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U.S. Soccer ending U17 Residency Program

Philadelphia Union have benefited from the program, even while helping to make it obsolete with their own academy, residency, and school

MLS: Toronto FC at Philadelphia Union
Oguchi Onyewu was a member of the first class of the U.S. U17 Residency Program in 1999
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After 18 years of providing a daily training environment for a group of promising young players in Florida, U.S. Soccer has made the long overdue decision to end the U17 Residency Program at the end of the current semester.

The news announced on Friday is a long time coming in part because of what clubs like the Philadelphia Union have done with their academies, establishing their own spin on the concept with its complex at YSC Sports, a school at YSC Academy, and residency program in area homes staffed by house parents.

“One of our main hopes when establishing the U.S. Soccer Residency Program was that at some point advancements in youth player development would make its existence no longer necessary--we believe that point has been reached.” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a news release.

Because of its own residency program and school, the Union haven’t had a need to send players from the academy ranks to the program, based at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. But several current and former players for the first team and still others who have been part of the club’s youth system are among the 450 alumni who have been involved with it since its inception in January 1999.

Veteran center back Oguchi Onyewu was part of the first class in 1999, and rookies Adam Najem and Jake McGuire were both there in 2010 and 2011. Thirteen former Union players spent time there as well: Justin Mapp, Jordan Harvey, Freddy Adu, Gabriel Farfan, Michael Farfan, Brian Perk, Kyle Nakazawa, Sheanon Williams, Zac MacMath, Amobi Okugo, Jack McInerney, Brian Sylvestre and Zach Pfeffer.

The list also includes former Union youth Alex Shinsky, Darius Madison, Colton Storm, Tonny Temple and Sebastian Elney and former Bethlehem Steel goalkeeper Samir Badr. Current Villanova University teammates Miguel Polley and Nikkye DePoint can also swap stories about their time at IMG.

“It’s a bittersweet moment because the program has been invaluable for almost two decades as a critical piece of the development process for U.S. Soccer,” U17 head coach John Hackworth stated in a news release. The former Union head coach was the U17 head coach in a previous stint from 2004-2007.

Other notable alumni include Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzalez and Christian Pulisic.

“Not only did the program develop a number of key players for our National Teams, it served as a model for academies across the country to follow,” Gulati said in the news release. “With the U.S. Development Academy having achieved high standards in preparing our young athletes, we are now able to impact future American professionals on a much larger scale.”

U.S. Soccer launched its Development Academy in 2007 and has grown to 150 clubs and more than 10,000 registered players. The Union joining ahead of the 2013-14 season.