and partner in this project to ensure that we are doing just that, having the best players and best coaches working together toward a pro pathway.” – Radames Lafaurie, Program Director
LA United Football Academy (LAUFA) – Los Angeles, CA
“LAUFA is grateful for this opportunity to be part of the new elite youth development platform. We embrace the responsibility that this brings, we are honored to join this competition as a founding member...we look forward to growing with MLS and other elite academies as partners.” – Martin Vasquez, Academy Director
Lanier Soccer Association – Gainesville, GA
"I am very excited to be part of this new league and new efforts to develop players across the nation. MLS is a young league that has taken giant steps to become a top league around the world. I am looking forward to helping develop the next top talent" – Jonathan Cueva, Executive Director
Metropolitan Oval – Queens, NY
"The goal of MLS and Elite Academies is aligned to create the premier platform for the development of world class youth players. By providing a bespoke pathway to the professional game, this union will kick off a new era in elite talent development." – Jeffrey Saunders, Sporting Director
Miami Rush Kendall SC – Miami, FL
"The creation of this new elite youth development program will be remembered as the most valuable win for soccer in the USA!” – Raul Renatto Soriano, Technical Director
Michigan Wolves – Livonia, MI
"The Michigan Wolves Soccer Club is very excited to become a founding member of this new elite youth development platform. We believe that this new competition will empower us to more fully realize our mission of preparing players for their next steps in soccer—and in life.” – Lars Richter, Academy Director
Murrieta Surf Soccer Club – Murrieta, CA
"We are delighted that Major League Soccer, a world recognized global brand which has seen incredible growth and success at the professional level, can now also help change the landscape of all youth soccer development programs in a way that will truly revolutionize youth development here in the USA".
New England Football Club (NEFC) – New England
"We are working towards teaching and inspiring the next generation of players who will set the standard for our region and country. Our commitment and mission of creating an elite developmental environment is the ultimate goal for our staff and players throughout NEFC's programs. Our mission, to develop players for their next level, is the core tenet of our club. NEFC promotes players from within, from the grassroots level through their college of choice and into the professional pathway environment through our relationship with the New England Revolution. NEFC is excited to be a part of this new chapter within the MLS structure.”
Nomads Soccer Club – La Jolla, CA
" Nomads Soccer Club can assure our Players/Families and friends that this league will be the place to play "For Those Serious About Soccer".
Nomads believe that the environment created by MLS will be one of the best Programs in the World. Nomads are excited for Soccer here in the USA. After 13 Years nobody could deny it, "It was great a true Elite Player League" said Technical Director David Armstrong. MLS are willing to work with all academies on strategy and leadership. The Pathway to the Pro Game is important to our players here in the USA. This will also be the place to be for College Players who aspire to play Division 1 Soccer. The USSDA Academy provided a great platform and exposure for Serious Student/Athletes who aspire to play for D1 Colleges. We have the same expectations for this League. The Nomads was a leader in 2007 working diligently to support US Soccer in creating a world class environment for elite players. Nomads Soccer Club are delighted with the decision by MLS to take over leadership in this new landscape. MLS will provide a Governing Body, League Platform, Administration and Leadership.” – David Armstrong, Technical Director
Orlando City SC – Orlando, FL
“I believe we are going to change once and for all the development of players in this country with the new platform. The decision from MLS to continue what USSF started and get it to the next level is paramount on the future of our sport.” – Marcelo Neveleff, Academy Director
Phoenix Rising Football Club – Phoenix, AZ
"All of us at Phoenix Rising FC are incredibly honored and excited to be announced, and compete, as a founding member of the MLS elite youth development platform.
We have always expressed our desire to provide the very best practices in elite player development through the Phoenix Rising FC Professional Academy, and this platform will enable us to do so by competing at the highest level of youth soccer possible, and further improve the PRFC Professional Player Pathway.
It is tremendously important that professional clubs lead the education and development of elite young players, and as a high performing professional club we, at Phoenix Rising FC, are very confident that we will provide the very best culture, learning environment and methodology in order to expedite the development of our young players and their teams. Our whole club commitment to elite player development will provide outstanding opportunities and experiences for the dedicated and ambitious soccer player.
