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USL Introduces Young Player Sporting Initiative

By Staff, 03/26/24, 4:00PM EDT


Expands home club matchday roster to provide more opportunities for young players

Richmond Kickers midfielder Nicholas Simmonds, who signed a USL Academy contract as a 16-year-old last season and split time between the First Team and Academy Team.

TAMPA, Fla. — The United Soccer League has announced a sporting initiative which permits the addition of two players to the home club's matchday roster to give valuable experience in the development of its young players. 

The exception to the 18-man roster rule was passed by the USL Sporting Committee to promote and reward club investment into youth players. This exception to the 18-man game day roster only applies to the home club during the regular season and is intended to provide the home club with the opportunity to give valuable experience in the development of its young players regardless of professional or amateur status. 

“These two roster spots will allow for further development of youth players by providing the uncompromised opportunity to play them in a competitive match and ultimately increase their value,” said Oliver Wyss, USL Head of Global Football Development & Sporting Director. “Player safety is always top of mind when integrating young players into the First Team, so the decision to limit the exception to home clubs was made to ensure a safe and invaluable experience as they take their first steps into a matchday environment.” 

As the rule reads, on matchday the home club is permitted to roster a total of two (2) players, for a max of 20 players on the gameday roster, who qualify under either of the following conditions: 

  1. For a player(s) signed to a Standard Player Agreement (SPA), the home Club is allowed up to two (2) players who were 17 or under at the time of signing their SPA; or 
  2. For a player(s) signed to an Academy Agreement, the home Club is allowed up to two (2) players regardless of the age of the player at the time of signing their Academy Agreement.

This initiative has been in use since the beginning of the 2024 USL men’s leagues professional seasons and further reinforces the USL’s commitment to developing young players in a safe, professional environment. 

Since their introduction in 2013, USL Academy contracts have allowed Academy products at USL clubs to sign, train and compete in matches with professional senior teams without affecting their eligibility to play college soccer. Recent success stories of this program include players that have moved abroad to Europe, such as Louisville City FC’s Joshua Wynder (S.L. Benfica) and San Antonio FC’s Jose Gallegos (Sønderjyske Fodbold), to players that have risen through the ranks domestically, such as current Indy Eleven defender Aedan Stanley, who was a USL Academy signing for Saint Louis FC prior to his college career at Duke University. 

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