Throughout world football, it is common practice for clubs to establish residential football academies. This way, youth players of a certain age who truly have the potential for professional careers can begin apprenticeships at an early age and develop into the quality players that they can become.
However, that is something which has yet to permeate American soccer culture. Yes, US Soccer has long had residential developmental academies and various clubs have youth teams. The invention of the Homegrown Player contract has convinced MLS teams to invest even more heavily in youth talent. Yet, there has never been a residential academy sponsored by a leading club. That all changed on Wednesday, when DC United announced a landmark partnership between itself and The Calverton School, a leading college preparatory academy about 25 miles outside of Washington, DC in Huntingtown, Maryland.
DC United have long been one of the forerunners in MLS in terms of giving youth its head, and players such as: Bill Hamid, Andy Najar, Conor Shanosky, Ethan White, Michael Seaton, Collin Martin and Jalen Robinson have signed Homegrown Player contracts before going on to feature for the first team. However, this deal is the furthest they've ever gone.
Players from the Under-14 to Under-18 levels will be able to participate in this residential academy, which will feature "five-day residential programs and seven-day residential programs for domestic, international and local student-athletes", according to the official press release. Utilising these residential programs would allow for academy members to train in both the morning and the afternoon with study sessions sandwiched in between.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with one of the region's top independent schools to provide the best possible experience for serious student-athletes,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper. “Our goal is to provide a challenging soccer environment to help players reach their full potential, and to identify and develop players who can one day become professional players.”
According to the official press release, a member of United staff will be on site permanently in order to assist the school. The press release went on to state in no uncertain terms that they will not only be assisting in the development of male academy players but that there will also be opportunities for female players.
“The Calverton School is very excited about our partnership with D.C. United,” said Dr. Spence Taintor, Head of The Calverton School. “The ability to foster the academic and athletic potential of young men and women at the highest levels through this unique program will provide our student-athletes with the skills to compete on and off the field. It will prepare our student athletes for advancement into higher education and to further their soccer careers.”
The program is set to begin in June with what seems to be a trial period, as the press release stated: "Student-athletes in the residency program will be identified through D.C. United residential camps June 14-20 and June 21-27 at The Calverton School."
DC United will open the 2015 MLS season on March 7th against Impact de Montreal but will first face a two-legged tie against Alajuelense in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League on February 26th and March 4th.