Youth: Development Academy eliminates U-12 division

U.S. Soccer, which expanded its Development Academy to U-12s in 2016-17, is eliminating that age group for the 2019-2020 season.

The DA launched in 2007 with U-15/16 and U-17/18 leagues (now U-16/17 and U-18/19). It added U-13/14 in 2013, then split the U-13s and U-14s in 2016 when it added U-12s, and added U-15s for the 2017-18 season.

During the current 2018-19 season, 153 clubs field U-12 teams in the DA.

Late last month, U.S. Soccer informed its clubs of the change:

“The U-12 program expanded the Academy influence to players and Clubs at younger ages. Now, we believe that the time is right to empower and support Clubs and Members across the country to operate standards-based programming. …

“In the fall of 2019, the Development Academy will no longer operate U-12 programming, and we will begin the transition to a decentralized U-12 initiative led by Clubs and Members.

“Beginning in 2019-20, it will no longer be an option for U-12-only Clubs to participate in DA programming. However, U-12 Clubs remain an integral part of the player development pathway. Your efforts to develop and identify individual Zone 1 players are critically important to ensuring they can reach their full potential. Developing affiliations and partnerships with full Academy Clubs or Professional Clubs will help us achieve our collective goal of creating the best possible environments for the development of world-class players.”

27 comments about "Youth: Development Academy eliminates U-12 division".
  1. frank schoon, December 10, 2018 at 6:47 a.m.

    The next step is for the youth Developmental Academies to eliminate themselves...they are everything else but developmental...

  2. don Lamb replied, December 10, 2018 at 3:13 p.m.

    Yeah, let's ignore what's happening with our U21 and younger prospects who have been signing for top division teams in Europe by the boat load. Essentially all of these players came through the DA.

  3. Wallace Wade, December 10, 2018 at 8:23 a.m.

    Ditto Frank

  4. Ben Myers, December 10, 2018 at 10:24 a.m.

    Serious heavy-duty competition is completely inappropriate for U12s.  It is an embarrassment that US Soccer set up its U12 DA in 2016.  Shows how out of touch US Soccer is with the developmental needs of younger players.

  5. cony konstin, December 10, 2018 at 10:55 a.m.

    We need radical change.. We need a new vision. We need new leadership.. We need a 21st century master plan. We need a soccer revolution... We need 600,000 Futsal courts in our inner cities and suburbs so our kids can play king of the court, 24/7/365, for free and with no adult interference... For the past 20 years US soccer has spent billions of dollars and promoted  gimmicks, smoke n mirrors, $400 cleats, robotic coaching, and pretty uniforms...
    In the end We need to create a Rucker  park version of soccer. We need to create Courts of Dreams. You build them. They will come


  6. humble 1, December 10, 2018 at 2:18 p.m.

    next they should eliminate boys U13 - still too young - 7th and 8th grade boy for crimeny sake.  Can you really ID the top boys before the pass through puberty?  So long as MNT only recruits from DA - they should leave the boys alone until they are U14.  It's really a no-brainer - and it is not far from what cony knostin is saying if you distill it to it's essence - u-little should be to U13 and played on little fields - inside or outside.  The competition to that stage shoudl be to make it more fun and bring out passion.  Begin Academy and full size field play at U14.  This allows community u-little only clubs to form with 1/2 a pitch and one team per age group.  Keep is simple - it is soccer after all :-).

  7. Goal Goal, December 10, 2018 at 2:41 p.m.

    They can eliminate anything they want to.  Until they get better coaching from the ground up everything else is a mute point.

    Does US Soccer have their ears on.

    Until US Soccer is willing to identify the problem we will continue to flutter.

  8. don Lamb replied, December 10, 2018 at 3:18 p.m.

    Honest question: Are you aware of our U20 player pool and how many of those players are in Europe after being developed in the US Soccer system? I am not saying that US Soccer is above reporoach, but the youth teams/developmental pipeline certainly seems like it's on the right path.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, December 11, 2018 at 12:48 a.m.

    Don, I am not as impressed as you are. I looked at the latest U20 roster and only 5 of the players were at clubs in Europe. Only 1 was with a top tier club in one of the top leagues. But then almost all of the players with European clubs are not playing with the first team. Many are with reserves or loaned out to lower division clubs.

    How many thousands of players are in the DA? Some of our young players aren't even starting with MLS teams. Fontana for instance was on loan to a USL team last year.

