American football is closing its youth development academy, the federation announced on Wednesday, a move that will have a significant impact on high school and youth programs in southern California.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but the extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow the continuation of the Development Academy program in the future,” said the federation. in a press release.
The academy, launched in 2007, was designed to accelerate the development of high-level actors in a structured program throughout the year. However, the most recent members of the United States national team have also been polished by MLS-sponsored club teams, which remain in place.
Some prominent local high school coaches welcomed the news of the closure of the academy. Since 2012, American football has banned academy players from participating in their high school teams.
“The program has been a failure from the start,” said Birmingham High coach E.B. Madha, who lost five players from his 2019 city section champion to academy teams. “Not just at the national level, but throughout the process, it has been lower than it was 12 or 15 years ago. he [was] a waste of money and a waste of time. “
A major problem, Madha and others said, was that there were too many academy teams, which resulted in the best players being “scattered everywhere.” For example, Real So Cal, a Woodland Hills-based program affiliated with the academy, has 55 teams and more than 800 boys and girls ages 8 to 18.
The spread of the new coronavirus forced the academy teams to interrupt games and training last month.
American football has not played at any level for more than six weeks and has nothing planned until the end of the summer.
In addition to the loss of revenue from games that have been canceled, the federation faces several costly legal challenges. The United States’ women’s team, World Cup champion, is seeking $ 67 million in an equal compensation claim, and could recover an additional million dollars in damages. The case was scheduled to be heard in May but has been delayed.
American football planned to spend $ 12 million on the academy in 2021, according to a report in The Athletic.
The academy model may not be entirely dead, however. Shortly after the announcement of US Soccer, Major League Soccer announced that it would launch a new elite competition for boys that would offer high-level matches year-round for teams from MLS club academies and non-MLS teams. MLS who had already played in the program supported by the federation.
The platform includes championship matches as well as regional and national tournaments with international teams. MLS teams already have 2,500 elite players and 250 youth coaches in their academic systems.
Madha said local football should not be affected by programs run by the Galaxy and LAFC, the two MLS clubs in southern California. As there are only two local MLS academies, the impact on secondary programs should be less severe.
“Now, maybe the best will be where they belong,” said Madha, “in the academies of the professional team with professional coaching, as is the case in the rest of the world.”
In the meantime, organizations such as Real So Cal, which was affiliated with U.S. Soccer, will be looking for new leagues to join – and may be familiar with the challenges of sharing players with high school teams.
“It’s an eternal thing,” said Alberto Bru, director of Real So Cal, about fighting players. “There is nothing wrong with high school football. High school soccer has many advantages. They compete with their friends; they represent their school. “
The benefit of the academy program, he said, was “you’ve just been in a continuous learning environment for 10 months. Obviously, if you stay in the same environment for 10 months, you will progress.
“This is the crux of the matter. Not that we think high school football is bad.”