FC Delco and PA Classics are among the 65 non-MLS clubs that will be participating in the inaugural season of a new youth soccer league spearheaded by Major League Soccer.
The two local clubs will give Pennsylvania three teams in the new MLS league, which is being formed to fill the void following U.S. Soccer’s decision to dissolve the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
“The landscape of youth soccer is large, it has a lot of choices, but I think it makes sense that the MLS is and has been for so many years investing the most and I don’t mean just monetarily - people, resources and facilities - they’ve been investing a tremendous amount,” Sporting Kansas City head coach and technical director Peter Vermes said in a conference call with media on Wednesday afternoon. “It only made sense for MLS to step in and be the leaders of this space. I think there are a lot of good things that U.S. Soccer did, there are some things we can for sure improve on.”
Like the DA, the league will feature teams at the U13, U14, U15, U17 and U19 level with the possibility of a U16 level being added. MLS teams are reportedly going to be required to have U15 and U17 squads and the talk locally has been that the Union may not field a U19 team. Other details are still being ironed out.
“The development of professional and elite players requires a comprehensive and integrated approach, beyond just the competition format, and we are having daily conversations with academy clubs across the country who are committed to building that environment with us,” said Fred Lipka, Vice President and Technical Director of MLS Player Development.
FC Delco and PA Classics both had teams in Development Academy from the inaugural season of the boys academy in 2007 through last season.
“We always strive to challenge our players in the highest level of competition and we are excited to join the MLS Elite Youth Development League,” FC Delco general manager Rob Elliott said in a news release on the club’s website.
Other regional rivals joining the new league include Bethesda SC and Baltimore Armour in Maryland and Players Development Academy, TSF Academy and Cedar Stars Academy (both Monmouth and Bergen) in New Jersey. Noticeably absent from the list of founding clubs were former Virginia DA teams Richmond United and Virginia Development Academy.
“It’s a really proud moment for us that we are one of the founding members and I think everyone that I’ve spoken to feels the same way,” Union Academy Director Tommy Wilson said. “We all believe this can only benefit soccer in this country.”
The full list of founding clubs is available on the MLS website.