The United Soccer League announced Wednesday that Louisville City FC is among founding members of the USL Academy League’s East-Central Division. The Academy League’s inaugural season is due to kick off in spring 2021, providing clubs in all three of the USL's senior divisions with an elite youth development and competition platform.
The structure of the USL Academy League establishes a progressive model to develop local players for their senior team — in this case, LouCity — at a lessened cost of traditional pre-professional academies. Doing so will also enable far more clubs and communities to participate, allowing for the regional division format which limits travel demand to teams and families.
“Our mission as a club is to provide our players a pathway to professional soccer,” said Mario Sanchez, technical director of the LouCity Academy. “The USL Academy League will give us another platform to test our players in a highly professional environment.”
The six clubs set to compete in the East-Central Division of the inaugural USL Academy League are as follows:
In order to ease the burden of travel while still offering an elite level of competition and youth development programming, the USL Academy League’s founding member clubs will be divided into seven regions: Northeast, Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, East Central, South Central and Southwest.
Clubs participating in the USL Academy League will field one elite youth team, made up of the top U15-U19 prospects in their organization. With a set of league-mandated standards in place, the league will ensure players’ exposure to a high level of competition and development result from direct ties to the organization’s USL senior team.
“We want to continue to give opportunities for our players to play in top level competition, and the USL is providing a wonderful platform to do that,” said Simon Bird, boys academy director for LouCity. “Our focus is on maximizing the potential of our players while providing a clear pathway to professional and collegiate soccer. This league will allow us to play against other like-minded professional youth academies.”
More than 50 clubs across 25 states comprise the wide geographic footprint of the inaugural USL Academy League and a number of other clubs and communities have expressed interest in joining the league for the 2022 season and beyond.