– The USL Academy has announced exciting new changes to its Academy League structure and introduced the first-ever USL Academy Girls divisions, laying the foundation of the women’s developmental pathway following the announcement of the initial markets of the USL Super League.
In addition to the introduction of USL Academy Girls divisions to connect with the pre-professional and professional ranks of the USL W League and USL Super League, respectively, the USL Academy Boys pilot divisions trialed during the 2022 season have been welcomed full-time into the league competition for the current 2023 season.
“We are thrilled to launch the USL Academy Girls divisions this summer,” said Amanda Vandervort, USL Super League President, who oversees the women’s pathway. “The foundation of the USL women’s pathway is just as vital as the top, and as that pathway continues to grow and expand, the Academy will develop a strong and sustainable player pool for professional women’s soccer.”
Established in 2021, the USL Academy League provides clubs in all three of the USL's professional divisions with an elite youth development and competition platform to develop local players for their senior team.
One of the biggest success stories of the USL Academy men’s pathway is current Louisville City FC defender Joshua Wynder. After joining the club’s Academy program, Wynder made his debut in LouCity colors at just 14 years old in the 2020 USL Academy Eastern Conference Showcase, a precursor to the current USL Academy Cup. He would then join the first team on a USL Academy contract before signing a professional contract in 2021. A meteoric rise would then follow as Wynder made his United States Youth National Team debut and was nominated as U.S. Soccer’s Young Male Player of the Year in 2022 before earning a call-up to the senior USMNT squad in April 2023.
Looking to replicate that success story and identify top talent across the country, the pilot divisions introduced last season brought the USL Academy competition into more markets and provided more opportunities for players in the western part of the United States. The former pilot divisions include the Mountain Division, NorCal Division and Southwest Division with over 21 clubs now joining the USL Academy League competition on a full-time basis.
"The rate at which the USL Academy has been growing is incredible, and truly a testament to the hard work of our clubs across the U.S. landscape," said Liam O'Connell, USL Technical Director. "As the USL continues to expand to new communities at the men's and women's senior team levels, we couldn’t more excited of about the countless opportunities also being created for boys and girls to chase their dreams of playing at the highest level."
Overall, there will be 93 clubs with USL Academy Boys programs and 36 clubs with USL Academy Girls programs competing in the 2023 competition. Since the introduction of the USL Academy program, more than 75 players have progressed through the pathway and now play professionally for the first team of USL Championship or USL League One clubs.
For a list of all the USL Academy programs competing in the 2023 league season, please see below:
2023 BOYS USL ACADEMY LEAGUE
Mountain Division (8): Real Colorado, Boulder County United, Flatirons Rush, Colorado International Soccer Academy, Pride SC, Park City Red Wolves, New Mexico United, El Paso Locomotive FC
NorCal Division (7): Central Valley Fuego FC, Nova Soccer Academy, Newark 1974 FC, San Francisco Glens, Marin FC, Sacramento Republic FC, Davis Legacy
Southwest Division (6): Phoenix Rising FC, AZ Arsenal FC, FC Tucson, Orange County SC, Ventura County Fusion, San Diego Loyal SC
Lonestar Division (6): Round Rock SC, Houston FC, AHFC Royals, San Antonio FC, Rio Grande Valley FC, Laredo Heat
Deep North Division (5): Chicago City SC, Bavarian United, St. Charles FC, St. Croix SC, Rochester FC
Great Lakes Division (3): Detroit City FC, Midwest United, South Bend Lions
Valley Division (7): Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Dayton Dutch Lions, King's Hammer SC, Louisville City FC, Lexington SC, Indy Eleven, Cleveland Force
South Atlantic Division (8): VBR Star,Tobacco Road, North Carolina FC, Wake FC, Charlotte Eagles, Charlotte Independence, Asheville City, FC Carolinas
South Central Division (6): East Atlanta Dutch Lions FC, Southern Soccer Academy, Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, Birmingham Legion FC, One Knoxville SC, South Georgia Tormenta FC
Southeast Division (9): Florida Elite Soccer Academy, The Villages SC, Nona FC, Swan City SC, Tampa Bay United, Weston FC, FC Miami City, Miami FC, Miami Athletic Club
Metro Division (10): Westchester Flames, FA Euro NY, FC Copa Academy, Ironbound SC, Morris Elite, Long Island Rough Riders, Manhattan SC, FC Motown, Hudson Valley Hammers, FC Harlem
Mid Atlantic Division (3): Real Central NJ, Philly Lone Star, USL-Lancaster
Chesapeake (4): Patuxent Soccer Academy, NOVA FC, Richmond Kickers, Virginia Beach United
Northeast (5): Boston Bolts, BWP Academy, Hartford Athletic, Western Mass Pioneers, AC Connecticut
2023 GIRLS USL ACADEMY LEAGUE
Metro Division (6): AC Connecticut, FC Copa Academy, Long Island Rough Riders, Manhattan SC, Morris Elite, Paisley Athletic
Southeast Division (5): FC Miami City, Miami Athletic Club, Palm City Americanas, Swan City, Tampa Bay United
Valley Division (4): Cleveland Force, Indy Eleven, Lexington Sporting Club, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
South Atlantic Division (6): Asheville City, Charlotte Independence, FC Carolinas, NC Fusion, NCFC Youth/NC Courage, Wake FC
South Central Division (6): Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, East Atlanta FC, One Knox, SC United Bantams, South Georgia Tormenta FC, Southern Soccer Academy