U.S. Soccer Development Academy Shut Down Because of COVID-19 Pandemic

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIApril 15, 2020

BRADENTON, FL - JANUARY 22: Walker Zimmerman of the United States fights for the ball with Jesus Ferreira at IMG Academy on January 22, 2020 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The United States Soccer Development Academy is ceasing operations, effective immediately, due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

U.S. Soccer announced the decision Wednesday in a joint statement from the organization's CEO Will Wilson, sporting director Earnie Stewart and president Cindy Parlow Cone. 

U.S. Soccer @ussoccer

It is with profound disappointment that we have made the determination to end the operation of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, effective immediately. https://t.co/DB8Fr1Qkvu

"This was an incredibly difficult decision to make," the statement said, "but the extraordinary and unanticipated circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a financial situation that does not allow for the continuation of the Development Academy program into the future. We know that suddenly discontinuing a program that has been with U.S. Soccer for many years is shocking, but these unprecedented times required acting now." 

The Development Academy opened in 2007 and helped grow the best young soccer players in the country, producing renowned American stars like Chelsea's Christian Pulisic and DeAndre Yedlin of Newcastle United, both of whom have been named to the United States Men's National Team. 

As the program shutters, Major League Soccer is hoping it can help replace the infrastructure by starting its own elite youth competition platform. 

Moments after U.S. Soccer announced the closing of the Development Academy, MLS released a statement proclaiming its new system to develop World Cup-level talent. 

Jose de Jesus Ortiz @OrtizKicks

The @MLS announced a new elite youth competition platform for MLS youth academy teams and non MLS Academy teams that participated in the @ussoccer Development Academy. https://t.co/9rh0IwWaUB

"Major League Soccer is deeply committed to developing world-class players through an elite competitive pathway, from out academy teams through the professional game," executive vice president of competition and player relations Todd Durbin said. "As we look ahead to the 2026 FIFA MLS World Cup here in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, now more than ever it is incumbent on us to establish a competition that sets a new standard for elite youth play and allows athletes to achieve their full potential." 

Despite shuttering the academy, U.S. Soccer says it will continue its attempts to grow the game by increasing education for coaches and scouting youth players across the country for placement on national teams. 

The statement by U.S. Soccer makes clear the organization's decision came down to finances. As the MLS looks to pick up where the Development Academy left off, the total investment from the league will become one of the more necessary storylines to follow.