It is official. US Soccer has shut down the US Soccer Development Academy effective immediately. This is officially due to "...extraordinary and unexpected circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic...” but SoccerWire and other news outlets suggest that there is more to the story.
Rumors, articles, social media, and blog posts have been circulating for days. Let's talk about it.
Rumor is Confirmed
On April 11th, 2020, SoccerWire carried an article titled: "Opinion: COVID-19 provides US Soccer opportunity to shut down Development Academy." This hit my Twitter feed first, and as you know, I almost reported it to you in Episode 124, but I held it back because at that stage it was still a rumor. I couldn't find any solid evidence that this was definitely going to happen and didn't want to use this show to spread rumors. We talked instead about being critical about the news we're seeing today.
It's no longer a rumor. One hour after I published Episode 124, US Soccer announced that it was closing the US Soccer Development Academy for good. The reason they cited in the letter they released was "...extraordinary and unexpected circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic...”
I've been around too long to believe the publicly released reasons for just about anything of significance going on are the whole story. There is always more to things than the public story. So I started to dig in.
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Contributing factors to closing the US Soccer Development Academy
The SoccerWire article lists four potential reasons for shutting down the US Soccer Development Academy (DA). I've listed them here for your convenience, but be sure to read the full article for the rest of the story and context.
* The Girls DA has never taken hold as the nation’s most elite league, and has recently been losing very strong clubs back to ECNL. Having talent split between two leagues is definitely inhibiting development of the most elite players, and there is no solution in sight for getting the best players and clubs in the same environments anytime soon. This would solve that problem overnight.
* The Boys DA has become more a story of Major League Soccer run, cost-free academies; and then the best of the rest for years. While the top boys’ talent plays in the DA if there’s a club near their homes, every year U.S. Soccer makes some type of adjustments to the competition structure and schedule. And MLS clubs have long been rumored to be on the verge of staging a break-a-away league all their own anyway.
* Cost – U.S. Soccer spends around $9 Million on the DA’s per year, and gets little but grief for most of their investments. With an all new management team at the top of the Federation, and the very real likelihood of an 8-figure financial settlement on the way with the U.S. Women’s National Team, cutting bait now would remove a lot of distractions and sure up what may become much-needed cash in the coming years, before the expected windfalls of the 2026 World Cup.
* Equality – Reference the issues with the Girls DA lagging far behind the boys’ version in their efforts to consolidate talent.