U.S. Soccer Development Academy

The U.S. Soccer Development Academy (DA) is an American soccer league. Formed in 2007, the league features youth academies and youth clubs from various organizations, including Major League Soccer, the North American Soccer League and the United Soccer Leagues. It succeeded the Super Y League as the premier youth soccer league in the U.S. The DA's mission is to provide education, resources, and support to impact everyday club environments in order to develop world-class players.

U.S. Soccer Development Academy
CountryUnited States
Other club(s) fromCanada
Number of teams200 (including girls academy)
Current championsNew York City FC (U18/19)
Seattle Sounders FC (U16/17)

As of the 2016–17 season, the Academy has 149 total clubs, in five age groups: U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15/16, and U-17/18. The Academy is currently in the process of expanding their programming to include a Girls' Development Academy that will consist of 74 clubs and will begin in the fall of 2017.

Joining an Academy club

For players to join the Academy, they must first join one of the member clubs. The Academy suggests any interested player should contact the club directly for specific information about joining the club. Clubs can be found based on age group within the three regional conferences.

Clubs must apply directly to the Academy through the website.[1] Applications for the boys' clubs are available in early fall on the Development Academy website. Accepted clubs join the Academy in the following fall season.


The U.S. Soccer Development Academy was founded in 2007, after a comprehensive review of elite player development conducted by the USSF, to serve as the top tier for youth soccer in the United States and provide an elite everyday environment for player development. The organization was created as a partnership between U.S. Soccer and top level clubs across the country, emphasizing increased training with more competitive games versus more games in general, with the ultimate goal of producing world-class players.

The league serves to connect national team coaches at all age levels directly with elite youth players, while also serving as a venue for advanced coaching and referee development.[2]

The league is unique among other professional soccer leagues domestically, as it runs on a winter-based schedule. The season generally begins in September and ends in June or July. There is usually a hiatus in January and February, and players have the summer off. Most of the clubs are associated with professional teams, either in North America through MLS, the NASL or the USL, or with European clubs. The professional teams cover most, if not all of the fees, while the academies offer a pipeline of talent to the professional club.

The league also welcomed two Canadian teams, the respective academy sides for the professional clubs of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Montreal Impact of MLS with the third, Toronto FC, following in 2018.[3]

The DA celebrated its 10th season, and recently unveiled a new logo. The logo features an inextricable link to the U.S. Soccer crest, and features the letters "DA", for Development Academy. The forward and upward motion of the logo's shape signifies the strategic growth and direction of the program. The four stripes represent the four pillars of the Development Academy: excellence, pride, tradition, and education.


DA Champions
Season U17/18 U15/16
2007–2008 Baltimore Bays Chelsea Carmel United SC
2008–2009 Carmel United SC Derby County Wolves
2009–2010 Vardar SC Freiburg Chicago Fire Academy
2010–2011 Pateadores Academy Los Angeles Galaxy Academy
2011–2012 FC Dallas Development Academy New York Red Bulls Academy
2012–2013 New York Red Bulls Academy Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy
2013–2014 Players Development Academy Los Angeles Galaxy Academy
2014–2015 Chicago Fire Academy FC Dallas Development Academy
2015–2016 FC Dallas Development Academy FC Dallas Development Academy
2016–2017 Texans SC Houston Atlanta United FC Academy
2017–2018 New York City FC Academy Seattle Sounders FC Academy

Growth and development

U.S. Soccer's new Player Development Initiatives (PDIs) are geared towards giving players the right tools to succeed and develop to the best of their abilities in age appropriate environments. More information about best practices, the Birth Year Mandate, and further resources can be found on the U.S. Soccer Player Development Initiatives homepage.[4]

Coaching education

The Academy also offers U.S. Soccer coaching education resources and licenses through the Digital Coaching Center.

U-12 program

The Development Academy expanded to include the U-12 age group in the fall of 2016. The U-12 Academy program improves the training environment for players at younger ages by providing more and higher quality training, more meaningful yet fewer total games, and age-appropriate learning environments. The U-12 program was stopped at the end of the season 2018-2019

U-13 and U-14 single age group

The Development Academy split the U-13/14 age group into single age groups to create foundation of the pathway at U-13 and U-14, to focus on individual player development. This will provide the base for a long-term streamlined pathway with flexibility to move players between rosters within the club, a better transition period for players from 9v9 to 11v11, and include late developers.

The U-13 Academy Program follows the same schedule as the current U-13/14 program, consisting of divisional play, futsal training, and a regional showcase event.

