Olney-Bethesda, Philly Union, Phoenix FC admitted to U.S. Soccer Development Academy
The U.S. Soccer Development Academy continues to expand in number and quality of competition as three elite clubs are joining the Academy starting in the 2013-14 season. Olney-Bethesda (Olney/West Bethesda, Md.), the Philadelphia Union (Wayne, Pa.) and Phoenix FC (Tempe, Ariz.) were selected following an extensive review process of the technical and programmatic aspect of each club.
“We are pleased to announce the addition of MLS club Philadelphia Union, Bethesda-Olney of Maryland and Phoenix FC as the three new expansion clubs to join the Development Academy for the 2013-14 season,” said U.S. Soccer Director of Scouting Tony Lepore in a press release.
“Over the past several years, the Union has dedicated a lot of time and resources to carefully research, build and implement a comprehensive youth player development system while working closely with their surrounding clubs.
“Both Bethesda SC and Olney BGC have a strong history of youth national team player development and high quality of training environment and age appropriate philosophy expected from a Development Academy club,” Lepore continued. “The addition of Phoenix FC as the second team from Arizona brings in a club with a strong commitment to resources, funding and technical leadership in an area that has seen early success from Real Salt Lake AZ over the past three seasons.”
Every Academy club will field teams at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups. Many will also field a team in the newly created U-13/14 age group, which kicks off later this year.
The partnership of Olney Soccer and Bethesda Soccer Club adds an additional Academy-based club in Maryland.
“We are honored U.S. Soccer has chosen Bethesda Soccer Club as an Academy Club due to our recognized success in player development, team success, Youth National Team representation and college placement,” stated Jonathon Colton, Bethesda SC’s Director of Coaching – Boys, in a club press release. “Our coaching staff is looking forward to the new challenge.”
Olney-Bethesda will play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
“OBGC Soccer is very excited and looking forward to this joint venture with Bethesda SC,” explained OBGC Director of Coaching – Boys Pete Wood. “Our vision at OBGC soccer has always been to give every player an opportunity to play at every level and also to maximize their potential; this partnership with Bethesda will now enable this to happen.”
Phoenix FC becomes the second Arizona-based team in the Academy at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 levels, joining Real Salt Lake AZ (Casa Grande, Ariz.). At the senior team level, Phoenix FC plays in USL PRO. The Academy side will play in the Southwest Division of the West Conference. Phoenix FC forward Donny Toia played for Real Salt Lake AZ’s Academy team and was the MLS club’s first homegrown signing in 2011.
The addition of the Philadelphia Union signifies the 18th Major League Soccer organization to be a part of the Development Academy system. Two current Academy clubs reside in Philadelphia: FC DELCO (West Chester, Pa.) and PA Classics (Manheim, Pa.). The Union Academy teams will compete in the Atlantic Division of the East Conference.
Philadelphia Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer, who played for FC DELCO’s U-15/16 team and was a part of U.S. Soccer’s U-17 Residency Program, was the Union’s first homegrown signing in 2010. Jimmy McLaughlin, also from FC DELCO, became the Union’s second homegrown player. In 2011, the Union signed 2011 U-17/18 Academy Player of the Year Cristhian Hernandez, formerly of PDA, as the organization’s third homegrown player.
Since its launch, the focus of the program has been to increase the amount of meaningful training sessions for elite players by lengthening the Academy season to 10 months for all clubs, limiting the number of games and working with coaches to appropriately plan Academy teams’ training schedules for one of the longest meaningful training schedules at any level of soccer in the country.