Minnesota United FC took a major step forward today to help grow the game of soccer in Minnesota, officially announcing the launch of their MLS Development Academy and a partnership with the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association (MYSA).
MNUFC will be joining U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy, which was created in 2007 following a comprehensive review of elite player development in the United States and around the world. The Academy program's philosophy is based on increased training, fewer total games and the use of international rules of competition. Today, over 150 clubs across the U.S. are members of U.S. Soccer’s Academy program.
The first phase of MNUFC’s Development Academy will include placing boys born in 2004, 2005 and 2006 into U13 and U14 age groups. The teams will begin competition in September of 2017 and further phasing over subsequent years will see the creation of teams in the U15, U17 and U19 age groups. Functioning as a unique, top-tier program within the state and the designated MLS youth home territory, the Academy will be a destination for select, high-potential talent that is referred from the region’s youth clubs.
“It’s a unique move on our part to build the Academy from the ground up with the U13 and U14 teams, rather than from the top down with the oldest teams first,” said MNUFC Sporting Director Manny Lagos. “Only one other MLS club has implemented its academy in this manner but after a careful review of our market we believed this approach would suit us best.”
The MNUFC Academy will be led by Academy Director Tim Carter and a dedicated Academy staff, along with the input and participation of MNUFC’s first team coaches and training personnel. Participants in the Academy will engage in a program founded on best practice for player development, and will also be provided with off-field support for academic and personal growth.
“Our goal is to develop players to be their best,” Carter said. “Obviously, we want to see players reach the first team and represent our community in MLS, but equally important to us is helping young people grow and become citizen-athletes who represent us at any level of competition with outstanding class and integrity.”
The MNUFC and MYSA partnership is multi-faceted, with the goal of promoting and improving the youth soccer environment through collaborative programming and greater engagement with the youth soccer community. With more than 130 affiliated youth clubs and more than 60,000 registered youth soccer participants, MYSA is the foremost leader in youth soccer within the state. Working together, MNUFC and MYSA will help promote and grow the Olympic Development Program (ODP) by improving and expanding the player pathway, creating additional opportunities for coach development and providing technical support to enhance the youth soccer environment.
“This cooperative partnership is a unique opportunity to unite the highest level of professional soccer in the United States and Minnesota Youth Soccer Association,” said Steve May, MYSA President. “By working together we are able to better serve our membership to grow the game and improve the level of play in Minnesota.”
In addition, MNUFC and MYSA will work to identify players from unaffiliated, diverse communities where soccer is the sport of choice. Reaching out to these talented players will offer them the opportunity to represent the state within the ODP or as a member of Minnesota United‘s Development Academy. Together, MNUFC and MYSA will help Minnesota players, coaches and club coaching directors to connect with the highest level of professional soccer in the U.S.
John Curtis, MYSA Director of Coaching and Player Development, stated that “this partnership increases the opportunities and experiences players will receive through the Minnesota ODP program. This allows ODP to offer another ‘what’s next’ to the program with a clear crossover pathway with the MLS Development Academy.”
Minnesota makes its home MLS debut on March 12 at TCF Bank Stadium against fellow expansion side Atlanta United. Fans can now get a ticket to this first ever MLS match along with a MNUFC pom hat, starting at $25. Season tickets and membership in the Itasca Society are available now at MNUFC.COM and single match tickets go on sale Feb. 9.