Girls Development Academy defections: Three major clubs to leave U.S. Soccer's new program after one season

After fielding teams in the inaugural 2017-18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season, three of the nation’s top girls clubs will leave the DA. All three clubs also field teams in the ECNL and will remain in the ECNL, which was founded in 2009 and is comprised of 80 clubs this season.

The Girls DA launched in 2017 with 69 clubs. New Jersey-based Sky Blue-PDA, the Michigan Hawks and the FC Stars of Massachusetts will not be returning to the DA for the 2018-19 season.

PDA, whose alum include Tobin Heath and Heather O’Reilly, has in 2018 had players selected to U.S. U-18, U-16 and U-14 national teams. Two FC Stars players, Michela Agresti and Payton Linnehan, are on the U-17 World Cup qualifying roster. The Michigan Hawks, whose alum include world champs Lindsay Tarpley and Kate Sobrero-Markgraff, has players on the U-18, U-16 and U-15 national teams.

U.S. Soccer’s quest to make its DA the top tier of girls soccer in the USA has been made more difficult because of the well-established ECNL.

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Among the issues that have made the DA less appealing for some clubs is U.S. Soccer’s strong stance against high school soccer participation, its prohibition on players participating in competitions outside of DA-sanctioned events, substitution rules (eg: no re-entry), strict guidelines on how to coach, and stringent coaching license requirements.

In March, the Virginia Development Academy announced it would leave the DA and join the ECNL for the 2018-19 season. FC Kansas City, which was affiliated with the now defunct NWSL club of the same name, has become KC Athletics and will be playing in the ECNL next season instead of the DA.

While five clubs are leaving the DA, U.S. Soccer has announced the addition of four clubs for the 2018-19 season: Oklahoma Energy, Sporting Omaha, Utah Royals (Arizona) and Arlington Soccer Association.

4 comments about "Girls Development Academy defections: Three major clubs to leave U.S. Soccer's new program after one season".
  1. Bob Ashpole, April 18, 2018 at 11:49 a.m.

    A pity that USSF does not work with US Club Soccer and USYSA to promote the sport and player development together.

  2. s fatschel, April 18, 2018 at 2:05 p.m.

    I don't think that could work as many clubs not willing follow DA best practices.  Fewer tournaments, minimum starts, increased practices, futsal, licensing, and being held accountable by USSF audits each year.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, April 18, 2018 at 2:33 p.m.

    US Club Soccer and USYSA are members of USSF and have had their own strengths. USYSA led the way on youth development and youth coaching, while US Club Soccer pioneered standards for clubs and leagues. For the past 10 years or so USSF has been acting like a typical bureacracy with some segments attempting to expand their control and influence at the expense of other segments. Too many managers and people in general see life as a zero sum game.

  4. s fatschel, April 18, 2018 at 4:27 p.m.

    Curious what benefits over the DA you have seen in your region for that level player. Ability to play HS?  I'm sure players with other social, sports or academic interests may want less commitment than required by DA. 

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