The United Soccer League officially unveiled its vision for the future of the league’s Academy system in March, with the announcement of USL Academy Cup, a new competition set to begin this year that will set the stage for the organization’s first ever Academy League.
The competitions will live under a new tier in the league’s overarching brand identity, called “USL Academy”.
Competitively, the U-17s will compete in two regional qualifiers split geographically between the Eastern and Western Conference. Regional results will determine seeding and placement ahead of the national event, which is set to take place on May 22-25, 2020 at Tournament Sportsplex of Tampa Bay. Regional qualification is set for October 11-14, 2019 and February 14-17, 2020, respectively. The U-13 age group will compete only at the national event, where a champion will be crowned.
Off the field, the USL also plans to host workshops with members of the technical staff to share best practices and discuss long-term player development strategies. The USL Academy Cup’s additional programs will also continue to educate and improve refereeing and hold educational seminars for players and parents to better inform them of the growing opportunities to play professionally, as well as the commitment levels and higher demand associated with playing at that level.
In addition to the USL Academy Cup, the league will also be working diligently with each USL club to accelerate their strategic plans in the youth development space, with the ultimate goal of creating academies across all USL clubs. Currently, 32 USL clubs have youth teams with U.S. Soccer Development Academy status across the Championship, League One and League Two, while a further 10 are operating youth soccer clubs that primarily compete in other youth competitions. Beyond those groups, numerous other clubs are actively exploring various affiliate and/or academy models, which are expected to be launched in the near future.
As this infrastructure continues to grow and strengthen, the USL will look to expand and refine the cup competition into a true pre-professional academy league model that can span across the whole country. By doing so, there will be a clear youth-to-pro path in each of the communities USL clubs reside, while providing more opportunities than ever for young Americans to pursue professional soccer.
The first key initiative launched under USL’s newest tier is the USL Academy Cup – a competition designed to bring together top youth prospects from all of our markets with USL clubs, all centered around identifying and developing players with the potential to reach the professional level. Other key details related to the cup are listed below:
Two regional events will be held in October 2019 & February 2020, with the national event being held in Tampa in May 2020.