Through each player’s hard work, we will maximize their playing abilities, and in doing so, will give our young homegrown players the chance to compete at the professional level in the future, and hopefully with Phoenix Rising FC.” – Steve Cook, Director of Soccer Development
Real Salt Lake – Salt Lake City, UT
"We are delighted to be part of the new MLS elite youth league and look forward to continuing to develop homegrown players to represent, both Club and Country.” – Tom Spall, Academy Director
Real Salt Lake-Arizona – Tempe, AZ
"We are very excited to be a founding member in the MLS’s new elite youth development platform. In this tumultuous time in youth soccer, MLS has picked up the torch and we at Real Salt Lake - Arizona are excited to be one of the clubs leading the way with them.”
RISE Soccer Club – Missouri City, TX
"RISE is proud to have been named a founding member club in the new MLS elite youth development platform. As a club and an academy, we feel it is important for our top players to consistently play with and against the best players, teams and clubs in the country. We look forward to partnering with the other founding member clubs to create an unparalleled environment focused on player development and providing opportunities for the next generation of elite level players in the US" – Jon Burklo, Director
SC del Sol – Scottsdale, AZ
"SC del Sol is incredibly excited and proud to be one of the founding members of the new MLS elite youth competition platform. It is inspiring to hear that Major League Soccer is deeply committed to developing world-class players through this elite competitive pathway for youth players. This will ensure that SC del Sol players will continue to have the opportunity to participate in, and develop at, the highest levels of youth competition in the U.S. and Canada. We are convinced that this new MLS elite environment will continue to elevate our players, staff, and teams to be their very best while showcasing them against some of the best teams in the country. We will strive to keep our feet firmly on the ground, whilst continuing to work hard, and we will embrace this new platform with open arms". – Pete Leebrook, Academy Director
Seacoast United – Hampton, NH
"Seacoast United is excited to be a part of the elite youth development platform, under the guidance of MLS leadership. This gives our players the opportunity to continue to play at the elite level of the youth game in this country, competing against the top programs, both MLS & non-MLS on a Regional & National Platform. We firmly believe this will continue to challenge our players in order to maximize their potential. As a founding member of the league, we are excited to work with like-minded professionals, with the major focus being centered around maximizing player development in the US. The collaboration between clubs from all over the country & MLS leadership has been fantastic and welcoming. We firmly believe the new league will continue to raise the bar of the elite youth game in this country and we are thrilled to be part of the new venture.”
Shattuck-St. Mary’s – Faribault, MN
“Shattuck-St. Mary’s is excited about the next evolution of youth soccer development, believing that the elite youth development platform will see our next generation of player emerge as the collective-best yet. The leadership of MLS has swept in with authority, humility and vision creating an environment of collaboration and trust. This in turn has created a new level of excitement for what lies ahead for our youth and for our clubs as we cooperatively seek to further this game and the joy that can come from playing it.”
Silicon Valley Soccer Academy (SVSA) – Redwood City, CA
“Here at SVSA we are honored to come into the league as founding members. This new league will allow our players to continue playing against the top competition in the country against MLS academies and the top non-MLS academies in the country. Our players always want to be tested against the best and this will allow for these challenges to still be a possibility for them" – Gerson Perez, Academy Director
"En SVSA, es un honor poder entrar a esta liga como un miembro fundador de este proyecto. Esta liga le dará la oportunidad a nuestros jugadores de seguir jugando contra los mejores equipos MLS y los mejores clubes del todo el país y de nuestra region. Nuestros jugadores siempre quieren jugar contra lo mejores y esta liga le seguirá dando estos retos a nuestros jugadores” – Gerson Perez, Director de SVSA
Sockers FC Chicago – Chicago, IL
“The Sockers FC Chicago organization is excited about this great opportunity to collaborate with MLS, in the development of this new competition platform. In our soccer communities we feel that our work as leaders of Elite Academies alongside the leaders of MLS Academies will help to shape a World Class soccer culture in our country. This will be a benefit to all that play, coach, referee, and support our game from the grassroots to the professional level.” – David Richardson, Technical Director
South Florida Football Academy – Boca Raton, FL
“Our entire organization here at South Florida Football Academy is extremely excited and proud to become one of the Founding Members of the new MLS elite youth development platform.
