Well, it’s certainly been an eventful week for the US Soccer Development Academy for Girls. For background information, please read my previous post cleverly titled US Soccer Development Academy for Girls. This week the first and second round of member clubs were announced.
In my opinion, the first round didn’t really hold any surprises…
It’s definitely interesting to see the inclusion of the professional club affiliates such as Seattle Reign, FC Dallas, etc… Other clubs such as Slammers have apparently partnered with professional clubs to create powerhouse entries. Read more here from Top Drawer Soccer if you are interested.
The second round came soon after and had a few head scratchers in our area, but all are great clubs. Read more from US Soccer here.
There are now 53 clubs that have been announced and more are on the way. The boys academy has about 70 clubs so I would think the girls would be about the same, but I guess we shall see very soon.
As I discussed last time, one of the most interesting things about the Girls DA is its relationship and impact on ECNL. Already there has been some snipping from ECNL coaches to US Soccer about the scheduling of National Team camps during this year’s ECNL finals. The Real Colorado U16 coach didn’t mince words when it came to sharing his opinion.
Initially the ECNL and US Soccer had talks about joining forces, but it seems that ECNL will be going it alone. Many ECNL clubs have already been accepted into the DA, effectively making the ECNL teams the “second” teams for those clubs starting in 2017. This has to be worrying for ECNL as the number of accepted clubs grows. Top Drawer soccer talks about it here (sorry, it’s a premium article) On a positive note, at least it doesn’t seem that clubs are required to choose one league or the other.
This year has already been so crazy with the birth year changes, and next year promises to be even more chaotic. I’m know parents are already trying to position their kids at the new academy clubs…I’ve heard about lots of kids at new practices. I wonder if people will actually switch clubs before the July 31 deadline this year? Of course, just because you are on a so-called “academy” team now at one of these clubs is no guarantee that you will have a spot next year. Many people also think that the academy teams are going to be free. Although there are supposed to be more scholarships available, most players will play to play for an academy team, and if you are on a non-academy team at an academy club, you will most likely be subsidizing those scholarships!
I’m not sure what I think about the whole thing. On one hand, it’s really great that US Soccer is paying attention to girls and will have an organized program for recruiting top talent for our National teams. On the other hand, women’s soccer is already very successful on the national level and ECNL has been doing a great job developing high level players with a league uniquely attuned to the needs of girls.
The description of the Academy model is pretty intense with four practices a week and travel. Although many high level girls already practice 3-4 times weekly, it’s more of a choice than a mandate and might include private training and/or futsal. For an elite few girls who are really motivated, the challenges and opportunities that come from a DA team will possibly be amazing. Unfortunately, I can also see many parents urging their daughters into the DA teams and girls will come to resent the time commitment and missing out on playing HS soccer with their friends.
If the end game for most high level soccer girls is a college scholarship or to play in college, academics need to stay a priority as well. Professional women’s soccer is only lucrative for a very small group of women. Hope Solo recently wrote the blog post Time for Change discussing how, “the standards of our league are so inconsistent and disappointing across the board” and that “most players are paid salaries that place them below the poverty line.” I haven’t verified or researched any of the information that she shares, but it’s an interesting read.
Club soccer has given my girls so many things that reach far beyond the game. The great thing is that learning to be a member of a team, discipline, time management, healthy living and many more things are taught whether you are on a SCDSL, ECNL, CSL, EGSL, National League, or Development Academy team. I’m not sure what the future holds for soccer, but I know for certain that those things will help my girls throughout their lives.
As usual, I’m not an expert so please do your own research when considering a team or club for your daughter.