Philadelphia Union and Official Youth Development Partner YSC Sports are excited to announce the Philadelphia Union Academy has been selected by US Soccer to join the US Soccer Development Academy commencing in the fall of 2013. The US Soccer Development Academy is the top level of youth competition in the US and features 18 MLS Youth Academy teams as well as top youth clubs from throughout the country.
Every Academy club will field teams at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups. Many will also field a team in the newly created U-13/14 age group, which kicks off later this year.
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“Over the past several years, the Union has dedicated a lot of time and resources to carefully research, build and implement a comprehensive youth player development system while working closely with their surrounding clubs” said U.S. Soccer director of scouting Tony Lepore.
Philadelphia Union and YSC Sports are deeply committed to youth development and are dedicated to investing unprecedented energy and resources to create the best professional youth academy in North America. The objective is to offer the most dedicated and talented youth players from Philadelphia Union’s Home Territory a free of cost training and competition platform in order to prepare these players to represent the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park as well as the US Men’s National Team.
“Joining the US Development Academy program allows us to offer our young players the most focused training and playing environment for their long-term development,” said Team Manager John Hackworth. “The Union’s Academy is part of the path to PPL Park, to one day possibly play for the Union and maybe even, one day, the US National Team. From things like the training to game ratio, to the standards and rules that we will compete under, the US DA gives these young players the opportunity to reach their full potential."
The model of investing in youth players to help fuel first team rosters is not new to the professional game of soccer where clubs like Dortmund (Germany) and FC Barcelona (Spain) consistently field first team players developed from their respective youth academy programs.
A key strategic choice for the Philadelphia Union from the outset was to offer youth programming free of charge to all selected players so Philadelphia’s future players of promise have an opportunity to pursue their passion without the burden of being required to "pay to play."
"Only the very best young and aspiring players will earn the right to play for the Philadelphia Union Academy based on skill and character not by financial wherewithal,” said Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. “Our free of cost Academy provides a true path for elite, ambitious players to climb to the Union First Team and an opportunity to fulfill their dream of playing in PPL Park"
Philadelphia Union’s youth development activity will be led by Academy Director Tommy Wilson who holds a UEFA Pro License, and joins the Union from Rangers FC in Glasgow, Scotland where he was the Reserve Team Coach and Youth Academy Technical Director. He was also formerly the Scottish Football Association’s Head of Coaching Education.
Additionally, the Union are pleased to announce the hiring of Peter Fuller, Chris Brewer and Jeff Cook as Academy Coaches. Fuller joins the Philadelphia Union Academy after coaching the New England Revolution’s reserve team head coach the previous two seasons. Prior to his time with New England, Fuller earned honors as a three-time winner of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Coach of the Year. Brewer previously served as US Soccer Technical Advisor since 2009 and as an assistant coach for the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team. Cook was formerly the head coach of the Men’s Soccer Team at Dartmouth College since 2001, where he led his squad to four Ivy League titles and five NCAA Tournament appearances. He also holds a UEFA “A” Coaching License and a National “A” License from U.S. Soccer.
ABOUT PHILADELPHIA UNION’S “PATH TO PPL PARK”
The Union’s youth model is unique within the MLS as it includes three developmental levels segmented by age: Union Futures (ages 6-7), Union Juniors (ages 8-12), and Union Academy (U14, U16, U18). All Union youth programs for players below the age of 12 follow a "club and country" format whereby players remain registered and play games with their local clubs and are "called up" into Union programs for supplemental training opportunities. This model enables Philadelphia Union and YSC to effectively partner with local youth clubs and share in the process of developing Zone-1 players (ages 6-12). For selected players U14 and older, the Philadelphia Union Academy will provide a full-time program (i.e., 5x week training + games) similar to professional youth academies in Europe and South America.
“We believe young players should be playing the game with their friends in their local communities -- our Union Futures and Union Juniors programs allow them to do just that while at the same time giving the Union a chance to keep a developmental eye on future Philadelphia Union Academy prospects,” said YSC founder and Union investor Richie Graham. “When players are a bit older, a more full-time Academy program is appropriate and needed for development. We are confident local coaches, players and parents will recognize the value of a full-time Union Academy and the opportunities it provides our region’s youth players.”