My #2 son has had a great opportunity this year. He is fortunate enough to have tried out and made one of US Soccer's Development Academy Teams. We live in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and my son plays for the U16 (birthdates in 1992 or younger) Ohio Elite Soccer Academy Team based here.
US Soccer started the Development Academy in 2007 to focus on player development. They have very strict specifications that participating clubs have to adhere to, training a minimum 3 days per week, a minimum of one weekend off per month, no more than two games in two days etc. It seems as though US soccer is really looking to have a very high training hours/game hours ratio.
It has been an interesting year. My son's team has travelled to Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit so far this year. They will be travelling to Sarasota for a National showcase Memorial Day weekend. The quality of soccer is unbelievable, and by all accounts my son's team is playing the best competition available in the United States. If you are familiar with youth soccer, then the names will be familiar to you-Vardar (Michigan), Derby County (Michigan) Wolves, Carmel United (Indiana), The Columbus Crew, CASL (NC), Richmond VA Strikers, Solar (Texas), Scott Gallagher (St. Louis) etc. Oh, and the players on these teams are the best their regions and clubs offer!
So why am I writing about this? Well, when you play the best competition, sometimes results on the field are hard to come by. The boys have a win and a draw so far this year, with some games that we should have won, and many losses mixed in. That can be tough, especially on the parent.
My son's teams have participated in the traditional youth soccer leagues (Midwest Regional League, local leagues) and high level tournaments, including State Cup in the past. They have played many of the team's mentioned above in those games, certainly with better results on the field than they are having now.
But here's the thing: My son is having a great time in the Development Academy! He is playing at a very high level of competition. He is getting visibility to college coaches not only at the showcases, but at regular season games. In addition, US National staff coaches regularly attend games and training sessions. He wouldn't trade it for any other opportunities.
So the moral of this story. My son is developing into a better player. He is having fun. And he is getting more opportunities in soccer by playing in The US Soccer Development Academy than he would anywhere else.
By the way, don't just take it from me, ask him!