The U.S. Soccer Federation will launch a Girls’ Development Academy Program in the fall of 2017. The aims of the initiative are to have a positive impact on club environments around the country and serve as a feeding ground to the youth national teams.
“In support of U.S. Soccer’s long-term plan for player and coach development, launching a Girls’ Development Academy is part of an unprecedented commitment to elevating the women’s game,” said U.S. Soccer Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs. “This program will directly impact the everyday environment for clubs and further connect players and coaches to our national teams. From a program perspective, we will educate both players and coaches on position-specific roles, physical and psycho-social planning and preparation, current coaching methodologies and the use of sport science and technology.”
The debut of the program will feature teams representing three age groupings–U-14/15, U-16/17, and U-18/19. Clubs will be expected to train at least four times a week, and matches will be played exclusively among other Development Academy teams. Players in the program will not play on high school or Olympic Development teams.
On a Thursday conference call to discuss the initiative, Heinrichs said that several NWSL clubs have expressed an interest in having their own academy programs be part of the new Development Academy.
“That’s quite exciting for us,” Heinrichs said. “With these ten clubs we could have an integrated program with these pro teams. That’s a resource and development program that isn’t there today in some cases.”
Heinrichs said the process for an NWSL club entering a team into the Development Academy will be the same as any other club. “They will certainly be considered on the merit of their application with the understanding that there are some synergistic capabilities and possibilities there with a club that is already committed at the pro level.”
As to whether it could lead to a homegrown program for NWSL clubs similar to what MLS uses, U.S. Soccer Director of Sport Development said that is a decision that would be up to the league.
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