CHARLESTON, S.C. (March 1, 2019) – Fourteen clubs with U.S. Soccer Development Academy membership are creating the Florida Academy League to continue their player development focus at the 12-U boys age group. The move comes as a result of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy's decision to no longer host that age group – instead, trusting those programs to provide developmental opportunities for themselves within other structures.
The Florida Academy League, sanctioned and supported by US Club Soccer, will initially host the current Academy 12-U programs in an intrastate competition. The league will maintain a high level of competition and standards, while also improving the league schedule by playing home and away matches with each club. Member clubs are as follows:
- Chargers SC
- GPS Florida West
- Florida Rush SC
- Inter Miami CF
- Jacksonville Armada FC Youth Academy
- Kendall SC
- Orlando City Youth Soccer
- Palm Beach Predators
- PSG Plantation FC
- South Florida Football Academy
- Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Wellington FC
- West Florida Flames
- Weston FC
Through this initiative, these clubs ensure a challenging level of competition for the 12-U Academies, as well as providing the flexibility to continue to improve the league as it moves forward. In the past five years, these clubs have promoted 73 players to professional clubs and more than 200 players to top collegiate programs.
"Creating the best environment for the advancement of talented 12-and-under players in South Florida is our priority, and the creation of the Florida Academy league will allow us to compete in a high-level, well-organized setting," said Victor Pastora, Inter Miami's Academy Coach. "At Inter Miami CF, we are grateful for the opportunity to join the Florida Academy League and look forward to contributing to its success."
"It is a great step forward in the continued development of our young players when the Academy directors of the former USSDA 12-U league decided to maintain and enhance the age group by creating the Florida Academy League with US Club Soccer," added Roberto Lopez, Chargers SC Academy Director. "This enables the top 12-U players in the state to continue their path to play in the USSDA."
"Providing a sound 12-U environment based on modern developmental standards and Players First principles will create the proper foundation for further growth for these players, no matter what level they eventually rise to," said Kevin Payne, US Club Soccer CEO/Executive Director.
Players First is a branded, holistic club soccer experience for parents and players which emphasizes the development of each individual to his or her full potential, and helps parents make better choices about where their children should play. Players First is anchored by five pillars:
- Club Development
- Coaching Development
- Player Development
- Parent Engagement & Education
- Player Health & Safety
US Club Soccer strives to create the safest environment for players in youth sports. Its vehicle for accomplishing that ambitious goal is the Player Health & Safety pillar of Players First. US Club Soccer has implemented best-in-class background checks, as part of its background screening process for all registered staff. The effort coincides with a requirement for those registered staff to complete a Sideline Sports Doc/US Club Soccer online injury recognition course, as well as SafeSport online training.