I am so grateful to MLS for taking this bold step and establishing a youth development platform that offers a clear pathway to a professional playing career for elite youth soccer players in the United States both in MLS and non-MLS Academy clubs.
I feel that this new MLS platform will be pivotal in dramatically improving the landscape of youth soccer and will put our professional league fully in charge of elite player development for the first time in time in the history of our country. As a former US Olympic and World Cup National Team member and long-time youth coach, I could not be more excited about the future of player development in the USA!" – Eric Eichmann, Academy Director
Southern Soccer Academy – Marietta, GA
“Southern Soccer Academy is excited to be a founding member of the MLS elite youth development platform. This Platform will provide fantastic opportunities for our players, staff and community. The growth and development of our players is always at the heart of our mission statement and the new platform will give our players a professional pathway and an elite player pathway for our future college bound players.
We are looking forward to exciting times ahead for United States youth development after the creation of this new competition.”
Tampa Bay United Rowdies – Tampa Bay, FL
“Our club is extremely honored to be one of the founding members of the elite youth development platform. We know that all of the clubs in this new competition will work together to provide a platform for youth development that will be highly respected throughout the country and we are excited to be a part of it. "
Total Futbol Academy – Los Angeles, CA
“Total Futbol Academy is excited to join the MLS Elite Youth Development platform. We are looking forward to initiatives and collaboration with other clubs to create opportunity and exposure at an elite level. Founded in 1999, the club has always kept its mission, initiative and core values to provide a pathway for all players to higher education.”
TSF Academy – Wayne, NJ
“Under the new platform created by Major League Soccer and guidance, we can only see a huge benefit for our players in their overall development. The level of competition in our region has always provided good challenges but we feel the new platform will create a genuine purpose and drive behind competition – leading to the challenges that the players need to face in their development.
We are extremely excited to be among one of the founding members and make sure the next generation of players in our community are given a genuine platform, opportunity and platform to both perform and compete.
There has always been such huge potential for soccer in this country, but I truly believe that with all the good people involved in helping move quickly to put this platform together, the support of Major League Soccer and those genuinely invested in player development, the future is bright and we are looking forward to getting underway in this new competition." – Lee Bakewell, Technical Director
Vardar Soccer Club – Rochester Hills, MI
“Vardar Soccer Club is proud to be a founding member of this new and exciting elite youth development platform. Over the last 35 years we have taken great pride in developing Michigan’s finest collegiate and professional soccer players, and we are certain this competition helps us continue that tradition.
From our initial discussions with the members within our region, it became apparent that this platform takes into consideration all facets of a player’s environment including the impact to their families, coaches, and clubs. Playing against the best talent in the region each week and playing more games is a welcome change which is exciting for the players and staff. We feel this holistic approach, will both promote individual growth and heighten the overall experience of being an elite soccer player in the United States.
As a founding member we feel we have a responsibility to uphold the highest standards in the country so we can help promote our game, attract top talent, and guide them in their journeys. This new platform allows for continuity in uncertain times and we are thankful that our members, families, and players will have a voice in the evolution of this new endeavor so we can move forward together.” – Morris Lupenec, Director
Ventura County Fusion – Ventura, CA
“We are going to be facing some of the best teams in the country including MLS Academy competition as well as foreign competition. This league provides a great testing tool for our players showcasing themselves and we want to see how they respond in the most difficult environments and this is going to create that. This is great for youth soccer in the USA as it will help develop the next generation of breaking talent in America.”
West Florida Flames – Tarpon Springs, FL
“We are extremely excited for the creation of this unique youth soccer platform by a world class organization in MLS. The ability for our club, staff and members to continue in a competition platform that fits our developmental philosophy, core values and player development model will be a tremendous pathway, not only for our players, but for those across the country.” – Academy Director, Jorge Zavala.
Weston FC – Weston, FL
“This new platform created by the MLS will elevate the level of every soccer club involved and will develop players that will be able to reach the highest level of soccer.” – Luis Mendoza, Technical Director