In a country, where approximately more than 4 million youths train and play soccer, highlighting the Top 5 of the kids' academies might be practically impossible. No one can follow more than 100 thousand teams in different age groups (boys and girls) closely to summarize five picks without risking to make a significant miss. The number of homegrown players in Major League Soccer increases every season. Such a tendency points to an overall improvement in soccer schools in recent years. And since the top tier of the US soccer was mentioned, let`s start with the MLS-based academies.
If you wonder why the MLS Soccer is on the rise you can find it here: https://afootballreport.com/blog/why-the-us-major-league-soccer-is-on-the-rise
1. The Bulls from New York lead the way
Several MLS clubs are standing out with the presence of players trained and grown in their own system. At the start of the 2018 season, FC Dallas topped the list of the homegrown signings with 10 boys who have climbed through the club`s ranks. Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake also rely heavily on players prepared in their respective academies. But the MLS franchise with the most considerable influence of players formed climbing up the inner hierarchy is New York Red Bulls.
Last season NYRB record the highest percentage of minutes to Academy products, reaching up to 33 percent. Regular first-team players such as Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, Alex Muyl, Derrick Etienne Jr, Connor Lade made their way through the youth ranks of the Metros (as the franchise was known prior to 2006) to the professional level. The Red Bulls academy also has several prominent alumni sold abroad such as Matt Miazga (rights owned by Chelsea, playing on loan to Reading), Timothy Weah (sold to PSG, playing on loan to Celtic), Matthew Olosunde (Manchester United) to name a few. Adding the names of players with history for the U.S. men’s national team like Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore, it looks clear that the Red Bulls Academy started in 2005, is among the best functioning in the country.
2. Kansas prospects shine brightly
Well, according to Top Drawer Soccer’s Top 50 MLS prospects three stand out from the Sporting Kansas City. 16-year-old midfielder Gianluca Busio is a great promise to the future of the US soccer. Two more academy players fill in the roster of the two-time MLS champions – the midfielder Wan Kuzain and the forward Tyler Freeman.
The club called The Wizards before the 2010 re-branding deserved recognition in terms of youth soccer development. Indeed, Sporting Kansas City received the 2018 MLS Academy of the Year award. Five Academy products made their names on the first team roster. The club also has the affiliate team called Swope Park Rangers - 12 Academy kids earned playing time with the jersey throughout 2018 USL Championship season. Youth system at Sporting is developed all the way from U-12 through U-19 with one head coach for each of the six teams plus one technical coach, two goalkeeper coaches, and two fitness coaches. The prospects grow at the Swope Soccer Village where nine full-size fields are present. The affiliation program of the franchise covers nine states, 40 cities and reach more than 20,000 youth players throughout the Midwest.
3. Phoenix youth soccer flourishes
If you look for the region with the highest concentration of high-level of youth academies, it is not New York, nor Bay-Area, not even the DC-Metro area. According to gotsoccer.com, you can find it in Arizona. Phoenix metropolitan area has the highest number of clubs – four - with at least three age groups among the Top 25. Among those four clubs, one particular stands out - Tuzos SC. The Arizona franchise is affiliated with one of the most prominent members of the Liga MX – Pachuca. So, prospects for the top tier in Mexico are to be found in Phoenix, but some of these kids might show up at the MLS or some other stages.
4. Baltimore triumphs in the youth leagues on the national level
The results and the titles are not the only things that matter when searching for youth soccer academies in the USA that stand out above the others. And still, if a particular club or area consistently boasts a team to reach the top of the teenage categories, then it might tell a story of success.
Such a story applies to soccer development in Baltimore. Maryland-based teams regularly make the breakthrough to the finals and the titles in different age categories. Ten years ago, Soccer America praised Baltimore Casa Mia Bays to be the greatest club in America in terms of kids development. Nowadays, the flag is waved high by the Baltimore Celtics. Six trophies on a national level have been for past five years by teams coming out of that academy. In 2018, Baltimore Celtics enjoyed championship rosters in both U-18 and U-19 boys’ teams. It looks like they have some talent, don’t they?
5. Dallas grows champions among boys and… girls
In Europe, when they talk about soccer (it’s called football there), they mean men game. It was indeed the sport for males for a long time, and even if ladies play it for decades now, it barely draws significant attention (except for cities like Bilbao in Spain, for example) from the crowd. Well, in the US soccer is almost equally popular among the boys and the girls.
And there are only a few clubs all around North America to have strong teams in all genders. One of those clubs is Dallas Texans. Back in 2008, the academy was praised for growing champions in youth categories with the boys and with the girls too. A decade later, Dallas Texans are still one of the most powerful and productive franchises regarding academy development. The North Texas club works with children as young as six years prepared to lead them all the way to the U-19 category and to develop those kids to break into the professional game. And turning into a pro serves as the actual proof of success for any soccer academy.
See the all-time best MLS Soccer teams here: https://afootballreport.com/blog/all-time-best-mls-teams-to-play-the-game