The first 25 member clubs in the new U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy were announced on Thursday, with the program modeled on the Development Academy Program for boys which got its start in 2007 and has since grown to include 152 clubs in five age groups.
The success of the boys academy is a near continual source of debate among the U.S. public but the organization is confident in the model, saying in remarks released in February that, “U.S. Soccer Development Academy has served as the elite male youth player development model for the country and has significantly improved the everyday environment for players, coaches, referees, and clubs.”
The program, again via U.S. Soccer, “will focus on positively impacting everyday club environments to maximize elite female youth player development. Increasing the training to game ratio, playing fewer but more meaningful games and providing assistance for coaching education and development are just some of the standards and best practices the program will promote.”
U.S. Soccer Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs explained the program’s goals in that same February announcement. “In support of U.S. Soccer’s long-term plan for player and coach development, launching a Girls’ Development Academy is part of an unprecedented commitment to elevating the women’s game.” Heinrichs continued, “This program will directly impact the everyday environment for clubs and further connect players and coaches to our National Teams. From a program perspective, we will educate both players and coaches on position-specific roles, physical and psychosocial planning and preparation, current coaching methodologies and the use of sport science and technology.”
Six clubs from the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will be part of the initial 25 members of the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy. The six are the Boston Breakers, Orlando Pride, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC and Washington Spirit.
NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said in a statement released by the league, “we are very excited to have six clubs as a part of the initial group designated to participate in the Girls Development Academy.” “It is important,” Plush went on, “for us to be supportive of our clubs throughout this ongoing process of establishing a setting for the development of world-class female players.”
The league’s four remaining clubs have the option of joining the Academy in the future if they decide to do so.
The GDA will begin play in the fall of 2017 in three combined age groups: U14/15, U16/17, and, U18/19. According to U.S. Soccer, “clubs will be expected to train a minimum of four times a week. The use of combined age groups will require clubs to form teams with a balanced roster of players from two distinct birth years.” The statement adds that, “the games will be scouted by U.S. Soccer and the program will serve as the primary pathway to the Youth National Teams.”
Here are the original 25 members of the Girls’ Development Academy. More announcements are expected soon.
Beach SC (Calif.)
Boston Breakers (Mass.)
Cincinnati Development Academy (Kings Hammer/CUP) (Ohio)
Colorado Rush (Colo.)
Concorde Fire (Ga.)
De Anza Force (Calif.)
FC Dallas (Texas)
LAFC Slammers (Calif.)
Michigan Hawks (Mich.)
Tophat NTH (Ga.)
Orlando Pride (Fla.)
Penn Fusion SA (Penn.)
Portland Thorns (Ore.)
Real Colorado (Colo.)
San Diego Surf (Calif.)
Seattle Reign (Wash.)
Sky Blue – PDA (N.J.)
So Cal Blues (Calif.)
Sockers FC (Ill.)
Solar Chelsea SC (Texas)
Washington Spirit Academy (Md.)