As part of its ongoing effort to make soccer the pre-eminent sport in the United States by developing world class players, coaches and referees, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) launched the Development Academy in 2007. The mission of the programme is to improve everyday environments with standards focused on individual player development.
In 2018, the world governing body, through its FIFA Forward Development Programme, partnered with U.S. Soccer to implement several projects that will further aid the professional development of football in the United States. The Development Academy Summer Showcase and the beginning development of Online Refereeing Courses were successfully achieved to help reach this aim.
“With the support of the FIFA Forward Programme, we have conducted impactful projects focused on player, coach and referee development,” said U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro. “The funding provided for our Sporting Development programs will help us increase participation and develop world class players, coaches and referees for the future.
“We are looking forward to working with the FIFA Forward programme as we continue to drive towards our mission of making football the preeminent sport in the United States.”
During the 2018 Development Academy Summer Showcase and playoffs for boys and girls, the programme was able to provide players with a world-class environment. Over the course of 13 straight days, the academy hosted 615 games featuring 10,000 players, 1,500 coaches and more than 450 referees.
“We are delighted to witness the successful implementation of these FIFA Forward Development projects by U.S. Soccer with investment in talent pathways for young people as players, coaches and referees for the long-term," said Joyce Cook, FIFA's Chief Member Associations Officer.
Talent identification was also important as 100 per cent of the games played during the Summer Showcase and playoffs were scouted by USA youth national team coaches and regional technical advisers, who are full-time U.S. Soccer staff, as well as network scouts contracted by U.S. Soccer.
For the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, there is no doubt that organising such events will lead to further development of world class players, coaches and referees. In December, the Development Academy will host its annual Winter Showcase, where all clubs from the programme will see meaningful competition as scouts from USA youth national teams, domestic and international professional clubs, and at the collegiate level evaluate the massive pool of talent all in one event.
Online access for all
Another example of how FIFA and its Member Associations are efficiently joining efforts for the development of football is the recent launch of the U.S. Soccer Online Grassroots License Courses. These courses provide an excellent opportunity for new and veteran coaches alike to familiarise themselves with U.S. Soccer’s grassroots coaching philosophy and methodology.
With over 205,000 users registered, the U.S. Soccer Digital Coaching Center project has been a success so far, averaging more than 1,000 new users per week, 2,100 courses completed and more than 41,000 licenses issued in 2017 alone. In 2018 more than 33,000 users have already completed the cost-free Introduction to Grassroots Coaching Module, while over 11,500 grassroots licenses have been issued.
In addition, in June 2018, the U.S. Soccer Referee Programme started the development of an online refereeing learning platform to revitalize the current Referee Education programme through new online learning opportunities. These modern courses are part of an expanded platform that will provide information based on best principles outlined by U.S. Soccer, allowing referees to access the tools they need to improve their skills.
With low-barrier, easily accessible opportunities, the project will help equip a larger population of aspiring referees through formal learning, while simultaneously empowering the same individuals within their professional education pathway. U.S. Soccer Referee Programmes aims to deliver an industry-leading, innovative online education experience to ultimately help referees perform better on the pitch.
Undoubtedly, these two projects combined will help to identify the next generation of football talents who are certainly already dreaming about the FIFA World Cup™ in 2026.