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Penn Fusion ushering in Girls Development Academy era this weekend

The West Chester-based club hosts Virginia Development Academy in a slate of four games Saturday

U.S. Soccer’s long awaited Girls Development Academy kicks off its inaugural season this weekend across the country and right here in our backyard in West Chester with Penn Fusion Soccer Academy hosting four games against Virginia Development Academy on Saturday.

Penn Fusion’s four DA teams will kick off games beginning with the U14s at 10 a.m. and ending with the U19 game at 4 p.m.

“I think that my teammates and I are beyond excited to now be a part of such a competitive and high intensity league,” said U17 midfielder Rowan Lapi. “We are thrilled with the new challenges we will face and the opportunity to grow as players.”

The girls entry into the Development Academy has been a decade in the making since U.S. Soccer launched the boys academy in 2007. Nearly 70 clubs and some 6,000 girls will be part of the inaugural season.

“The U.S. Soccer end goal is to develop girls who can compete on the national team level,” said Tino Mueller, Penn Fusion’s Girls Technical Director. “Our goal is to attract the best players, the most gifted players in the area to help them reach their goals in regards to college placement, national teams or just becoming the best player they can be.”

In addition to Penn Fusion, the Manheim-based PA Classics will be part of the Mid-Atlantic Division, creating a natural rivalry between the two Pennsylvania clubs. They’ll face each other for the first time in the DA era next Sunday in Manheim.

“We’re looking forward to those games certainly, the rivalry games,” Mueller said. “I think they are going to do very well and we’ll compete with them but we are also going to work with them to continue to build the game in our area.”

With the focus on a 10-month season, girls in the development academy system are restricted from playing high school soccer just as they are on the boys side.

Lapi said no longer playing for her high school - she played the last two seasons at Cocalico High School in Lancaster County - can be difficult in some aspects but that it ultimately was an easy decision to make.

“Choosing to be a part of the DA was a no brainer for me,” she said. “I understand that I am happiest playing soccer at the highest and most challenging level and at the end of the day, it was easy for me to discontinue playing school ball because I have Penn Fusion and the DA that fulfills everything I want from a soccer standpoint.”

Adding a DA component to the Penn Fusion Soccer Academy also helps grow the program and parent club West Chester United’s footprint and influence on the beautiful game in the region. Penn Fusion joined the Women’s Premier Soccer League, a top amateur adult league, in 2016.

“Our goal was always to provide the highest levels of play but also be a home for all the different levels, all the different ages,” Mueller said. “For us to represent the area and Pennsylvania at the Development Academy level fits in very well with what we want to do.”

For more information on the Girls Development Academy, visit www.ussoccerda.com.