The Philadelphia Union will be well represented in the Development Academy playoffs that kick off today in southern California.
The Union are one of only five teams in the country with teams competing in all three age divisions that are part of the DA playoffs: the U19, U17 and U15 age groups. The other four academy programs are Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact, Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC.
“I think for the boys in particular it’s important; it marks the end of a tough year,” Union Academy director Tommy Wilson said. “The second part of the year has been tough, especially for the 19s with Bethlehem Steel coming in and that means a lot of movement for our players.”
The U19s qualified on the last day of the season against PA Classics with a comeback win while down to 10 men. The U17s and U15s both finished at the top of the Atlantic Division in their respective age groups with the U15s finishing the season unbeaten.
“The pleasing thing for me, and maybe it’s my Scottish roots, but the 15s and the 17s finished the season top of their table,” Wilson said. “They’ve shown they can handle a lot of things that are thrown at them.”
Wilson said having all three teams in the playoffs will present some personnel challenges in a system where movement is so frequent he has weekly meetings with the technical staffs of the first team and Steel to discuss what players will be where. But ultimately, it’s the opportunity for players to raise their level against some of the best teams in their age groups in the country that will be key to the success of this West Coast trip.
“Who’s next to grab a contract, that’s the way I see it,” Wilson. “That’s the way we’re gonna to go and we’ve proven it. Every time I listen to the radio in this country now and they talk about youth development and they talk about homegrowns we get mentioned. I’m not saying we’re the best, but we get mentioned, we’re in the mix.”
The schedule of games for the three Union teams is below.