MLS pledged a year ago to fill the void left when the U.S Soccer Development Academy disappeared. In numbers, the pledge is about to get fulfilled.
When U.S. Soccer Development Academy folded mid-April last year, MLS immediately promised to fill that void, and then some. Skeptics questioned whether MLS would continue youth focus on only the most promising prospects.
But MLS countered that, certainly, the league would continue to hunt and develop prospects. But any youth wanting to learn and play would get the chance. That chance would come in the new league youth organization called MLS Next.
In the end, U.S. Development Academy had 149 clubs in five age groups.
The league won’t finalize its slate until May 2021. There have been several waves of MLS Next applicants. Strikers and Louisiana Total Development, for different reasons, further strengthen the growing youth soccer system. They joined in the latest wave.
The two newcomers
Strikers FC is nationally recognized for producing collegiate, professional, and national team players. The club’s training methods get studied for programs serving U8 teams to U18 squads. The 2010 U.S. Men’s National Team included Striker alumni Jonathan Bornstein and Benny Feilhaber.
The Irvine organization brings strength and accomplishment to MLS Next.
Louisiana Total Development represents Baton Rouge SC, Dynamo Juniors in Lafayette, and Louisiana Fire SC in New Orleans. All three organizations offer comprehensive development for all skill levels.
Baton Rouge Soccer has worked for more than 40 years to provide programming for all, plus training all the way to elite for youth with an interest.
Louisiana Fire also works to provide a slate of programming from recreational to academy training. They have activities that begin with a group ages 3-4. The organization also stays out front offering programs for those interested in becoming first-time referees.
Dynamo Juniors has affiliated with Houston Dynamo FC. The organization promises the highest quality training from the best coaches in their greater area.
They focus on U11-U19, competing at the state and regional level in leagues and tournaments.
Have population, probably will travel
As the MLS Next population fills, the organization will focus on increasing competition levels, including the international level.
The former Development Academy had made some inroads here, specifically with some Canadian clubs. MLS Next has proposed including trips to Liga MX Juniors destinations for youth.
Some MLS team academies already have competed in Liga MX Internacional. All MLS Next could do so. The travel requirements to Mexico aren’t extraordinary compared to previous U.S. development efforts.
Hold on to your seats. Now that MLS Next has the population, there’s no telling how far we’ll go.