  10. don Lamb replied, December 11, 2018 at 10:11 a.m.

    Bob - That is the path that youth players have to take. They must prove themselves and get acclimated to the club at U19 or reserve team levels. Keep in mind that the recent U20 roster didn't include players like Adams (RB Leipzig), Sargent (Werder Bremen), Amom (Nordsjaelland), Durkin (DCU), and Carleton (ATL) because they are first team players, and Ledezma (PSV) because of injury. De la Fuente was apparently not released from Barcelona. Another player on the team, Dest, just signed with the first team at Ajax. Mendez, Llanez, Soto, Scott, Gloster, and Richards are all in Germany with Bundesliga clubs. Servania, Pomykal, Lindsey, McKenzie are all already first team MLS players or will be this coming year. There are several fringe players like Booth, Acosta, Sands, etc. who were not on this roster that are also in very promising situations for their development. Consider that this team used to be full of college players with a handful of pros, and you get one measure of how our development pipeline has changed dramatically with the advent of the DA and an MLS focused on youth development.

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, December 12, 2018 at 12:32 p.m.

    Don, I have to agree with your points, but I considered this was a youth team when I looked at the roster. I am certain that we both see the drawbacks in college soccer as a player development path.

    Where we part company is that I am not as impressed with the DA as you are. For the most part the DA is a USSF branded league for "pay-to-play" clubs. (The MLS academies would be doing what they do still without the DA academy.) I simply do not see any significant value added by the USSF brand for the league. 

    I accept what you and others believe, that there are a lot of talented US-eligible players out there, but the problem I have is that I don't see that translated into better play at the international level. We missed qualifying for the last two Olympic cycles, and we failed to qualify for the 2018 finals.

    The impression I have is that MNT's performance has fallen since 2002, certainly since Bradley was fired for losing a Gold Cup final to Mexico. So where is the comfort in saying we have more professional players then in previous generations? 

  12. don Lamb replied, December 12, 2018 at 5 p.m.

    Bob - The positive effects of the DA are only evident with the current U21 class and below. That is because of two reasons: 1. starting such a gigantic project takes time to get off the ground, and 2. it takes a long time to "develop" a soccer player. The last two groups that missed out on the Olympics and generally lacked quality were not drawing for a pool of players that came up with an established DA.

    That is why you can't judge the DA by looking at the current national team or really anything other than the youth pool U21 and under. We are back to back U20 CONCACAF champs (the first two youth CONCACAF championships ever), and both of these were won without our best players even though Mexico had just about all of theirs. Our last cycle of U17s and U20s both reached the quarterfinals of their respective World Cups. More importantly, if you look at where these players are playing, you will see that there is a stark contrast that starts with Pulisic and McKennie and down.

    Did you hear Twellman's quote that he took from a scout that by 2020 there will be 20 Pulisic's in Europe? So, the question becomes why do we have this sudden burst of quality at the current U21 level and below? There is an obvious answer that involves that DA, MLS' growing emphasis on youth development, and the growth of the lower divisions.

    Also, I left out Weah (PSG) on the list of current U20s in the post above. The depth of talent on that team is far superior to any other U20 pool that has come before it. As I just mentioned, this is not a coincidence.

  13. don Lamb replied, December 12, 2018 at 5:08 p.m.

    To more directly answer your question, the "comfort" will only come with time. This young pool of players should be very interesting and fun to watch in 2022, but they will still be too young for huge expectations. However, in 2026, when they are in the primes of their careers, and their is an entirely new batch of "Pulisics" pushing up from below them, that is when we can expect something great. It just takes time... something I am sure you've been hearing for a while, but this is the only time we've actually had the infrastructure and development path (whether it be DA-->MLS-->Europe or DA-->Europe) in place. These next few years are going to be a hell of a ride, and we will look back on 2018 and everything before as the Dark Ages.

  14. Bob Ashpole replied, December 13, 2018 at 7:29 p.m.

    Don, I have 2 words for you: Josh Sargent. 

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, December 13, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

    If I recall correctly, Pulisic isn't a DA product either.

  16. don Lamb replied, December 14, 2018 at 1:18 p.m.

    Bob - Josh Sargent and Christian Pulisic are MOST DEFINITELY products of the DA system. They stayed away from MLS and played in the DA for traditional clubs (Scott Gallagher and PA Classics, respectively) so that they could move to Europe without the burden of an MLS contract. They are part of the DA --> Europe track...

