Thursday, May 12, 2011

Enigma No More – Development Academy Bids Adieu to High School Soccer

On Wednesday, U.S. Soccer announced that two more Development Academy Divisions, Texas and Northwest, would move to a 10-month schedule and eliminate high school soccer for those players. This comes on the heels of decision from the SoCal Division to cut off CIF [high school] and go to a one-game per weekend schedule over 10-months.
There was really no mystery behind these moves, U.S. Soccer and the clubs realized that while high school soccer was a great social activity for the players, there was no value for the development of players. It is a harsh reality for many to think that high school soccer is so meaningless, but club soccer for years has been at the forefront of collegiate scouting and high school soccer has been nothing more than bragging rights.
With three divisions moving to the 10-month schedule, likely others will follow as the quest to reach a level playing field with fellow Development Academies will push other regions to follow suit. The Liberty Division is a likely destination to also get rid of high school soccer. NYRB, in the past, has attempted to expedite studies so the academy players could graduate ahead of schedule and join the full team training. Ridding the players of the obligation to play with the school team will also improve their training.
The question now becomes how to view high school soccer beyond a novelty. Local papers are still going to treat the high school game like the big game in town because they are unaware that the best players are no longer on the high school team. Hence, the perception still may be greater than the product while the dust settles on this cultural change.
That said there are still plenty of players in this country and high school soccer is going to offer an opportunity for those players to gain exposure. The high school game remains more prominent in terms of media coverage, awards, and other distinctions despite the appeal of club soccer for future professional ambitions. Perhaps with a less crowded pool, some more talent will emerge through this avenue . . . that made just be wishful thinking though.
Development Academy, while developing an appeal in the online news spectrum, has yet to reach print media in any consistent form and the major online outlets are hesitant to dive into coverage at all.
It will take more than just taking players away from high school soccer to change that line of thinking, but the greater concern was amount of games and training – both of those will likely improve. The rest will hopefully follow suit in time.