This is always a major area of debate. The academy system looks to be the outline for success for the players involved. It allows in theory for the best to play against best which is critical. The clubs are ultimately responsible for appointing competent coaches and ensuring a training environment where players can get better. It seems like a good plan and decent effort that US Soccer has put forward. However, I have not looked at the coaching curriculum enough but I would be interested to see if it is the rigid typical US Soccer “do it my way or the highway thing”. Hopefully they give freedom for coaches and clubs to interpret the game they way they would like but I doubt it. The issues with the academy is that it costs a lot of money to join and most often you need transportation. Yes I know there are one or two academy clubs that are free but that is the exception to the rule. Other clubs may have a scholarship or two available. However, a lot of players can not afford transportation and many do not live close to any sort of academy. Top players are often in the inner cities. In a place like NYC academy ball is often very difficult. Players have to commute on the train to New Jersey and find a way to pay for train tickets etc. Many players parents do not want their kids traveling on public transportation at all hours alone. That means the academy program like the NY Red Bulls does not really attract the top urban kids from NYC. The high school soccer powerhouse MLK HS in Manhattan has not had many players at all ever stay at the Red Bulls because of the transportation and costs. MLK has some serious talent and a place like the Red Bulls never really tapped into that. Instead they focus more on local New Jersey players. Now the rules have changed so you can’t play academy and high school soccer which is another debate! Then there are the many hot beds of talent in places like Florida where there are just no academies close enough for the players.
I think the inner cities and urban areas are very important for soccer development in America. In order to develop world class players we can not overlook urban areas. Developing world class players in the USA will not be easy but it can be done. We need to take the next step now. The academy system was a good start but it is only that. How can we take the next major step? Is it all up to the MLS teams to do it themselves? The funny thing is the academy system is US Soccers initiative. The MLS was not the people behind the academy system. It is a little strange and unlike any other country. If I was an MLS team I would want to look for the best youth players in the entire country and bring them in to the academy. Have them train, do schooling and live within a reasonable distance. If you hire the top coaches to work with the best talent the outcome should be very good. The problem is the money! Can the clubs make money from running top academies? I recently sat in on a lecture from Fluminese FC in Brazil. They made $45 million from selling players from their club. They had 130 players on contract starting at the age of 16. Developing players is a profitable business for them. If there is no money to be made than developing world class players in America will be harder. Arsenal mentioned the reason they never wanted to open an academy in NYC was even if they developed players they could not get work permits overseas. In essence there would not be a lot of money to be made. I hope we can produce top world class players soon but there are many factors involved!