California Training Ball 2.4.11
Photo by Brian Costello

Timbers, OYSA Announce New Youth Development and Academy Programs

PORTLAND, Ore.— The Portland Timbers and Oregon Youth Soccer Association (OYSA) today announced a new integrated and innovative youth development program, which will become the foundation of the state’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) and the Major League Soccer club’s youth academy. The program will provide elite youth players advanced training and competitive opportunities throughout Oregon.

The collaborative program between the Timbers and OYSA will provide the state with a nationally recognized boy’s ODP program and a top-flight academy system to develop home-grown talent. The new program is designed to coexist with youth clubs and share in player development, allowing players to stay connected to their local clubs.

“We have a deep passion for developing the sport of soccer in Oregon,” said Timbers general manager/technical director Gavin Wilkinson. “With OYSA, we feel that we have created a model that will both identify gifted players and help strengthen the overall infrastructure of the sport at the youth levels. The ability to start developing home-grown players who will have the opportunity to one day play for the Timbers in MLS is special.”

Overseeing the new program is OYSA technical director Mike Smith, who will also serve as the Timbers’ youth academy director, and Timbers youth academy manager/ODP coordinator Erik Lyslo. The pair will also oversee the club’s extensive youth soccer camp program.

“To work with and develop the elite players in the Timbers’ territory is exciting,” said Smith. “To have a vertically integrated structure for player development leading to the pros and MLS is a dream for any young player coming through the system.”

One of the new major components of the ODP program is the establishment of six regional training centers, which will be organized and managed by the Timbers and OYSA. The training centers will be located in the cities of Beaverton, Bend, Eugene/Salem, Gresham, Medford and Vancouver, Wash. Starting this fall, each center will target elite male players in the U-12 to U-15 age groups in each area. From these training centers, a pool of players will be chosen to form a state ODP team at the various age levels for regional and national competitions. This program will enable the Timbers and OYSA to aid in player development in conjunction with local clubs.

Timbers Academy teams will be formed at the U-16 and U-18 age groups, and will compete in U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy leagues. Led by club-endorsed coaches, the Timbers Academy system will identify and develop the top youth players in the state at these age levels and provide direct exposure to U.S. National Team coaches. The formation of the Timbers Academy teams will occur in the late Spring of 2012.

The pinnacle of the Timbers Academy system will be the club’s top development team, the Portland Timbers U-23s, which competes in United Soccer Leagues’ Premier Development League (PDL).