TAMPA, Fla. - The United Soccer League (USL) confirmed on Thursday the founding members of the USL Academy League’s Southwest Division. The inaugural season of Academy League play is due to kick off in spring 2021, and will provide clubs in all three of the USL's senior divisions with an elite youth development and competition platform.
The structure of the USL Academy League provides USL clubs a progressive model to develop local players for their Senior Team, at a lessened cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Doing so will also enable far more clubs and communities to participate, allowing for the regional division format which limits travel demand to teams and families.
The eight clubs set to compete in the Southwest Division of the inaugural USL Academy League are as follows:
• Colorado Rush: Denver, CO (USL League Two)
• El Paso Locomotive FC: El Paso, TX (USL Championship)
• FC Tucson: Tucson, AZ (USL League One)
• New Mexico United: Albuquerque, NM (USL Championship)
• Orange County SC: Irvine, CA (USL Championship)
• Phoenix Rising FC: Phoenix, AZ (USL Championship)
• San Francisco Glens SC: San Francisco, CA (USL League Two)
• Ventura County Fusion: Ventura, CA (USL League Two)
All seven regional divisions for the inaugural USL Academy League have now been announced. For more information on the USL Academy League, visit usl-academy.com/academy-league.
USL ACADEMY FAQ
What is the vision of the USL Academy?
With the launch of USL Academy, United Soccer League now has an elite youth platform to offer to its clubs in the Championship, League One, and League Two. As such, these clubs can now develop a more clearly-defined path for top youth prospects in their area to reach the professional level and sign directly with their Senior Team.
What is the strategic goal of the USL Academy?
This new structure for future USL Academy programs will provide USL clubs a progressive model to develop local players for the senior team, at a fraction of the cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Doing so will also allow far more clubs and communities to participate, allowing for a regional footprint that limits travel demand to teams and families.
What age groups will be eligible for the USL Academy and how many players in each age group will be represented on the roster?
We will be registering our top prospects in the Under-15 through Under-19 Boys age levels under one team. Regarding the roster requirements, there will be a maximum number of U-18/19 players, a minimum number of U-16/17 players, and U-15 players are optional. The Glens will open the roster up to all three levels.
This model is designed to allow identification and integration of elite youth players into a pre-professional environment at a younger age, giving them exposure to a higher level of play than they would normally experience, and access to the resources and teaching of USL First Teams.
Are the Glens the only San Francisco or Northern California-based club in the USL Academy League?
When will the USL Academy League season begin?
One of the most exciting aspects of the USL Academy League is its alignment with the United States’ professional calendar. The inaugural Academy League preseason is set to kick off in February 2021 – including a period of full integration with a club’s Senior Team – followed by a regular season of mostly regional competition that will align with the USL Championship and USL League One seasons spanning from March to November primarily. The league will then conclude with the USL Academy League Playoffs, as well as the first-ever Academy League Final.
As a result, we will have flexibility in scheduling, so there is the potential to do things like have our USL Academy Team travel alongside our First Team in USL League Two to play road games. The actual USL Academy League schedule is currently TBD.
What is the USL Academy Youth Network?
Each USL Academy League club is mandated to have a USL Academy Youth Network, which will allow the Glens the ability to enter mutually beneficial partnerships with other youth clubs for players to be a part of our USL Academy roster.
How will the USL Academy fit into the current ecosystem of youth soccer in America?
The USL Academy League’s model has not only been constructed to provide an elite pre-professional environment for all participants, but to be complementary of existing youth soccer organizations. In fact, all clubs applying to participate in the USL Academy League will be required to have a league-approved youth network as part of the minimum standards. In doing so, the USL club must show how it is helping grow the game organically at all levels, while also working hand-in-hand with the existing local youth soccer community to provide new opportunities for players and coaches to be involved with higher levels of the game.
It offers USL clubs the flexibility to work with existing institutions, and most importantly to provide opportunity and professional pathways to both new and previously overlooked communities across the country. Players competing in the USL Academy League may also be able to register as a “PT Youth Player” on their local USL Academy League team, allowing them to play in other competitions for their respective clubs or schools, as the USL aspires to build respectful and trusting relationships between our clubs and the local Youth Soccer Organizations that are already serving our communities.
For more information, please log on to usl-academy.com.