Club Offers Free Training and National Competition for Virginia’s Top Players
One year after implementing a landmark cost-free U16 and U18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy program, the Richmond Kickers are pleased to announce the addition of a fully funded U14 Academy. The Kickers have applied for the new age group to be a member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-13/14 Program, starting in the fall 2013.
The Richmond Kickers have been members of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy since its inception in 2007, a partnership that provides the best youth players in the country with an everyday environment designed to produce the next generation of collegiate, professional and national team players.
“We are indebted to our sponsors and donors who have embraced our long term vision for a Cost-Free Academy program for the Virginia region,” commented Rob Ukrop, Richmond Kickers President, Board of Directors. “As a club, our goal is to help nurture our young players so they can achieve their goals on and off the soccer field. This significant investment in our development model allows the region’s most talented players the opportunity to represent our community on a national level.”
“This is another significant step toward creating a professional youth development model that will compare favorably with the best MLS Academies in the country,” added Leigh Cowlishaw, Richmond Kickers Director of Soccer. “The Kickers are committed long term to developing the top players in the Virginia region. Our coaches and facilities are among the best in the nation and we will always emphasize playing attacking, possession-style soccer. Our ultimate goal is to produce academy players who are capable of competing at the nation’s top universities and professional levels including the Kickers First Team.”
The historic milestone in Virginia youth soccer development is reached through the support of partnerships with The Computer Solution Company, Proseal America, Inc, and multiple donors, allowing dedicated and talented players to reach the highest level of youth soccer, playing, training and traveling free of charge. Valued at $30,000 for a six-year player, the Kickers cost-free Academy eliminates the most significant barrier for talented players to compete in U.S. Soccer’s world-class program.
The addition of the U14 Academy reflects U.S. Soccer’s continual effort to progress and enhance player development. Consisting of current Academy clubs with the potential to include clubs from outside the current Academy structure, the U13/U14 Division will follow a model that increases training to four times a week, with fewer but meaningful matches, and the schedule structure will be regionalized to limit the amount of travel.
“We started the Development Academy to improve player development on all levels, and adding a competitive structure to the U13/U14 age group is an important next step in this long-term process,” said Tony Lepore, Development Academy Director of Scouting. “The U13/U14 age group is at a very crucial stage in their development. Applying the overall philosophy of the Academy to the U13/U14 age group will allow us to continue to shift the focus of the young elite player to meaningful training and competition.”
“I am very excited to see this important next step in the process of developing young players in this country,” said Jurgen Klinsmann, U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach. “Just as with the players on the National Team, these young players need to get increased training and play in the most meaningful games they can. Being in the Academy also gives them more time to practice on their own, which gives them another chance to be creative and have fun. All these elements are critical for players at this age group.”
Academy teams spend a greater amount of time focused on training to improve as individuals and as a team. Each Academy Team trains four times per week over the course of a 10-month season. The teams and players receive direct feedback and evaluations from Kickers professional staff.
The Academy program features teams from the top youth clubs from around the country. Development Academy teams play approximately 30 regular season games to ensure all games are meaningful and highly competitive. Games are played according to FIFA’s Laws of the Game and officiated by a pool of the nation’s top young referees in order to prepare players for the next level of competition.
National Team scouts regularly attend Academy games, so players are evaluated over the course of the season and in their natural positions, allowing for better player assessment. Virtually all college programs use the Academy program as a scouting vehicle and the program has received increased attention from professional scouts representing domestic and international clubs.
The Richmond Kickers recently announced that new USL PRO rules will allow Kickers Academy players to play for the professional team, while maintaining their collegiate eligibility and anticipate signing Academy players for the 2013 season. Expanded roster sizes will allow teams to carry as many as five Academy players in USL PRO competition. USL PRO teams currently have a roster size of 26 players, and will now be able provide important exposure to a professional environment to up-and-coming talent. As the Kickers official MLS partner, D.C. United will also have the option to use the additional player slots for their own Academy players.
Players must meet several requirements in order to qualify for an academy player slot: they must be younger than 21 at the start of the current season; they can’t have competed collegiately; they must never have signed as a professional. Additionally, the player must either be from a club’s region, an affiliate youth team or from an MLS affiliate.
Players interested in joining the Richmond Kickers Academy should send the following information: player’s name, date of birth and a detailed playing history including references, to Leigh Cowlishaw, Director of Soccer at email@example.com
The Kickers have four roster positions open for the current season which includes an Academy Showcase event in Dallas, Texas. Guaranteed Academy roster spots for the 2013-14 squads will be awarded to select players on an ongoing basis.
About the U.S. Soccer Development Academy
U.S. Soccer created the Development Academy in 2007 to improve the everyday environment for the elite youth player. The Development Academy is a partnership between U.S. Soccer and the top youth clubs around the country to provide the best youth players in the U.S. with an everyday environment designed to produce the next generation of National Team players.