Orlando Pride Selected as Inaugural Club for U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy

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Less than a year after launching its National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) franchise, Orlando Pride will again make history in women’s soccer as the Club’s Girls Academy has been selected as one of 25 flagship clubs for U.S. Soccer’s Girls’ Development Academy. The Development Academy is an initiative designed to accelerate the development of world-class female players that will begin play in the fall of 2017. This first group of clubs are among the most elite in the United States.

“It's a privilege to be joining the Girls' Development Academy, especially to be a part of the initial 25 clubs. That's a pretty big statement for us as an organization,” said Girls Academy Director Alan Hough. “The Development Academy structure and philosophy regarding player development falls in line with Orlando City’s ideas, as an organization, and I'm excited to be able to provide players in Central Florida access to a year-round program and a pathway to our National Women's Soccer League team and youth national teams.”

The program will focus on positively impacting everyday club environments to maximize elite female youth player development.  Increasing the training to game ratio, playing fewer but more meaningful games and providing assistance for coaching education and development are just some of the standards and best practices the program will promote. 

Since 2007, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy has served as the elite male youth player development model for the country and has significantly improved the everyday environment for players, coaches, referees and clubs.  The Girls’ Development Academy will be structured with many of the same principles and will begin play in the fall of 2017. 

“Phil [Rawlins], Tom [Sermanni] and the rest of the organization is so committed to player development on the female side - there's always the goal to ‘Defy Expectations’ and we genuinely believe we can create one of the best female platforms, not only in the United States, but globally,” Hough added.  “The Academy, the NWSL franchise and the Club's commitment to the environment, the facilities, the players, the stadium, the funding – all of it – shows Orlando City’s unmatched commitment to the women's game.”

“Launching a Girls' Development Academy is part of an unprecedented commitment to elevating the women's game," said U.S. Soccer Women's Technical Director April Heinrichs. "The Development Academy program will offer clubs support and education to positively impact the development of players and coaches throughout the country.”

The following 25 clubs are the first being admitted to the Girls’ Development Academy with more announcements taking place in the near future. 

  • Beach SC (Calif.)
  • Boston Breakers (Mass.)
  • CASL (N.C.)
  • Cincinnati Development Academy (Kings Hammer/CUP) (Ohio)
  • Colorado Rush (Colo.)
  • Concorde Fire (Ga.)
  • Crossfire (Wash.)
  • De Anza Force (Calif.)
  • FC Dallas (Texas)
  • LAFC Slammers (Calif.)
  • Lamorinda (Calif.)
  • Michigan Hawks (Mich.)
  • Mustang (Calif.)
  • Tophat NTH (Ga.)
  • Orlando Pride (Fla.)
  • Penn Fusion SA (Penn.)
  • Portland Thorns (Ore.)
  • Real Colorado (Colo.)
  • San Diego Surf (Calif.)
  • Seattle Reign (Wash.)
  • Sky Blue - PDA (N.J.)
  • So Cal Blues (Calif.)
  • Sockers FC (Ill.)
  • Solar Chelsea SC (Texas)
  • Washington Spirit Academy (Md.)

These first 25 clubs have a total of 119 staff and coaches that hold a U.S. Soccer A or B Coaching License, and includes 91 coaches who are employed on a fulltime basis.  To date, these clubs have produced 307 players for U.S. Soccer’s National Teams (youth and senior) as well as 84 professional soccer players. In addition, this group will be providing 276 full scholarships with a total of $1.49 million of scholarship funds being contributed. 

Club applications were evaluated and accepted by U.S. Soccer’s technical staff based on the following criteria:

  • Leadership of the club and quality of the coaching staff
  • Desire to embrace and promote the core values of the program
  • U.S. Soccer license levels of coaching staff
  • Infrastructure of the club and the resources currently being invested in development (facilities, scholarships, staff to player ratio, etc.)
  • History of player production for Youth National Teams, the senior Women’s National Team and professional leagues
  • Market and depth of the player pool, geographic location and travel implications and proximity to other elite clubs

The program will feature three combined age groups: U-14/15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. Clubs will be expected to train a minimum of four times a week.  The use of combined age groups will require clubs to form teams with a balanced roster of players from two distinct birth years. The games will be scouted by U.S. Soccer and the program will serve as the primary pathway to the Youth National Teams.

In addition to combining the most elite players from each birth year to form the mixed age group player pool, coaches will be encouraged to play their players “up” on an older age team within the club to help accelerate development.

The competitive framework will focus on the core values of the program, which emphasizes quality coaching and teaching in a positive learning environment for players with zero tolerance for poor behavior from coaches.