The Philadelphia Union Academy officially kicked off its ninth season as a full-time academy last week and while much remains the same in the program overseen by Tommy Wilson, one of the additions to the program for 2021-2022 will be a new team.
Known as the Union development team, the aim is to bridge the gap between the U17s and Philadelphia Union 2 and provide a place for late developers to continue to grow while finishing their studies at YSC Academy, the private school affiliated with the Union’s academy.
“YSC Academy is one of our greatest assets; it’s something that differentiates us from other academies,” said Wilson, whose role has expanded from academy director to director of academy and professional development. “With the jump from the U17s to the second team it meant that some players that were in the school would potentially not graduate from the school... There’s also the prospect of late developers in the system. We think the Union development squad will provide an opportunity for those players.”
Philadelphia Union original and Union 2 assistant coach Fred da Silva will be the head coach of the team, which will feature players from the Union 2 group in need of minutes, players who have aged out of the U17 MLS Next team and other players from the U17 player pool.
The Union previously fielded a U19 team in the old U.S. Soccer Development Academy but opted to not include a team at that level when MLS Next launched last year out of the ashes of U.S. Soccer’s decision to dissolve the DA.
The new developmental team won’t be competing in MLS Next but instead will build a schedule similar to how Union 2 has operated this season, scheduling matches against local and regional competition. Union 2 will be joining the new MLS-operated Division III professional league in 2022.
“We will have a proper schedule, we’ll put them in tournaments and we’ll create our own college showcase,” Wilson said.