Major League Soccer and US Youth Soccer, the largest youth sports organization in the country, announced the creation of a groundbreaking strategic partnership aimed at supporting and engaging individual soccer players and communities throughout the United States.
The news comes amid an ongoing transformation of the youth soccer landscape in the United States, which has also seen the creation of an elite youth development platform featuring 95 of the top academy clubs in North America.
MLS and US Youth Soccer, with its more than 3 million boys and girls soccer players, will collaborate on:
The partnership will clear a pathway for boys and girls to be seen and scouted, regardless of location or financial resources with MLS absorbing all expenses for players attending and participating in the regional competitions at select age levels.
“We are very proud that USYS and its 55 member state associations have decided to make MLS their league of choice,” said Gordon Bengtson, MLS senior director of player development. "The state associations are crucial partners in creating more meaningful connections to the professional levels while supporting the overall growth of the game. This is particularly important in communities that have not historically had access to elite development environments or professional pathways. This is a first step towards our goal of making the size and diversity of our country, our biggest strength."
The partnership calls for a new regional competition platform to provide talented young boys and girls players with the opportunity to participate in competitions in front of professional club scouts.
Players who excel in high school programs, on club teams, or in local soccer leagues throughout the country will be recommended for this regional competition platform through a process that empowers the technical leaders at the local and state levels.
MLS will be collaborating with the technical leadership of all 55 state associations and the USYS national office to develop best practices for talent identification in each region.
“This is not a short-term vision, but rather one in which we realize the opportunity to truly connect the whole system of soccer in our country," said US Youth Soccer CEO Skip Gilbert in a statement. "For too long the professional and youth systems have been working relatively independent of each other and with this MLS partnership, we start down the path of true collaboration. This will not only expand resources to grow the game at the grassroots level, but also reveal to players and families that there is a clear pathway to any level of soccer they want to achieve."
As part of the commitment to enable access and remove barriers for talented players to reach their highest potential, MLS will absorb all expenses for players attending and participating in the regional competitions at select age levels.
Eliminating financial barriers for young players is expected to ensure talented players can be seen and scouted during their formative years.
“Our goal is to ensure that every player throughout the country has the ability to reach his or her highest potential,” said Fred Lipka, MLS technical director of player development. “There are so many young soccer players in this country that do not have the ability to access elite travel soccer programs that offer greater opportunities for talent identification. We want to ensure that every player has a clear pathway to achieve their dream of playing at the collegiate or professional level, regardless of location or financial resources.”