CHICAGO (April 2, 2010) – After an extensive review process, the Minnesota Thunder Academy and Shattuck-St. Mary’s Soccer Academy have been selected to join the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The two Minnesota clubs will join the Academy at the conclusion of the current season and begin competing on the field during the 2010-11 season.
Additionally, the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders will also field teams in the 2010-11 season, as both Major League Soccer clubs have merged with local youth clubs to further player development. The San Jose Earthquakes have joined Mustang SC in the Bay Area of California, while the Seattle Sounders have partnered with Washington Premier FC, providing a professional training environment to their respective areas.
The Minnesota Thunder Academy is based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, while Shattuck-St. Mary’s is located about 60 miles south. Due to the close proximity, the two clubs will immediately become travel partners while playing in the Central Conference. The Conference, and its divisions, will be modified at a later date to accommodate the addition of the clubs.
The Thunder Academy consists of 44 competitive boys teams and 49 competitive girls teams. Alumni of the club include 2002 FIFA World Cup veteran Tony Sanneh and three other players, Leo Cullen, Manny Lagos and Tom Presthus, who have made appearances with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“We have always been pushing to try to find the best solution for players in Minnesota, and being part of the Academy will add to our program,” said Rob Zahl, Director of the Boy’s Elite Program at the Minnesota Thunder Academy. “We will have a lot of resources available to us from U.S. Soccer, and our players will play against the best club teams week in and week out. From our perspective, we can see that the Academy has been breeding success and we want to be a part of that.”
Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a college prep school, has three outdoor fields and one indoor turf field on its campus. Shattuck-St. Mary’s Soccer Academy players attend school and have access to strength and conditioning facilities and full locker rooms to compliment daily training in a set up similar to the U.S. Soccer U-17 Men’s National Team Residency Program and the IMG Academies.
Renowned for its hockey programs that have produced some of the world’s best players, Shattuck-St. Mary’s introduced its Soccer Academy in 2004 and has already taken steps to ensure that their program will fit into the Development Academy structure. Though there are just more than 150 boys and girls soccer players at the Academy, the staff includes 10 full-time coaches and four part-time coaches, many of whom hold USSF “A” Licenses.
“The structure of our program is certainly unique,” said Tim Carter, Director of Soccer at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and head coach of the U-17/18 team. “U.S. Soccer has created a better environment for player development and we have what we think is an excellent opportunity to use our resources and facilities to give our players every advantage to fulfill their potential.”
U.S. Soccer received a competitive pool of more than 200 applicants, all of which were evaluated to determine which clubs had the best potential to generate future national team players. The evaluation was based on a number of categories, including geographic location, history of player production, coaching staff and administrative capabilities.
The Academy program was created to enhance the player development environment for elite youth players in the United States in accordance with U.S. Soccer Best Practices, with specific focus on increasing the number of training sessions, decreasing the total number of games while increasing the number of quality games and maintaining the highest level of coaching, refereeing and competition available in an everyday environment.
Aside from providing clubs with a soccer-centric environment, the Academy program also provides a platform to systematically improve the player identification and development processes. Over half of the Academy matches are attended by a national team scout, resulting in a comprehensive system to evaluate player, coach and referee talent.
Launched in the fall of 2007 after a detailed review of player development systems in the U.S. and across the world, the Development Academy provides players, coaches and referees a nationally-coordinated program designed to enhance their development environment. The Academy has improved the training environment, provided relevant, high-level matches on a consistent basis, increased the level and efficiency of scouting for the national teams and provided players, coaches and referees with structured programming. For more information on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, log on to ussoccer.com.