US Soccer Announces Sweeping Changes To Player Development System


In an effort to continue to benchmark itself against other soccer powers and gain a better understanding of where it currently stands, U.S. Soccer will undertake an independent assessment of its Youth National Teams, the Development Academy program and Development Academy clubs. U.S. Soccer has not yet selected the organization that will conduct the evaluation.

“We are trying to identify the baseline of performance across our system and then identify areas where we can accelerate growth,” said Gulati. “Having an independent viewpoint ensures we are objective in the process and allows us to focus on improving the sport in this country.” 

The Federation will continue to positively impact the development of players and coaches by implementing specific requirements based on best practices and environments for them to excel.  U.S. Soccer will provide increased education for coaching and guidance for its elite-level players.


  • U.S. Soccer Coaching Licenses have been upgraded to ensure they are aligned with the latest thinking about Coaching Education across the globe, two new courses have been introduced (F License, Youth Technical Director Course) and a Pro-License will be introduced.
  • The Federation is also introducing its new online Digital Coaching Center, which will provide greater accessibility to current coaching education resources and allow U.S. Soccer to communicate directly with registered coaches.
  • In partnership with Sporting Kansas City, the National Coaching Education Center is being developed and will be a central facility for U.S. Soccer coaching license courses.


  • In the effort to influence and impact development at an earlier stage, U.S. Soccer will add an Under-12 age group to the Development Academy program beginning in the Fall of 2016.
  • The Federation will increase funding for the Development Academy Scholarship Program, removing barriers to elite participation and allowing more players to play for a lower cost.
  • Providing quality training environments and training sessions for young players continues to be critically important, and U.S. Soccer has been aggressively expanding these efforts with its Training Center program, which has in turn led to the discovery of additional players.
  • Based on the best practices around the world, U.S. Soccer will standardize small-sided games and field sizes for youth players. Creating the proper environment on and off the field for players to develop is a critical component for future success, and this begins in the earliest phases of development.
  • Since the dawn of Major League Soccer, college soccer has played a significant role in producing players for the professional and international level. U.S. Soccer is collaborating with the NCAA to make changes to the college soccer model that will benefit the health and wellness of the athletes by extending the season over a longer period of time. Off the field, former MLS executive Nelson Rodrìguez has taken on the role of Managing Director, National Team Advisory Services. This new department will provide guidance, counseling and education on a variety of career-related topics to members of the National Team player pool.

Sustaining our commitment to overall player development, U.S. Soccer will be augmenting Youth National Team programming by adding U-16 and U-19 National Teams. These additions create two separate programming tracks for even-birth-year players and odd-birth-year players, allowing for a more consistent approach toward development and opportunities for additional players to participate.

The additional age levels will give U.S. Soccer a total of eight Youth National Teams for both Men’s and Women’s programs: U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, U-20 and U-23. The new programs at the U-16 and U-19 level will be staffed with full-time head coaches.

U.S. Soccer is aggressively pursuing the implementation of these initiatives and as these initiatives are launched, U.S. Soccer will provide additional and more detailed information. U.S. Soccer will announce a number of plans specific to Women’s National Team programing in January.

Jurgen Klinsmann has been catching a lot of flak ready for a growing number of USMNT supporters thinking he has thus far undelivered on his promise to change and improve US Soccer. The changes just announced by US Soccer should put to rest any of those criticisms. Make no mistake about it these changes will make a vast improvement on the existing US player development system. A significant investment like the ones outlined here are a necessity when trying to compete on the international stage. The US player development system has long been a thorn in the side of USMNT coaches because it fails to identify and develop talent to the standard of other major soccer nations. In order for the US to set itself up to one day win the World Cup then it must put itself on equal footing with those other nations when it comes to player development. Hopefully, ten years from now US Soccer will look back on these changes as what finally helped them become a world soccer power.


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