Q&A with Sr. Director, Youth League Development Jason Arnold
Super Y-League Feature
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
With the 2012 edition of the Super Y-League North American Finals set to mark the youth soccer showcase event’s 13th consecutive year, anticipation is growing. While the tournament has grown from its humble roots to more than 130 annual participating teams, the SYL continually strives to enhance the experience for everyone involved. For the 10,000 players, coaches, fans, and scouts headed to Florida this December... a brand new experience awaits.
USL has been blazing the trail for “what’s next” in domestic elite youth soccer since the establishment of the SYL (1999), and the naming of Jason Arnold as Senior Director of Youth League Development in April of this year was yet another step in the process. A three-time NCAA College Cup final four participant with the University of Maryland, Jason also won a youth national championship with the Braddock Road (Va.) Warhawks and has firsthand knowledge of the intricacies of youth soccer in North America.
Since being appointed, Arnold has re-tooled the department and placed significant focus on the North American Finals. Working closely with USL management, the league announced in May that it had entered into a three-year agreement with IMG Academy for the Bradenton, Fla.-based sports campus to host the Super Y-League and Super-20 League North American Finals.
The multi-sport IMG Academy has been the home of the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program since its launch in 1999 and attracts many MLS clubs to its world-class facilities for winter training each year
With the 2012 Super Y-League North American Finals on the horizon, Arnold shared his thoughts on the upcoming tournament and what this year’s competition has in store.
This will be the first year the Super Y-League North American Finals will be held at the world-class facilities of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. What are some of the exciting enhancements this will bring to the tournament?
The professional atmosphere that comes along with IMG Academy is going to create an exciting experience for all of our players and coaches. The field quality is unmatched in this country and will lend itself to some great competition. Different from in years past, we will have all of our teams at one site, which will allow us to really build up the experience from the field presentation to the Player’s Village.
What are some of the things you’ve been working on implementing for this year’s North American Finals both on and off the field?
On the field this year we will utilize a fourth official for all matches, which will help build the professional experience while ensuring the games are properly officiated. Off the field, we are building an exciting Player’s Village that will allow exposure to our vendors but also a comfortable place to relax and socialize with other attendees.
The Super Y-League North American Finals presents a very concentrated pool of talent. What can you tell us about this year’s tournament as far as scouting goes?
USL is working diligently to ensure that top college coaches from all divisions and conferences will have a strong presence at the Finals and allow for players to have prime exposure and an accelerated path to college soccer. This year we are offering something unique for our coaches - we are hosting a college coach golf outing and will open it up to our Super Y-League coaches as well to give them an opportunity to network and play a round of golf with the college coaches that are in town to scout our event.
IMG Academy is a global leader in developing elite athletes. How will players, coaches, and fans be able to experience what IMG Academy offers?
Everyone will be able to see the IMG Academy firsthand as they will compete on the same fields the academy players use. We will also offer free tours of the full IMG Academy campus which will allow them to see other areas of the campus, including dorms, cafeterias and the Gatorade 360 lab.
December is a great time to be in Florida. With Bradenton being so close to the Gulf Coast what are some of the local places to see and things to do?
We’ve got world-class beaches in Florida along the Gulf Coast and our teams will certainly want to get out and spend some down time relaxing on the beach. There is a lot to do and see around the beaches, a lot of shopping and restaurants. If time permits, there is great golf in the area as well.
For teams and fans that have attended the Super Y-League North American Finals before and will again make the trip to Florida, what is the biggest difference they will experience in this year’s tournament?
I think the biggest positive for this year’s event is certainly our move to IMG Academy. The quality of the fields that comes with that move, and the fact that we will have all of our teams at one complex, will really step up the level of our event.
For those who have not been to the Super Y-League North American Finals before, what do you want them to remember about their experience?
I want them to come down and play some really good soccer and go home knowing they competed against some of the best teams in the country. Being exposed to the professional atmosphere and the coordination of the event should make the event one they will look forward to attending again year after year.