Welcome to From The Upper Deck, my blog about RSL and soccer in general. I have a lot of passion for the beautiful game. I am just a fan that likes to sit in the upper deck and take it all in.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Eye on the Academy- Introduction

Editor's Note- This is a new semi-regular series that is being written by Pat Eyler. Pat has a real passion for the academy side of things and I am very happy that he has offered to cover this for us at From the Upper Deck.  Watch for his first full post later this week.

By Pat Eyler

Hi there. I’m Pat and I spend way too much time thinking about Soccer in the US and CONCACAF.  I watch CCL and Open Cup games, follow teams at various levels of the USSF Soccer Pyramid, and pay attention to the Academies.  Wait, What?!? Yes, the Academies.  You know, the program that MLS teams use to groom the next generation of players.

Fortunately for me, I live near Salt Lake so I’ve got a great local team to watch.  Even better, they have a great academy program that’s pretty easy to keep track of.  I don’t care so much about the won-lost record of these U-16 and U-18 teams (though knowing the U-16s won the national championship last year is pretty cool).  I do care about how the players are doing, and where they seem to be growing, or stagnating.

Charles asked me if I’d write occasional articles for his blog about RSL’s academy in Casa Grande, AZ (and I’m going to pretend that extends to a USL Pro team I think RSL will be starting up in a year or two).  I have some ideas for future articles (not nearly as stat heavy as Charles’ work), but I’d like to know what you’re interested in.  I don’t have any special connections, so I can’t promise in depth interviews, or “behind the curtain” insights.  But let me know what you’d like to know and I’ll see what I can do.

Ok, and since I can’t write a fluffy introduction without adding some meat, let me toss this out:

The other day, Eric Sondheimer of the LA Times wrote that academies are the wrong way to go, and that they hurt high school players.

The U.S. Soccer Federation's academy program pulls promising players out of high school with the lure of a pro career. But few of the kids will make it as pros.

I think RSL’s academy proves that his argument is false dilemma.  While not every academy player will go on to play professional soccer at the highest level, the young men down in Casa Grande seem to be doing a great job of balancing soccer development and scholastic achievement. In fact, one academy alum is now at Stanford and another has committed there, with a third committing to Princeton.  In fact, a recent blog post says that “every single one [of the student athletes] has been offered a college scholarship” - that sounds like a pretty good academic outcome for the players.


  1. Thank you for doing this. And primarily I am interested in the "stock" of the players. Who is on the radar to eventually make it to the first team. Who is going to college and who is moving on.

  2. Anonymous, I've got a post coming up about the ones in college right now. I'll see what I can do about college commitments soon.

    I think you've got a good idea about a "stock report' kind of post as well.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    1. I read the report today. Thanks.

      The problem I was facing was reading a reserve match report and next to a player's name would be "Academy" or the like. I am never sure the age, position, or prospect of the player. Thank you for doing this.

  3. In light of the LA Times piece, a good starting point for an article would be a description of how the RSL Academy works. From my understanding the players do actually attend classes at a nearby HS, then a separate practice after classwork. That would make it more of a hybrid HS/Academy.

    I do agree that RSL-A's college placement success story casts the Times' story in a poor light. They evidently just made a blanket call based on the few they investigated rather than seeking out 'successful' versions.

    1. There was heated and rather stupid debate about HS vs. Academy here (among other places):


      Perhaps it is conflating the issues. Anyway, I find the prosoccer argument silly. Having played HS soccer, and was fortunate to have a wonderful coach, there is still a very limited amount of time. If player is serious about playing, then choose the academy. If the academy is paying or subsidizing the play, then they can certainly request you do not play HS as well.