In 2011, the Houston Dynamo Academy, presented by Statoil, launched full-time teams at the U-13, U-14 and U-15 levels. The club saw immediate results as the U-15s won their division in the inaugural season and advanced to the National Premier League Champions Cup.
The success of the younger sides has trickled up the ladder as the Dynamo U-16s have already clinched a playoff spot with a month to go in the season, and the Dynamo U-18s looked poised to secure their first playoff berth since the 2009-10 season.
To continue the development of the program, the Dynamo announced the addition of U-11 and U-12 teams that will begin play in the fall.
“With the success we have had with the 13s, 14s and 15s and the affect that has had on the 16s and 18s, we thought it was the appropriate time for us to take the talent we have in the Junior Academy and form two full-time teams,” said James Clarkson, Houston Dynamo Director of Youth Development.
Currently, players in the Junior Academy train once a week and play games once a week at the Houston Amateur Sports Park. The players who commit to the U-11 and U-12 teams will train three times a week and play competitive games on Sundays.
“We’ve already sent letters of commitment to the players in our Junior Academy to join our U-11 and U-12 teams,” Clarkson said. “They have previously shown a commitment and loyalty to the Dynamo and we want to give them the first opportunity to join our teams.
“We feel we have some really talented players in our program already and through summer trials and camps, we hope to identify some more players.”
Clarkson asserts that while winning games is always important, the number one priority for this group will be on player development. The U-12 team will play in the US Club Soccer Pre-Academy League, while the U-11 team will be registered with US Club Soccer, but the Dynamo will create a schedule for them that fits the needs of the program.
“We want to create an environment so there is more of an emphasis on player development and less on winning plastic trophies,” Clarkson said. “We see this as an eight-year program. We see the level that our 18s are at now and we believe with eight years of proper training by Dynamo coaches, we fully expect this group to far exceed this current group.”
Players from the U-11 and U-12 teams will have a chance to move up the Dynamo ladder and advance through the Dynamo Academy programs. Five players from the Dynamo Academy have signed contracts with the Dynamo first team including 18-year-old Fort Bend Bush senior Bryan Salazar, who signed his first professional contract in February.