ACADEMY GROWS ITS MISSION TO DEVELOP WORLD-CLASS PLAYERS IN 2018

2018 served as a year of growth for U.S. Soccer, and that impact was felt strongly in the Development Academy. As a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, donors directly impact the Federation's mission to make soccer the preeminent sport in America by helping fund the Academy, which serves as the centerpiece of U.S. Soccer's efforts to develop world-class players, coaches and referees.

This year, Academy products continued to prove themselves at the professional and international level. U.S. Soccer high performance initiatives supported the world-class environments created at Academy clubs, and generous contributions to the Development Fund helped make those elite environments more accessible than ever primarily through need-based scholarships.

SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

This year, the U.S. Soccer Development Fund provided scholarships for 565 Academy players, reaching boys and girls from 129 clubs across the country. Since the Scholarship Program began, U.S. Soccer has contributed over four million dollars to support thousands of Academy players.

"I truly appreciate this scholarship because it affords children like mine a chance to play, though my pockets cannot afford it," said one parent of a scholarship recipient. "We lost our home this summer and were homeless. When preseason came, we were coming from a tent in a park. My son knew he had no home to go to at the end of practice, but I told him, 'Play! Enjoy it! Don't think of later. Our troubles will wait for us.'

"To some, this isn't just a game. For my son, it is a beautiful escape. He has the heart, the talent and the skill. We just don't have the finances."

In 2018, the average scholarship totaled nearly $1,500, and the average household income of scholarship recipients fell within five percent of the federal poverty line. Seventeen percent of scholarship families receive need-based government assistance.

The donations give talented, young players an opportunity to train and compete in the nation's highest level of youth soccer. Over 126 players from the Youth National Team player pool are supported by the Scholarship Program.

HIGH PERFORMANCE

U.S. Soccer's High Performance department grew exponentially in 2018. Encompassing medicine, sport science and analytics, High Performance initiatives in the Academy bolstered its efforts to develop world-class players.

One of the most visible endeavors came in a groundbreaking partnership with STATSports to provide 6,000 performance-monitoring GPS units to Academy clubs across the country. The agreement represents the world's largest GPS partnership, and it brings professional technology and live performance analysis to the Academy level. The program's first phase of onboarding was completed earlier this year with more clubs set to join the performance initiative in 2019. The data will provide invaluable insight for talent identification, injury prevention and more.

The Academy also helped host the first bio-banding event in the U.S. this spring. Bio-banding groups players by biological maturity rather than chronological age. This method reduces the physical advantages that early-maturing players have against later-maturing players, forcing players to use other technical and tactical skills to succeed.

On the medical front, U.S. Soccer's Recognize to Recover, presented by Thorne, continued to expand in 2018. U.S. Soccer's comprehensive platform for player health and safety, Recognize to Recover's year was highlighted by the Federation's largest Concussion Awareness Week yet. During the opening weekend of the Academy season, thousands of Academy players were encouraged to take the ThinkTaylor concussion awareness pledge as they kicked off their fall campaigns across the country.

The Recognize to Recover program also grew in scope to cover the basics of nutrition and hydration, guidelines for playing in hot and cold weather and education on cardiac arrest.

PUSHING PLAYERS TO THE NEXT LEVEL

The Academy's success in producing players for the U.S. Men's National Team was apparent in every senior team roster called up over the course of 2018. When the USA took down Mexico in a dramatic 1-0 victory last September in Nashville, nine of the 11 starters were Academy products.

The MNT played 11 games in 2018, and of the 121 starters in those games, 76 came from the Academy, by far the most since the program began in 2007. As the U.S. and new head coach Gregg Berhalter move forward in the 2022 World Cup cycle, Academy products will form the backbone of the Men's National Team.

Professionally, 140 former Academy players appeared in Major League Soccer this year, enshrining the program's pathway to the pros. Those 140 players played in nearly 2,000 games over the course of the 2018 season, logging over 140,000 minutes and scoring more than 120 goals.

In its inaugural year, the impact of the Girls' Development Academy has not yet been felt at the senior level, but it was well-represented at this year's two youth Women's World Cups. The roster at the FIFA Under-20 WWC in France was mainly composed of collegiate players, but the four youth club selections all came from the Academy. Of the 20 players called to represent the USA in Uruguay at the U-17 WWC, 16 participated in the inaugural 2017-18 season of the Girls' Academy.

OTHER INITIATIVES

CLUB DEVELOPMENT -
U.S. Soccer launched its new Club Development department this year, designed to provide best practices, educational resources and support to Academy clubs and member organizations across the U.S.

YOUTH TASK FORCE - New U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordiero established the Youth Task Force to help guide American youth soccer, the foundation and future of the game in the U.S. The Task Force brings together representatives from all youth soccer member organizations and discusses challenges and opportunities across the youth landscape.

INNOVATE TO GROW - 2018 marks the second year of U.S. Soccer's Innovate to Grow fund, designed to boost participation in the game at all levels. Through this initiative, the Federation provides three million dollars of grant funding to members as they build new, scalable programs to drive soccer participation in their communities.