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Girls DA Mar 03, 2016

Washington Spirit land Larry Best, eyeing spot in Girls DA

FAIRFAX, Va. — Soccer Wire has learned that Larry Best, the director of coaching for girls at Northern Virginia youth powerhouse Braddock Road Youth Club’s Elite Academy, will head up the academy program for the Washington Spirit as the NWSL club looks to lay the groundwork for a U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy bid.

Previously focused on attaining sustainability for the National Women’s Soccer League, impressive results both on and off the field have team ownership groups finally looking well beyond survival, and squarely on establishing their own talent pipelines.

A national championship-winning youth coach and recipient of U.S. Youth Soccer’s 2012 National Competitive Coach of the Year award for girls, Best has helped groom a steady stream of top players and teams out of the Fairfax, Virginia-based BRYC.

+READ: National award winners and honorees named at US Youth Soccer Awards Gala

Taking the official title of “managing director” of the Spirit’s youth academy, Best will report to Spirit GM, head coach and technical director Jim Gabarra on Spirit matters, but will also continue his daily duties with BRYC.

While it’s not yet official, youth club insiders in the Washington, D.C. market see Best’s appointment as effectively confirmining the Spirit’s plans to apply for membership to U.S. Soccer’s new Girls Development Academy, which is set to launch in the fall of 2017.

SoccerWire understands that the Spirit have begun reaching out to multiple youth clubs — mostly in the Northern Virginia area — seeking to create formal player development alignments, presumably to build a pipeline that would spearhead the Spirit’s bid to land a GDA franchise.

+READ: Washington Spirit, Vienna Youth Soccer renew partnership

On Wednesday D.C. United announced a similar program, partnering with Arlington Soccer and Loudoun Soccer with plans to make United the ultimate destination for those clubs’ best male players once they reach the Under-14 age group.

U.S. Soccer officials have repeatedly mentioned establishing a professional player pipeline for NWSL as a main reason for the launch of the GDA. However, so far the Spirit have only fielded summer teams in USL’s Super-Y competition. Aligning with top youth clubs in the region would certainly speed plans towards fielding their own GDA teams.

If the Spirit were to create something with BRYC and others of similar quality along the lines of D.C. United’s model, they would likely move near the top of what will be a long list of applicant clubs expected to be vying for limited GDA franchises in the D.C. region.

Any joint application to the GDA would face stiff competition in an already saturated market of top girls soccer clubs, both in and out of the incumbent ECNL. The recently-announced Virginia Development Academy — a joint venture between PWSI, VSA, and CYA — is one of several clubs likely to be making strong cases for Girls DA inclusion.

+READ: U.S. Soccer officially announces Girls Development Academy

Loudoun Soccer, Arlington Soccer and Baltimore Armour would likely all be serious contenders as well, and that doesn’t even consider the prospects of existing ECNL clubs Maryland United, Bethesda, McLean, and FC Virginia also applying for Girls DA status for fear of being left out.

BRYC has a long history of developing elite players, including UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell, U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis and the legendary Mia Hamm, among others. The club has won over 80 Virginia Youth Soccer state championships, over 40 regional championships and four national championships.

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