  17. Bob Ashpole replied, December 14, 2018 at 4:35 p.m.

    I disagree Don. Although PA Classics is currently a DA member, they joined earlier this year.

    March 2018 article

    US Soccer does not list Scott Gallager in its DA club directory.

  18. don Lamb replied, December 14, 2018 at 7:20 p.m.

    Bob - That is not correct.

    PA Classics have been in the DA for a while. The article that you posted a link for refers to a partnership between Penn FC, which plays in USL and apparently has youth teams, and PA Classics.

    Scott Gallagher is one of the best run clubs in the country and has been in the DA for a long time as well. They might have changed their name or combined with St. Louis FC, which is why you don't see them listed now, but Sargent was definintely playing in the DA with them.

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, December 14, 2018 at 10:36 p.m.

    I stand corrected about Pulisic. I see that US Soccer lists him as playing in the DA for 4 years, but in the first year he only played in one match and wasn't a regular member. In the last year he wasn't even listed on the team roster. So he did play in the DA for 2 years.

    Sargent reportedly was with the US U17 residency program (I thought it had ended) so he would have played in the DA as part of that program for 1 year.

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, December 14, 2018 at 10:39 p.m.

    I want to add that Pulisic also trained in Europe during summers before he was picked up by Dortmund.

  21. Randy Vogt, December 13, 2018 at 5:25 p.m.

    In the past year, I have refereed five games between DA teams, both boys and girls, and other teams outside the DA in competitions such as tournaments and futsal leagues. I expected the DA teams to win most of those games easily. Instead, DA won two, the other teams won two with one draw. The other teams scored more goals than the DA squads as the latter were routed in their two losses. Five games is hardly a large sampling but what was apparent is the DA teams are not much better than some other youth teams, if at all. What was noticeable is the DA teams were lilly-white while the other teams were more diverse and reflective of their area. Until US Soccer fixes that last part, the DA will not be able to develop many world-class players, as is its stated mission, and will simply be one way for some of its players to attain college scholarships while their parents spend a lot of money.

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, December 13, 2018 at 7:12 p.m.

    You may have a small sample, but my suspicion is that the sample is representative. USSF is perfectly contented with the existing system (just ask them when they stop patting themselves on the back), so there won't be any significant changes.

  23. don Lamb replied, December 14, 2018 at 1:25 p.m.

    Randy - DA teams don't usually play non-DA teams. I'd be interested to hear what environment this was in. Were the DA teams sending B teams? Were they sending players who were playing up? My guess is that these were teams from DA clubs, but the particular team that you saw was not actually in the DA. I also think that you would find that these types of teams might be more affluent than the actual DA team, which would go out of it's way to scholarship players and make sure they had the best players possible on the field no matter their skin color.

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, December 14, 2018 at 4:56 p.m.

    Don, if this was a green referee, I might take issue with his opinions about what he saw. But Randy is no green referee. This is someone who has seen thousands of teams play. I very confident of his opinion about what he saw. 

    I am also shocked that without knowing the circumstances you defended unknown DA clubs fielding "lily-white" teams in 5 out 5 matches on the basis that the white players were the best possible players. Maybe you should reconsider that statement.

  25. don Lamb replied, December 14, 2018 at 7:33 p.m.

    Bob - I was not defending the DA teams for fielding "lily-white" teams, whatever that means. I think you misread what I said about that. I was saying that the fact that the teams were homogenous is actually a huge tell that those teams were not made up of the best players from that area.

  26. Randy Vogt, December 14, 2018 at 5:23 p.m.

    To answer Don's question above, two games were league futsal games, two games were in outdoor tournaments including one final and one game was an outdoor friendly. Three boys matches and two girls games in all. The DA teams were from three different DA clubs. I have to applaud the DA teams in playing squads outside the DA as people like me could use as a barometer for how good the DA teams are, although it is admittedly a very small sampling. As far as I know, the DA teams were actually playing in the DA and were not a B side or a team outside the DA. 

  27. don Lamb replied, December 14, 2018 at 7:26 p.m.

    Thanks for clarifying. I don't think there is much we can take from the futsal games. Who knows what kind of roster was used for those games. I also don't think we can take much from the girls games. The DA is new and has had mixed results on the girls side due to many factors. I also don't think we can take much from the tournament games -- those were almost certainly not full DA squads. They were most likely a lower level team from a DA club that does not play in the DA league.

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