Crew Soccer Academy opens fifth U.S. Development Academy season

U-17/18 and U-15/16 campaigns kick off Saturday at Development Academy Winter Showcase

The Crew Soccer Academy opens its fifth season this weekend at the 2011 Development Academy Winter Showcase and Nike International Friendlies. All 78 Academy clubs are at the Premier Sports Campus in Sarasota, Fla., for the event that runs through Dec. 6 and will feature three games of non-Conference play per team. The U.S. Soccer Development Academy is the top level of competition in the country at the U-17/18 and U-15/16 ages.
 
The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team, whose current roster features 24 players representing Academy clubs, is squaring off against Brazil, France and Turkey in the Nike International Friendlies.
 
The CSA U-17/18s and U-15/16s will square off against their counterparts from Seacoast United (N.H.) on Saturday (Dec. 3), the New York Red Bulls on Sunday and Potomac (Md.) on Tuesday. Following the Showcase, CSA’s seasons will resume on March 3.
 
CSA remains in the ultra-competitive Central Conference Great Lakes Division for the 2011-12 season, from which five of the first eight Development Academy national champions have come. The CSA U-17/18s finished third at the National Finals in 2008. Last season, the U-15/16s won the division title and the U-17/18s earned a wild card berth into the postseason. CSA is one of a handful of clubs to send both teams to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
 
CSA and Crew Juniors director of coaching Billy Thompson retains the reins of the U-15/16s for the fifth straight season, while Ohio State associate head coach Frank Speth enters his third season at the helm of the U-17/18s. Ian Gordona serves as an assistant coach for both teams. Thompson, a former Crew midfielder, was named Central Conference Coach of the Year in 2010-11. Of the 44 players that make up both rosters, 31 are returnees to the club and 18 were recently named to high school All-State teams.
 
The Crew youth development system is also well represented throughout the college ranks, including eight whose schools are still alive in the NCAA Division I tournament. Top-ranked North Carolina features Ben Speas, while South Florida (Eric Osswald, Aubrey Perry, Ben Sweat), Louisville (Alex Obbey, Andrew Farrell) and UCLA (Matt Wiet, Ryan Lee) all feature multiple Crew products. Another 10 dot the roster of Ohio Wesleyan, which is plays Montclair State (N.J.) in the NCAA Division III national semifinals tonight.
 
Directed by Crew Senior Vice President of Soccer Business Development Andrew Arthurs, the CSA U-17/18 and U-15/16 teams are fully-funded by Crew ownership – from coaching to gear, travel, accommodations and meals – and they provide the greatest opportunity and exposure for players to reach their highest level. CSA players have a direct pathway to a career in MLS as potential future Home Grown players, and some will enjoy the opportunity to play in the U17 SUM Cup and/or MLS reserve games.
 
The Crew Soccer Academy Wolves are entering their first season as Crew affiliate. Based in Livonia, Mich., the Wolves are among the most successful youth clubs in the country and won the U-15/16 Development Academy national championship in 2009. They are also members of the Great Lakes Division.
 
Since its launch in the fall of 2007, the U.S. Development Academy has provided an increased focus on training and player development by providing a clear connection between the U.S. National Teams and more than 4,000 young players across the country. Top youth coaches and players have direct access to U.S. Soccer staff on a regular basis through the structured programming overseen by U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna. Seventeen CSA players have been called into national camps since its creation.