Identification and Evaluation Remain Critical as Development Academy Showcase and Playoffs Continues on Day Three

The spotlight continued to shine on the U-14 age group on Wednesday at the 2017 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Summer Showcase and Playoffs at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. The final day before the introduction of U-15/16 and U-17/18 clubs saw the U-14 Summer Showcase teams combine for 185 goals in 50 games, all of which occurred under the watchful eye of U.S. Soccer's National Team coaches, Technical Advisors and scouts.

The 2017 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Summer Showcase and Playoffs is the culmination of a season long process of scouting and talent identification by the U.S. Soccer staff. In total, 2,429 Academy games were scouted, leading to 3,730 total player evaluations. In addition, U.S. Soccer's 221 Training Centers held throughout the year brought in over 7,000 players through the talent identification process.

This week alone, 389 current Youth National Team players will participate in the Summer Showcase and 90 percent of the total Youth National Team player pool is made up of players from the Academy system.

That evaluation and identification process continues this week as the centralized Showcase format allows multiple members of the U.S. Soccer scouting network to evaluate each game, giving them a chance to see players in a high-quality environment against meaningful competition. In total, U.S. Soccer will assign scouts to evaluate and report on all 309 games scheduled to be played during the Summer Showcase and Playoffs.

"This is our biggest talent identification event as part of our annual calendar," U.S. Soccer Director of Talent Identification Tony Lepore said. "Bringing together all of the Academies where the vast majority of our Youth National Team players are being developed, we are able to follow and identify top players in meaningful games and we also use this event as an opportunity to develop our scouts. This event provides an important collaboration opportunity between all of our Youth National Team coaches, Technical Advisors and scouting network members, through mentoring and exchange."

In addition to the player evaluation taking place this week, the third team on the field, the officiating crew, is also under constant observation. From a pool of 734 candidates, 168 officials were hand-picked to work this week's event. With referee coaches evaluating every game and giving officials feedback, the referees are assigned playoff and feature matches throughout the week based upon performance.

"This is the largest event that U.S. Soccer puts on as far as referee identification and development goes," U.S. Soccer Director of Referee Development Rick Eddy said. "We take referees from all grades, from very different locations. Some of these referees work in the Development Academy now and a small minority do not and that gives them an opportunity to see what kind of play we have here. Most of the people that have never refereed a Development Academy game say that this is the most competitive youth soccer they have ever worked. This event gives our staff of 20 referee coaches the opportunity to go out and look at referees as we build pools from the grade seven level, all the way up to the national referee level. This is an opportunity for referees to be seen and because of that we have many more people apply than we actually need. The word is spreading that if you want to be seen, this is the event to come to."

U-15/16 and U-17/18's Take the Field on Day Three

Looking ahead to Thursday, the scale of the 2017 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Summer Showcase increases with the opening matches for the U-16 and U-18 teams. Play begins on Thursday with U-16 Showcase matches beginning at Grand Park at 10 a.m. Playoff action gets underway for the U-16's at 2:30 p.m. and at 5:30 p.m. for the U-18's.

All first day playoff matchups are setup with the top-seeded team in each group playing the fourth-seeded team in the group while the second- and third-seeded teams square off in the other contest. For each of the 64 playoff teams taking the field on Thursday, getting off to a good start is essential as they look to win their respective groups and advance to the Academy quarterfinals.

In the featured games, Sockers FC will take on New York Red Bulls in Group H of the U-16 Playoff at 2:30 p.m. The nightcap feature match will see the hometown club, Indiana Fire, welcome Players Development Academy to the Hoosier State at 6 p.m. in Group G of the U-18 Playoffs.

As the U-16 and U-18 teams take the field, the U-14 clubs are afforded the opportunity for a full rest and recovery day as they look ahead to Friday's final day of the U-14 Showcase. The day also gives the U-14 teams the opportunity to learn from, and support, the older age group teams participating in Thursday's action.