It wasn’t long ago I was lambasted for an article I wrote being critical of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. I asked U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati a few years ago what his thoughts were about coaches saying the academy undermined high school competition, specifically in Southern California. He compared me to Mr. Jack Bell for asking such a question which he answered vaguely if I recall. FYI, Jack Bell is a journalist for The New York Times.
In a soccer preview a few years ago, here’s how I ended my report:
U.S. Soccer Development Academy a hit?
Hardly. There was not a single coach surveyed who likes the idea of U.S. Soccer having the newly created Development Academy play during the high school season.
Several teams lost top players to the academy.
Competition in the CIF-SS and tournaments in Southern California are as tough if not more competitive than the schedule the academy has set out: playing other club teams that are not even Premiere teams, the highest level in club soccer.
The West Coast Classic in January is one of the toughest high school tournaments in the nation. Case closed? Time will tell.
I will get into this subject more as we get closer to league play, but the consensus among high school coaches is the academy is doing more harm than good. With this side of town being a hot bed for youth soccer, I wonder what are the parents’ thoughts of the academy and if you prefer the academy over high school competition where there is just as much exposure, if not more. What schools and/or players are still being affected by the academy and why should kids make the grueling decision, playing for your high school team or the Academy? I know this was a hotly contested issue in Orange County, but there are other soccer hotbeds, this part of town included.
For the record, Cardenas and I cover high school soccer together in Orange County while he worked at the Los Angeles Times and I with the Orange County Register. We had numerous debates over the Academy and the plan was to both write explanatory reports on the academy, but just as I was about to report on it I was promoted from Major League Soccer to Lakers/Angels while Cardenas got heavily involved in the origins of the academy as you can tell by his well-done reporting.