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Global Feb 09, 2012

Report: U.S. Soccer Dev. Academy to bar players from high school soccer

By Charles Boehm

It’s been rumored and discussed for months, and now it’s apparently set to become official policy: the U.S. Soccer Development Academy is set to institute a 10-month schedule that will require players to quit high school soccer if they want to take part in the nation’s top boys’ club league.

On Thursday veteran soccer journalist Michael Lewis reported on that U.S. Soccer is set to announce the new schedule on Friday. The move reflects the elite club community’s growing impatience with the drawbacks of high school play, and while the new policy may not come as a surprise, given how long it’s been considered and many top clubs around the country already follow such a schedule, federation officials are still bracing for substantial blowback from parents and players who still treasure school competition.

“It certainly will be controversial. It’s a hot topic, a hot topic,” one D.A. club official told Lewis, while nonetheless reiterating the importance of excluding high school play in favor of the greater technical and tactical development available in a top club environment.

“I think it’s a monumental situation for the U.S. player for the National Team,” said Lewis’ source. “It’s going to put them into training environment year round. It’s only going to make them stronger.”

High school sports remain deeply woven into the fabric of American life and Thursday’s news was greeted with dismay by some ex-players like U.S. Men’s National Team legends Tony Meola and Eric Wynalda.

“The rule kills the kids HS social culture in sports,” said Meola via his Twitter feed. “My [best] friend[s] still to this day are my HS teammates.”

Meola, who grew up in the soccer hotbed of Kearny, N.J., also recalled his memories of high-quality, well-attended high school matches against local rivals Harrison. His former World Cup teammate Wynalda also tweeted fondly about similar memories from his adolescence in Westlake Village, Calif.

“[H]ighschool soccer was awesome,” noted Wynalda. “Best time of my entire career. These kids will NOT become less of a player in 10 wks.”

The full implementation of a 10-month DA calendar is only the latest wrinkle in the club vs. high school debate, which is arguably the most prominent controversy in U.S. youth soccer today.

What do you think of this move? Potomac Soccer Wire wants to hear from you – please share your perspectives in the comments section below.

[ +Read Lewis’ full report here ]

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