September 2nd, 2017 marked the start of the U.S. Soccer Girl's Developmental Academy (DA) program. Over 6,000 players from almost 70 clubs competed for spots on these elite teams.
The Girl's Developmental Academy program is the highest level of youth girl's soccer available in the U.S. It is being created along the lines of the boys academy program that was launched in 2007.
Academy programs pride themselves on developing the individual player over competing for titles. They tend to schedule fewer games than their same age club counterparts and most hold practice at least four times a week.
The creation of a girl's developmental academy reflects the push to continually improve the level of the game here in the US. Several Women's National Team Members, both current and former, are working with the development of this academy program to ensure that it is structured in the best way possible to facilitate player development.
Players will be selected to play in four age groups. These are U-14, U-15, U-16/17, and U18/19. Teams will be made up of sixteen (16) - twenty three (23) players for each group. Depending on a player's ability, they may be able to play up.
These age groups will be spread out between seven separate areas in the US and will train over a ten month season, similar to the boys teams. These programs are designed for the serious player, and do not allow a great deal of free time in which to pursue other interests.
Interested players can reach out to a club that offers a Developmental Academy program and request information regarding their tryout program. Players may have a better chance to joining an Academy if they have a coach who can vouch for their ability or suggest them to a club.
You can learn more about which clubs offer DA programs by visiting their website at US Soccer DA program.
It is the goal of the Academy programs to be moving towards more of a scouting model than the open tryout model most clubs use. It is believed that scouting out the best players and inviting them to play with current team members will be the best way to determine who is or is not a good fit for one of these teams.
These teams will only play matches within their own league, along with a small number of games at seasonal "showcase" matches.
These programs can be quite costly. US Soccer does offer scholarship programs to assist families with the costs of travel. Interested players will need to speak with their programs to learn more about these.
Many people were concerned about extending the Developmental Academy program for girls mainly because the girl's programs already have the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) teams. Until now, the ECNL Was considered to be the highest in the hierarchy of levels for girls soccer.
There was a fear that creating a girls Academy program would dilute the ECNL teams. Some argue that we are offering more players a better opportunity for showcasing their talent and developing to their full potential. Others counter with the argument that competitive soccer is no longer elite if everyone plays.
It is still too early to see what the impact of the girl's development academy program will be.
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