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Special Events Guide for the 2023 USL Academy Cup

By Staff, 03/24/23, 4:30PM EDT


Panel events on recruiting and player pathways among opportunities to develop off-field skills during event

Numerous special events will take place at the USL Academy Cup, providing players, parents, coaches, admins, scouts, referees, and those involved with USL Academy the opportunity to develop their skills off the pitch throughout the weekend. All the special events detailed below will take place in the Player Village unless noted.

Understanding the Recruitment Process Panel presented by Kwik Goal 

When: Thursday, March 30, 11:45 AM – 12:30 PM 

This panel is for coaches, players, and parents to better understand the player recruitment process both at the collegiate and professional level. The panelists offer great insight into understanding what a scout may be looking for during the recruitment process, along with how players can find ways to gain exposure and be seen more often. This will be a great opportunity for any player looking to take the next step in their playing career. 


  • Shaun Mahoney, Xavier University Men’s Associate Head Coach 
  • Mauricio Ruiz, USL-JAX Technical Advisor & former Jacksonville University Men’s Head Coach 
  • Phil Jones, Clemson University, Men’s Associate Head Coach

Step Up – USL’s Commitment to Growing Women’s Soccer presented by Select 

When: Thursday March 30, 3:45 – 4:30 PM

A panel of females in technical leadership roles within the USL ecosystem, all with professional playing experience.  These women will share their stories and passion to “stay in the game” and how it drives them to forge the path for the next generation of young female talent.


  • Michelle Rayner, Lexington SC Women’s Sporting Director 
  • Carmie Landeen, Tampa Bay United Director & USLA Coach 
  • Ria Popovic, Swan City Girls Director & USLA Coach 
  • Kiley Williams, Tampa Bay United W League Player & USLA Asst. Coach 

Youth Development Workshop & Coach Social presented by Veo

Indy Eleven Academy Director Kiki Wallace will be joined by Sporting Director Phil Presser as they lead the Youth Development Workshop and Coach Social event on Thursday evening.

When: Thursday March 30, 5:00 – 7:00 PM 

Coaches & directors from our clubs will convene for a networking opportunity, coupled with a collaborative workshop focused on sharing best practices in youth development and discussing ways to continue to evolve our player development model.  

  • Case Study: Indy Eleven Player Development Pathways 
  • Presented by Phil Presser (Sporting Director) & Kiki Wallace (Academy Director) 
  • Weather Contingency: if this event cannot be held at this time on Thursday, it will be rescheduled to Friday at the same time & location.  

Men’s Player Pathways Through USL panel presented by CurRex 

2022 USL Championship Most Valuable Player Leo Fernandes of the Tampa Bay Rowdies will be part of the panel discussing pathways through the USL ecosystem. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

When: Friday, March 31, 11:45 AM – 12:30 PM

This is a panel discussion with former professional players & current coaches sharing their advice on reaching the next level of the game. You’ll hear about what characteristics and habits players need to stand out and be seen, along with advice on which choices to make when choosing between college and professional options. This is a must attend panel for any player looking to gain insight into understanding more about navigating today’s soccer landscape. 


  • Leo Fernandes, Tampa Bay Rowdies Player & USLA Asst. Coach 
  • Mario Sanchez, Louisville City Academy Director 
  • Justin Grove, Richmond Kickers USLA Coach 
  • Jordan Melia, South Georgia Tormenta FC L1 Assistant Coach & USLA Coach 

Career Pathways in the Game panel presented by Bellevue UNIVERSTIY

When: Friday March 31, 1:45 – 2:30 PM 

A panel of professional women driving the development of the game beyond the pitch. The group will share their career pathways, addressing how they got started in the industry, what keeps them motivated and how they aspire to contribute to progressing the game in the US. Presenting partner Bellevue University will also feature on the panel to bring aware as to how players, coaches and administrators in the USL ecosystem can access educational opportunities via both traditional and non-traditional routes in pursuit of their career aspirations in soccer. 


  • Emily Lutz, Bellevue University Corporate Learning Solutions 
  • YueLing Lee, USLHQ Associate General Council 
  • Betsy Haugh, Director of USL Super League 
  • Erica Sutter, Strength & Conditioning Entrepreneur 

EPL Watch Party presented by Hisense

When: Saturday April 1, 7:30AM-2:30PM & Sunday April 2, 9 AM - 1:30 PM. 

Multiple Hisense TV’s will be in the Player Village showing live English Premier League games. Come watch your favorite team!

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. Birmingham Legion FC (USL Championship Game)

The Tampa Bay Rowdies home at Al Lang Stadium is one of the most memorable venues in North American soccer, located on the bayfront in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

When: Saturday, April 1 
Kickoff 7:30 PM ET
Where: Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Enjoy high-level USL Championship soccer as the Tampa Bay Rowdies host Birmingham Legion FC, a meeting of two of the top teams in the Championship's Eastern Conference, at Al Lang Stadium. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET, and USL Academy teams in attendance may have an opportunity for special gameday experiences, such as on-field recognition.

Purchase tickets for the match here. 

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