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Academy Overview

Development Academy


The U.S. Soccer Development Academy program provides education, resources, and support to impact everyday club environments in order to develop world-class players

Development Academy

What is the Development Academy Program?

Following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world, U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy in 2007 to provide education, resources and support to impact everyday club environments that will develop world-class players. The Academy Program’s philosophy is based on increased training, less total games, and more meaningful games using international rules of competition.

The Academy also connects National Team coaches directly with the Academy clubs to develop and identify players and coaches for future Youth National Teams. Each Academy club is evaluated by a member of the Men’s Scouting Network at least ten (10) times each year and each Academy club receives two (2) formal reviews that provide feedback in seven (7) Key Performance Categories each year from U.S. Soccer Technical Staff.

Developing a world-class coaching system is fundamental to developing world-class players. Education is a continuous process. As the game of soccer is constantly evolving, it is important that coaches are knowledgeable on current domestic and international trends. U.S. Soccer Coaching Education supports the Development Academy in its initiative to require minimum certification for all technical staff. These requirements can be seen below:

  • Academy club directors -> USSF ‘A’ License and must complete the Academy Director’s course
  • Academy club technical staff -> USSF ‘B’ license (minimum) 

The Academy is also focused on identifying and developing the next generation of elite referees. U.S. Soccer assigns up-and-coming officials to participate in Academy games at the local and national levels.

To maintain a focus on club training environments, Academy players and teams do not play in any outside competitions without written permission from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff. Full-time Academy players can only participate on their designated Academy team, with only two exceptions: U.S. Soccer Training Centers and National Team duty. The Development Academy’s 10-month Program allows for a greater opportunity to institute style of play and implement a system according to U.S. Soccer’s Development Philosphy. It also gives teams increased opportunities for younger kids in their club to “play up” against older players in both training and matches, thereby accelerating their development. Academy players choosing to participate in the Academy full-time will forgo playing for their high school team.


Schedule: Academy teams are required to train a minimum of four (4) days per week and rest one (1) day per week during the Academy season. Academy teams will play approximately 30 games per year.
Member Clubs: 94 U-13/14 clubs (83 league and 11 non-league) with 74 U-15/16 and U-17/18 clubs participate in the program.
Selection: Any club is welcome to apply, but admission is very selective.
Age Groups: Participation in the U-13/14 age group is required to create a consistent pathway of development throughout the player’s time in the Academy. Clubs participating in the older age groups must field one team in each of the two Academy mixed-age groups at U-15/16 and U-17/18.
U-13/14: Players born on or after 1/1/2001
U-15/16: Players born on or after 1/1/1999
U-17/18: Players born on or after 1/1/1997
Players are encouraged to “play up” when appropriate.
Rosters: Each club must have a minimum roster of 32 full-time players and no more than 46 full-time players at the U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups combined. U-13/14 team rosters must have a minimum of 16 full-time players and no more than 23 full-time players. All players register directly with U.S. Soccer Federation.
Format: The Academy contains nine (9) geographically-based divisions at the U-13/14 age group and seven (7) geographically-based divisions at both the U-15/16 and U-17/18 levels. Each team plays home and away games against the other teams in their division, plus games against non-division opponents from across the country during the 10-month season. The top 32 teams in each age group advance to the Academy Playoffs, where they compete for one of eight spots in the Academy Championships.
Cost: There are no fees for a club to participate in the program, aside from $10 per player and $25 per coach registration fee. There are no fees for a club to participate in the U-13/14 Academy program, aside from $100 per player and $25 per coach registration fee.
U.S. Soccer covers all referee fees and event fees. Clubs are responsible for all of their travel and administrative expenses.
Scholarship Program U.S. Soccer is pleased to announce the ninth year of the Development Academy Scholarship Program supported by the U.S. Soccer Foundation. The scholarships are designed to provide opportunities for full-time Academy players who require financial assistance to participate in the Development Academy Program.

Player Development Advantages

Top Instruction

  • Players receive integrated oversight from Academy club coaches and U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors in their local environment.

Consistent Training Environment

  • Four (4) mandatory training sessions per week

More Meaningful Games

  • Compete against top youth clubs in the country
  • FIFA rules (i.e. no reentry on substitutions, Jan. 1 birthday cutoff, players play-up with older teams when appropriate)

Fewer Total Games

  • Approximate 30-game season
  • No outside participation for full-time Academy players
  • 25 percent minimum start requirement

Connection to U.S. Soccer Resources

  • Coaching Education
  • Technical Advisors & Scouts
  • National Teams
  • Referees assigned by U.S. Soccer

Talent Identification Advantages

Since the 2007-08 Development Academy season, 24 Academy alumni have earned Men’s National Team call-ups and over 1,250 Academy players earned Youth National Team call-ups. Over 120 Development Academy alumni have played in Major League Soccer, with approximately another 50 alumni at professional environments overseas.

In the 2014-15 Development Academy season, the U.S. Soccer Men’s Scouting Network scouted over 2,100 Academy games. 

Development Academy events are premier scouting venues for players to be identified for U.S. Soccer Training Centers and Youth National Teams:

  • National Team staff members observe every game
  • Domestic and international professional scouts in attendance
  • Online player profile for all Academy players

Academy Club Evaluations

U.S. Soccer provides two yearly evaluations to clubs participating in the Development Academy to provide feedback on quality of the club’s developmental environment for elite players. Clubs are graded on a five-star system in comparison to the top international developmental environments. The evaluation criteria consists of seven key components necessary for a club to provide elite everyday environments for player development with technical components based on the U.S. Soccer Development Philosophy.

Development Academy Key Performance Categories:

1. Player Development Effectiveness
2. Staff Leadership, Structure and Qualifications
3. Style of Play and Philosophy
4. Training Environment and Personal Development
5. Facilities and Infrastructure
6. Respect
7. Resources

How should this information best be used?
The information has a few different purposes. First and foremost, this feedback increases the accountability for Academy clubs to reach international standards and expectations set by U.S. Soccer. The information empowers individuals to make the most informed decisions to help choose the right long-term fit for an elite player. U.S. Soccer encourages families, players and clubs to use all the information available as the current holistic view of each Academy club. Second, the evaluation system helps U.S. Soccer to evaluate the progress and deficiencies in order to continue improving the impact of the Academy Program on world-class player development. (Please note: This evaluation process identifies strengths and areas of improvement and uses a ratings scale consistent with international standards. These ratings should not be used to draw comparisons between Academy club programs and other domestic programs or teams associated with other organizations).

How often are clubs evaluated?
Clubs are evaluated twice a year – once during the midpoint of the Academy season and once at the end of the season. Only the end-of-season evaluation rating is shared and applied to their membership status for the following season.

How does U.S. Soccer determine the ratings?
U.S. Soccer conducts live evaluations and video analysis at Academy clubs’ training and games and collects administrative information on the club throughout the year.

Are all criteria weighted the same?
The criteria receive different weights based on their importance to providing an environment to develop world-class players. The technical components carry the greatest weight.

Who is involved in the evaluation process?
U.S. Soccer Technical Advisors, National Team Scouts and U.S. Soccer Development Academy staff all participate in live evaluations, observations, video analysis and data collection that lead to mid-season and end-of-season ratings.