Empire United Soccer Academy Supports U.S. Soccer Training Centers
As Western New York’s sole member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, Empire United Soccer Academy supports the USSF Training Centers as a central component to Youth National Team talent identification.
U.S. Soccer Training Centers are single day, invitational training sessions run by U.S. Soccer staff for elite players in key soccer markets. Training Centers are open to the top players from any team, club or organization at no cost to the player. The purpose of the Training Center program is to identify the best players for the U.S. Soccer Youth National Team program.
U.S. Soccer Training Center Program differ from ODP, id2, and other identification programs as they are run directly by U.S. Soccer Federation. Training Centers are used to identify players for the youth national team program. There is no cost to the participants.
The training centers have been an important step by USSF to take more ownership of the youth national team identification process, which previously was farmed out almost entirely to the Olympic Development Program run by U.S. Youth Soccer. This led to a certain amount of confusion in the marketplace, but also a widespread feeling that national team coaches were getting a very incomplete view of the national playing pool by the time the process reached them for team selection.
Now USSF brings the top recommended players from every major market in the country to one-day events of varying frequency, where players are watched by coaches in a competitive format. Parents are kept at arm’s length and the players get a taste of a national team training session and competition. The sessions typically have 50-60 players per market. The frequency of the training centers differs based on market, with Southern California for instance having more than one per month, while other markets with less history in advancing players to national team level conducting an event every four to six months.
Tony LePore is the scouting director for the U.S., which takes him across the country to evaluate promising young talent -- which nowadays means he spends a great deal of time watching the 78 clubs in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
The TAs (technical advisers ) are also responsible for sifting through the many player recommendations from coaches in the given area. Lepore said the process of getting coaches on the same page as to what constitutes a potential national team player is coming along nicely, and that this has been another goal of having the training centers in individual markets.
"When we first started it was kind of all over the map," Lepore said. "You could see why a coach liked and recommended a certain player, but they didn’t necessarily have a good gauge on what we were looking for, for the national team level. It has been good to have coaches come and watch the training centers in their own area and then have discussions with us afterward. In that follow-up they want to hear what we thought about their player of course, but we find most of the people care about the process being good and are careful to recommend players who should legitimately be considered. The process has taken some time to evolve in that way."
In fact, the letters technical advisers send to area coaches announcing the formation of a training center, remind coaches that if they are felt to make ill-founded recommendations, it could affect how seriously future suggestions are taken.