A couple weeks back, the US Soccer Development Academy announced that it would officially switch to the 10-month schedule practiced and recognized by most of the FIFA world for the 2012-2013 season. This would effectively make the DA a replacement for high school soccer as the switch blocks players from competing in scholastic leagues. American youth soccer fanatics with internet access have long been haranguing the detriments of the high school system: limited practice each day, multiple games in a week, three month schedule in large swaths of the country, the physicality of play, the lack of proper officiating, uneven application across leagues and states, and the lack of concentrated possession based development in the face of huge gaps in quality between teams. These bloggers and (let’s call them) “soccer activists” have been making noise telling youth players to skip the high school route for a while now, but until very recently there was no viable alternative.
For the current season the US Soccer Development Academy League (formed in 2009) has 78 participating clubs spread geographically through 10 divisions. You can see the map and national clustering on the East Coast, in California, and in Texas here. From US Soccer’s page on the DA program, “The Academy’s programming philosophy of increased training, less total games and more competitive games is based on U.S. Soccer’s Best Practices utilized by the U-17 U.S. National Team Residency program.” This directly addresses several of the most pressing concerns observers have had about high school soccer.
Today the internet is ablaze with people similarly lambasting the college soccer system, myself included. But what the general public might not fully understand is that there is not currently an adequate system to accommodate the thousands of NCAA players. The Development Academy league has grown tremendously since its founding, but only provides access for players up to age 18. After a player reaches the traditional high school graduation age, what are his options? Continue reading