Soccer reached it’s first apex in the United States in 1975 when the great Pele signed with the Cosmos and it led to huge crowds for games at Giants Stadium in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The fans were there to see the many international legends that came over to play for the Cosmos and some of the other North American Soccer League teams.
But the NASL would eventually fold and the United States still had a difficult time developing world class homegrown talent in this country. The sport received a boost when the United States was named to host the 1994 World Cup and then the excitement was given a four-year boost when our national team qualified for the 1990 World Cup.
Major League Soccer arrived on the scene in 1996 but it took some time for U.S. Soccer to develop homegrown players and now there is finally some momentum with the development of academies run by MLS teams including the Red Bulls Academy, the subject of a Bleacher Report series called “The Academy”.
“We just felt like it was a great way of telling a story that plays into the bigger picture which is that U.S. Soccer is really starting to be a force now of generating young players,” said Will Tidey the Senior Manager of Integrated Strategy at Bleacher Report”
“I think U.S. Soccer is proving to be more and more successful at developing young players and, at this point, we just felt like our audience had not a great deal of awareness of the process and how these academies work.”
The five-part series, a partnership between the Red Bulls, Bleacher Report, Audi and Major League Soccer, dives into what the culture is like in soccer academies and what opportunities there are for the players. We learn about how the system works in developing players and the life experiences that the players have as they learn what it takes to ultimate earn a professional contract. The players are placed in an environment that mirrors what lies ahead in the professional world and they experience a culture of professional soccer replicating what happens in the United States and in other countries.
“I think that it’s a tough road,” said Tidey. “I think it’s very demanding. I think they’re also learn that it really does take a village and the academy system is a lot more than the coaches who are coaching these kids on the field.”
In addition to the training that they get from the coaches, the players receive a lot of support from other people around them including the host families where they experience an educational element to learning how to be a professional soccer player but also learning how to live life as an adult whether you play soccer or you ultimately earn a living in soccer.
“It’s a holistic approach that is enriching these kids and is able to then say look if you don’t make it as a pro, you’re still going to come out of this armed with some really good skills for life and maybe playing college or you work in the media or you work in the corporate profession,” said Tidey. “I also think they’re going to learn that these kids are working hard but they’re having a great time. They’re chasing their dream and they’re having fun with it.”
Academies run by MLS teams and other professional soccer clubs in the United States have been doing a great job in recent years in not only developing talent for leagues in the United States, but there is some elite level American talent that has gone overseas to play in the top leagues in the world.
“What we’re seeing now are players like (Christian) Pulisic and (Sergino) Dest and (former Red Bull) Tyler Adams, the U.S. National Team has a number of under 25 players who have come through U.S. academy systems,” said Tidey. “It’s just showing the development system is now finally in place to really impart on these players the tools they need to succeed in the adult professional game.”
“The Academy” is a must-watch for any Red Bulls supporter as well as any American soccer fan. It’s taken a while, but the United States now has a system in place to develop great young American soccer players. Now, there are opportunities for young boys and girls in this country to have the proper training and preparation to either play soccer professionally or to simply have a career in soccer one day.
The first two episodes of the series are now available…
Episode 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzQrjrNuMbQ&t=13s
Episode 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWePo2dSIVw