Girls' Development Academy

The Development Academy is pleased to announce that 74 clubs will join the Girls' Development Academy in the inaugural season of fall 2017. The Girls' Development Academy is part of U.S. Soccer's global leadership position in women's soccer and connects with its long-term plan to improve player and coach development. Initially the program will include three age groups, U-14/15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. The mission of the program is to provide education, resources and support to directly impact the everyday environment for clubs to develop world-class female players.[5]

Academy structure

The schedule of the Development Academy consists of a ten-month season which begins in September and finishes with championships in July. Clubs take a break in league play during the winter due to weather conditions, but most continue to train. During the season each academy team expects to play between 25 and 30 games. These games are typically within the clubs' respective divisions, with the exception of showcase and playoff games. The U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams participate in Summer and Winter Showcases. The Summer Showcase also acts as the group stage of Academy Playoffs. The teams that advance from the Academy playoffs can expect to play up to an additional three games.

The Development Academy designs the structure of the schedule for all clubs, and it is the clubs' responsibility to organize a time and location for each game.

Each age group has its own distinctive structure. The U-12 program has players practice more often, but play in fewer games. The U-13 and U-14 program attend showcases throughout the year and play in games. These showcases include the Fall Regional Showcase, Winter Futsal Showcase, and Summer National Showcase. The U-12 program, U-13 and U-14 programs do not participate in the playoffs.

The U-15/16 and U-17/18 age groups compete in two national showcases and regular season games. As mentioned above, the Summer and Winter Showcases are the premier events for these age groups. Additionally, 32 teams qualify for the playoffs and the top 8 go on to compete in the academy championships.

Age groups

The Academy has 149 total clubs, in five age groups: U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15/16, and U-17/18. These 149 clubs are all located within seventeen geographically-based divisions at the U-12 age group, ten geographically-based divisions at the U-13 and U-14 age group, and seven geographically-based divisions at both the U-15/16 and U-17/18 levels.

The U-12 league is divided into seventeen divisions across three conferences:

U-12 team map

East Conference Central Conference West Conference
1. New York Metro Chicagoland Washington
2. New England Great Lakes Oregon
3. North Atlantic Colorado Bay Area
4. Mid-Atlantic Texas LA
5. Carolina San Diego
6. Georgia
7. Florida North
8. Florida South


The U-13/14 league is divided into ten divisions across three conferences:

U-13 and U-14 team map

East Conference Central Conference West Conference
1. Northeast Mid-America Northwest
2. Metro Colorado Southwest
3. North Atlantic Frontier
4. South Atlantic
5. Sunshine


The U-15/16 and U-17/18 leagues are divided into seven divisions across three conferences:

U-15/16 and U-17/18 team map

East Conference Central Conference West Conference
1. Northeast Mid-America Northwest
2. Atlantic Frontier Southwest
3. Southeast


Notable alumni

Player DA club Current professional club
Kellyn Acosta FC Dallas Academy Colorado Rapids
Aaron Long Arsenal FC New York Red Bulls
Juan Agudelo New York Red Bulls Academy New England Revolution
Paul Arriola Arsenal FC D.C. United
Steve Birnbaum Pateadores D.C. United
Alex Bono Empire United Toronto FC
Will Bruin St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri Seattle Sounders
Joe Corona Nomads SC LA Galaxy
Joshua Gatt Crew SC Academy Wolves Rheindorf Altach
Luis Gil IMG Academy Querétaro
Lynden Gooch Santa Cruz Breakers Academy Sunderland
Bill Hamid D.C. United Academy D.C. United
Ethan Horvath Real Colorado Club Brugge
Emerson Hyndman FC Dallas Academy A.F.C. Bournemouth
Aron Jóhannsson IMG Academy Werder Bremen
Kekuta Manneh Texas Rush FC Cincinnati
Matt Miazga New York Red Bulls Academy Reading (on loan from Chelsea)
Jordan Morris Seattle Sounders FC Academy Seattle Sounders
Darlington Nagbe Internationals Atlanta United
Christian Pulisic PA Classics Chelsea (on loan from Borussia Dortmund)
Josh Sargent St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri Werder Bremen
Caleb Stanko Vardar FC Cincinnati
Wil Trapp Crew Academy SC Columbus Crew
DeAndre Yedlin Crossfire Premier / Seattle Sounders FC Academy Newcastle United
Gyasi Zardes LA Galaxy Academy Columbus Crew


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