The Houston Dynamo and its USL hybrid affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC are two of seven teams in Texas to join the MLS elite player development platform.
"We are highly encouraged by the response and efforts of Major League Soccer to launch this groundbreaking competition for players in MLS Academies as well as all of the member clubs. As a Club and league we are deeply committed to player development, and this announcement is an important next step,” said Matt Jordan, Senior Vice President and Dynamo General Manager. “It is our top priority to build this competition in a collaborative manner to develop top-level players up through the collegiate and professional ranks."
The Dynamo Academy is one of two clubs in Houston to join the initiative, which will accept applications for further expansion.
“We are incredibly excited about the formation of the new MLS elite player development platform for our Houston Dynamo Academy players, along with other elite players in our city and country,” said Paul Holocher, Houston Dynamo Academy Director. “The MLS leadership, along with many like-minded clubs have stepped up in a fantastic way during these unprecedented times to begin genuine collaboration through a special combination of education, innovation, and competition which has the potentials to develop a globally respected league for our future generations.”
The 65 youth clubs will join the MLS academies as Founding Members of MLS’ elite player development platform. The new platform, which will include more than 8,000 players throughout the U.S. and Canada, will consist of elite year-round competition, as well as player identification initiatives, coaching education opportunities, and additional programming to create the premier player development environment.
The platform will operate with a groundbreaking governance structure that promotes collaboration, innovation and input across all areas of the soccer landscape. Within the structure, technical working groups will provide recommendations on the platform’s strategic objectives and standards, outline competition guidelines and formats, as well as introduce platform programming. By unifying the elite player development landscape and creating a collaborative structure, the new platform will accelerate and enhance player development in North America.
With a focus on maximizing each player’s potential, the new development platform will not only provide high-level, year-round competition for players, but will provide important programming, education and innovation in the key areas of player development:
- Player Identification
- Personal Growth
- Community Outreach
“There is strong positive momentum and excitement among MLS club academies and elite academy clubs to co-create a platform that will deliver an unparalleled experience for the nation’s top players and clubs,” said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development. “The development of professional and elite players requires a comprehensive and integrated approach, beyond just the competition format, and we are having daily conversations with academy clubs across the country who are committed to building that environment with us.”
Since launching the MLS club academy initiative in 2007, Major League Soccer has demonstrated unprecedented commitment to the development of top level professional players in the United States and Canada, including an investment of more than $70 million last season alone. This investment has produced more than 250 homegrown players that have become professional and national team players, including 11 Houston Dynamo Academy alumni. Three Dynamo Academy alumni – defender Erik McCue, midfielder Marcelo Palomino and midfielder Memo Rodriguez – are currently on the Dynamo first team roster.
The elite academy clubs that are Founding Members of the new platform have also been leaders in the development of players for college, MLS and the national teams. Combined, MLS Academies and the elite academies joining the platform have produced more than 90 percentof the U.S. Youth National Team players in the last year, making the new platform the top destination for the best young players in North America.
With the launch of this new platform, MLS and the elite academy clubs will not only continue to develop world class players but will create a world class soccer development culture that supports and inspires elite players throughout the countries.
Applications for additional clubs to join will be available in the coming weeks. More information about the competition structure as well as the platform’s official brand will be announced at a later date.