Orlando City Youth Soccer and Florida Rush Collaboration
Orlando City Youth Soccer (OCYS) and Florida Rush have a unique partnership that aligns Central Florida’s professional soccer club with local youth powerhouse Florida Rush. The agreement sees the two organizations collaborating on the US Development Academy, which is the highest level of elite youth play in the country, by leveraging two of the Rush coaches leading the U16 and U18 teams.
The partnership has the advantage of providing pre-Academy players (U13-14) with the option of playing in either OCYS or Rush programs prior to making the transition to the full Development Academy rosters., allowing both clubs to pool their most talented players together for the program. The agreement also provides for joint marketing and sales efforts between the two clubs.
About the Program
Created in 2007, the development academy was established to primarily focus on youth player
development in the United States. The league consisted of 64 elite youth soccer clubs from
around the country in its inaugural season. Each team is comprised by geographic proximity,
with two age groups (U-15/16 & U-17/18). These 64 teams were divided into eight conferences
with each team playing approximately 30 home and away matches during an eight-month season.
Currently in its fifth season, the program has expanded to 80 clubs competing in ten
geographically-based divisions. Although some attributes have changed during the past four
seasons, the basic mission and principles remain intact: increased focus on training, meaningful
competition and a providing a direct connection to U.S. National Team programming.
Developing the Next Generation
U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy program is driven by the game and its players, coaches and
referees. This game-centric approach allows for long-term development to occur through a deep
understanding of what makes players successful around the world. As the sport of soccer grows
in the United States, young players in our country need the proper environment to compete
against the world’s elite. The U.S. Soccer Development Academy program provides the optimum
developmental environment for the nation’s top youth soccer players, coaches and referees by
emphasizing development through quality training and limited, meaningful competition.
Academy teams spend a greater amount of time focused on training to improve as individuals
and as a team. The teams and players receive direct feedback and evaluations from National
Team Staff in both training and game environments. In 2012, Academy teams will be exposed to
mental testing using the EXACT Sports MAP system. Using a multitude of feedback systems,
each athlete gains a greater understanding of how he compares against his peers and what he
needs to do to achieve their optimal performance levels.
The Academy program features teams from the top youth clubs from around the country. Each
Academy team plays approximately 30 regular season games to ensure all games are meaningful.
Games are also played according to FIFA’s Laws of the Game and officiated by a pool of the
nation’s top young referees in order to prepare players for the next level of competition.
Members of our Men’s National Team Scouting Network regularly attend Academy games, so
players are evaluated over the course of the season and in their natural positions allowing for the
best player assessment.
As the program enters its fifth year, it has already dramatically impacted the player development
process in the United States. At the end of 2011, almost half of all players involved in the youth
national team player pool since 2007 have come from within the Academy program and
approximately 75% of each graduating class from the Academy participates in college soccer the
following fall. Virtually all college programs use the Academy program as a scouting vehicle
and the program has received increased attention from professional scouts representing domestic
and international clubs.
Notable alumni from the program have flooded the domestic and international professional
scene. Recent internationals include: Josh Gatt (Molde FC), Sean Cunningham (Derby County),
Marc Pelosi and Villyan Bijev (Liverpool). Many domestic players are continuing their career in
MLS, including Bill Hamid (D.C. United) Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls). We have more
to look forward to after a successful 2012 MLS Super Draft in which Andrew Wenger (PA
Classics, Montreal Impact) was taken as the first drafted player, Kelyn Rowe went third
(Crossfire Premier, New England Revolution) and Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Albertson SC) went
eighth to the Portland Timbers.
To learn more about U.S. Soccer Development Academy, click here.