PORTLAND, Ore. – U.S. Soccer today announced Portland Thorns FC as one of the 25 inaugural clubs in the Girls’ Development Academy, which will begin play in the fall of 2017.
The program will focus on positively impacting everyday club environments to maximize elite female youth player development. In addition, the Development Academy will increase the training-to-game ratio, playing fewer but more meaningful games, and will provide assistance for coaching education and development.
“We are thrilled with this announcement,” said Timbers/Thorns FC youth sporting director Mike Smith. “We believe that this will be the best development platform in this country for elite girls soccer and we are proud to be a part of it.”
The Development Academy will feature three combined age groups: U-14/15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. Clubs will be expected to train a minimum of four times a week. The use of combined age groups will require clubs to form teams with a balanced roster of players from two distinct birth years. The games will be scouted by U.S. Soccer and the program will serve as the primary pathway to the youth national teams.
“Launching a Girls' Development Academy is part of an unprecedented commitment to elevating the women's game,” said U.S. Soccer Women's Technical Director April Heinrichs. “The Development Academy program will offer clubs support and education to positively impact the development of players and coaches throughout the country.”
These first 25 clubs, which along with Portland include five other NWSL clubs (Boston, Orlando, Seattle, Sky Blue and Washington), have a total of 119 staff and coaches that hold U.S. Soccer A or B coaching licenses. To date, these 25 clubs have produced 307 players for U.S. Soccer national teams at both the youth and senior level as well as 84 professional soccer players. In addition, this group will be providing 276 full scholarships.