The advent of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program has put high school teams at odds with clubs teams in Southern California. The Los Angeles Galaxy, Chivas USA and Pateadores OC all have Development Academy teams with South Bay teenagers who are no longer playing high school ball.
"Academies have expanded their pool of players and are bringing more kids in," Torrance varsity boys coach Eric Spotts said. "It used to be the elite, now it's the elite and near-elite. You can't blame the kids; they think they have a shot at playing pro. And while it's a good way for colleges to recruit you, most of the kids are not so good that they are going to play pro."
U.S. Soccer's Neil Buethe says coaches stress that participation in the Development Academy does not guarantee a player will make the national team or gain a professional contract. But many players find they get opportunities in the Development Academy that high school simply couldn't provide. "It has also taken me to many great places and I've seen some pretty awesome things," said senior Spencer Johnson, who helped lead Peninsula to a CIF title as a sophomore and plays in the Galaxy youth academy. "It's definitely a privilege. I prefer playing academy simply because of the fact that the competition is much higher. Traveling to many places also is a plus."