USL Academy provides a new professional pathway for youth players in USL communities across the country, the first-of-its-kind pre-professional league will align with the United State's professional calendar, complement existing local youth organizations, and allow players extensive access to the First Team.
USL Academy clubs can now develop a more clearly-defined path for top youth prospects in their area to reach the professional level and sign directly with their senior team.
This new structure provides USL clubs a progressive model to develop local players for the senior team, at a fraction of the cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Doing so will also allow far more clubs & communities to participate, allowing for a regional footprint that limits travel demand to teams & families.
Regional subdivisions will be launched once an appropriate critical mass of clubs is established in a specified geographical area.
LIMITING TRAVEL DEMAND
The goal is to limit the demand and cost for youth players competing in high-level environments.
As USL expands at the senior team level, more regional subdivisions will be launched, with the cost of travel going down subsequently
The overall goal is to unite communities across all levels of the game, and increasing the likelihood of expanding on our regional subdivisions quickly.
Comprised exclusively of clubs from across the USL’s network of 129 Championship, League One and League Two teams, the inaugural Academy League preseason is set to kick off in February 2021, including a period of full integration with a club’s First Team, followed by a regular season that will align with the USL Championship and USL League One seasons spanning from March to November. The league will then conclude with the USL Academy League Playoffs, as well as the first-ever Academy League Final.
PRO CALENDAR ALIGNMENT
In an effort to drive further vertical integration of each USL club’s Academy Team and First Team, the USL Academy League season will be aligned with the pro calendars of Championship and League One. Doing so will also encourage further collaboration between youth & senior team staff, as well as make the transition of integrating from the youth to pro levels even easier for the top youth prospects.
Each season will begin with a full month of pre-season in February, regular and post-season play will occur across three subsequent
Spring: March - May
Summer: June - August
Fall: September - November
Players will have an offseason from Thanksgiving through January.
USL ACADEMY CUP
A supplemental competition, the USL Academy Cup brings together top youth prospects from all markets within USL and MLS clubs, all centered around identifying players with the potential to reach the professional level.
The events are designed to bring together top youth prospects whose clubs are affiliated with the USL Championship, League One and League Two divisions.
USL ACADEMY CUP
BALANCED GAMES SCHEDULE
With minimum standards of USL Academy League participation being primarily focused around clubs establishing a high-level pre-professional training environment, a mixture of official league games, as well as outside competitions, will serve as a means for each team to get an appropriate amount of meaningful games throughout the year.
OFFICIAL LEAGUE GAMES
As regional subdivisions are launched, participating clubs will be expected to participate in a minimum number of official USL Academy League games during each 3-month period of the regular season. For subdivisions with greater travel demands, play weekends may be utilized to maximize travel time, providing they follow the appropriate play to rest ratio for player safety & health.
OUTSIDE COMPETITION FLEXIBILITY
The focus is on getting building a high-standard pre-professional training environment. While we want to supplement that by providing meaningful USL-AL games within a regional footprint and select national events (such as USL-AC), we want to give each club the flexibility to add to their calendar with local friendlies, showcase tournaments, & international trips.
In between each 3-month period of USL Academy League games & during the off-season, clubs will have the opportunity to adjust their rosters, by adding/dropping players, or by switching their status between Part-Time (PT) and Full-Time (FT). Doing so will again add to synergy & collaborative opportunities with both the club’s senior team as well as local youth clubs, as players can be registered either as a Full-Time Academy Player or as two categories of “PT Player” based on what is best for their long-term development.
PT YOUTH PLAYERS
Gives players the freedom to play with their youth club and/or high school at select times throughout the year. Players on this status will have a limit on the number of USL Academy League games they can participate in, to prevent injuries & take into consideration the physical load of those outside competitions.
FT ACADEMY PLAYERS
Select players from the local youth soccer community will have the opportunity to register as full-time players within each USL Academy League team. The goal of taking this step is to move closer to the PT Pro status, and ultimately begin the integration phase with their local senior team.
PT PRO PLAYERS
Gives players on professional or amateur contracts the opportunity to train and play with their local professional team, while still getting meaningful games at the elite youth level through the USL Academy League.