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.